Last week we launched our campaign against City Beach for promoting major brand of the global porn industry, Playboy, to teens. We've been encouraged by all your support and some great media coverage.
In this post, we respond to some of the more common defences of City Beach and Playboy we've come across this last week. Feel free to draw from this post in your own conversations, or to share this with your friends.
“Playboy isn’t porn”
In Pornography and Civil Rights, Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon wrote of Playboy:
Underlying all of Playboy’s pictorials is the basic theme of pornography: that all women are whores by nature, born wanting to be sexually accessible to all men at all times.
The publication of Playboy magazine in 1953 was the beginning of the modern porn industry, laying the groundwork for the industry that exists today. Playboy turned pornography - the buying and selling of women’s bodies - into big business and brought it into the mainstream.
The magazine published sexist and sexually-objectifying images of nude and semi-nude women (sometimes without their consent) as well as naked and pornographic images of female children as young as ten.
Melinda Tankard Reist documented the “deliberate” use and eroticisation of girls in Playboy publications in her piece The House that Hef Built: Hugh Hefner's Dark Legacy:
Playboy linked "innocent children with strong Playboy orgasm-based stimuli" in the words of U.S. researcher Judith Reisman, who documented Playboy's treatment of pre-pubescent girls. Playboy, Reisman found, was deliberate in its eroticization of girl children. In one year alone, 39% of Playboy centrefolds were of children under 12. Brooke Shields, then 10, was posed as paedo-fantasy material in Playboy Press 1975 publication Sugar N Spice, made up to look like an adult woman in a girl's body. Eva Ionesco, at 11, became the youngest model ever to appear in a Playboy nude pictorial. One image, depicting a girl lying face down naked with a doll on Disney sheets, is captioned: "BABY DOLL. It's easy to feel paternalistic toward the cuddly type above. Naturally, she digs forceful father figures, so come on strong, Big Daddy."
Then there were the child sex abuse cartoons, also documented by U.S. psychiatrist and feminist Linnea Smith. While denying it would ever publish such offensive imagery, Smith located published pictures of children in sexual (abuse) encounters with adults.
Of course, Playboy is more than just the magazine- it’s a global empire founded on the sexual exploitation of women.
In 1963, journalist Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny in the New York Playboy Club where she exposed the mistreatment and exploitation of women employed as ‘bunnies’. The women were subjected to a sexist dress code, required to wear heels at least three-inches high and too-tight corsets that only came in DD cups. They were so tight even a sneeze could literally break the zipper. Steinem reported the toll to her body, including significant weight loss and permanent damage to her feet.
As reported by DazeDigital.com:
Bunnies had to go to great lengths to maintain the illusion of availability, fawning over the clientele in ways permitted by a script and pretending they were single even when outside of the club... “dates” with Number One Keyholders were not only permitted, but expected.
Playboy branches out
Playboy print magazine was discontinued in 2020 and now exists only in a digital format. PLBY Group, formerly Playboy Enterprises, has expanded the brand into several different business segments, one of which is licensing – putting the Playboy branding on a wide range of products and accessories, including clothing, lingerie, jewellery, perfume, bedding, cosmetics, etc. In 2020, licensing accounted for over half of Playboy’s revenue.
Playboy has also built and owned pornographic TV networks including Playboy TV and the Spice Networks, which were sold to Mindgeek (the owners of Pornhub) in 2011.
"Kids don’t know what Playboy means anyway, so it’s fine"
Let’s say that some young people don’t know what Playboy stands for – that they don’t know it represents the sexual objectification and dehumanisation of women for men’s sexual entertainment, that they don’t know of the magazine’s history of publishing so-called ‘revenge porn’ or naked and pornographic images of children, or cartoons depicting rape and child sexual abuse as a joke.
It is deeply unethical and sinister for adults who are aware of what the Playboy brand represents to sell merchandise emblazoned with the Playboy logo to children, particularly girls, who do not know what the brand symbolises or that they are being used as unwitting props for the global pornography industry. This is predatory and abusive.
We heard from the mother of a 13-year-old girl whose daughter came home from a shopping trip wearing a Playboy bunny necklace she (and her friends) purchased from City Beach. The mother said her daughter had ‘no idea’ what the bunny was - the girls ‘just thought it was cute’.
David Israel, Division President at PLBY Group, was quoted on the brand's attempts to reinvent itself in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Israel described Playboy's deliberate strategy of appealing to a younger, female demographic:
We did events this year to really kind of reintroduce the brand to a younger audience, that hadn’t been as familiar with it. Everybody knew what the icon was, everybody knows what Playboy is, but they wouldn’t necessarily know what it stood for and what it stands for...we went after a much younger and more female audience.
City Beach “doesn’t endorse or promote the objectification of men or women”
Last week, in response to Collective Shout supporters calling out City Beach for promoting a major porn brand to their teen market, the youth retailer issued a response in which they claimed that they “do not endorse or promote the objectification of men or women”.
Unfortunately for City Beach, who appear to be trying to distance themselves from their long history of sexually objectifying women, we have receipts.
This is what City Beach not endorsing or promoting the objectification of men and women looks like:
We first called out City Beach for selling porn-wear to young people back in 2011. We published an open letter calling on retailers not to stock sexist, objectifying and sexually violent clothing, signed by over sixty high-profile experts and advocates. We held protests outside stores in Brisbane and Sydney. Caitlin Roper, who was a supporter, made an official complaint of sexual harassment to the Human Rights Commission, citing unwanted exposure to sexist and porn-themed imagery in shop front windows.
For City Beach to turn around now, in the midst of partnering with a global sexual exploiter of women and girls, and claim they do not endorse or promote the very thing they have profited from for a decade, is ludicrous.
“Playboy is harmless”
Founded by pimp and predator Hugh Hefner, Playboy is a major brand of the global porn industry. It is founded on the sexual exploitation of women and girls for profit. It has a long history of promoting rape culture and predatory treatment of women and girls, including criminal behaviour.
An article published in Playboy in the August 1970 issue Just slip this into her drink encouraged men to use alcohol “effectively…lowering [women’s] defences”. The article also quotes a doctor who advises the remedy for a “frigid” marriage is for “the wife to take off her clothes immediately” during arguments.
As recently as 2000, Playboy published a Romanian article entitled "How to Beat Your Wife... Without Leaving Prints," which provided instructions in carrying out wife battery without getting caught.
Calling out City Beach for promoting Playboy is “bullying and shaming”
City Beach responded on social media to objections from Collective Shout supporters with a series of false claims, meaningless buzzwords and gaslighting. In a complete reversal, City Beach framed individuals who objected to their grooming children as the aggressors, accusing them of “bullying” and “shaming”. Their poor attempt at PR spin was not well-received.
The youth retailer also deleted the Facebook post which attracted criticisms, deleted negative comments on their Instagram and eventually shut down the option to comment at all. They have also pulled down the Playboy branding which was previously displayed prominently on the front page of their website.
City Beach can throw around buzzwords like “diversity” and “equality” all it wants, but we’re not falling for it. It’s been ten years, and City Beach is still objectifying women for profit.
Calling out City Beach for selling Playboy products is “cancel culture”
Speaking out against corporations whose behaviour harm women and girls isn’t about cancel culture. It’s about corporate social responsibility. The evidence of harm is solid.
Help us to keep the pressure on City Beach. Contact them here and tell them what you think of their selling Playboy to teens.
Post on City Beach Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/citybeach
Tweet them: https://twitter.com/citybeach
Comment on their Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/citybeachaustralia/
To learn more about the role of Playboy in paving the way for the porn industry of today, check out Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, by sociologist and Founder and President of Culture Reframed, Gail Dines.