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Levi Johnston in ‘Playgirl’: Not quite a triumph of sexual liberation?
November 11, 2009 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Alaska’s most famous hockey player, Levi Johnston, is set to pose nude for Playgirl (previously). But didn’t Playgirl – the magazine – close up shop last year, going online-only? And wasn’t it ultimately run by straight guys in the first place? Jessanne Collins, Playgirl’s former managing editor, debunks some myths about the magazine that was to the nude-male pictorial what Marky Mark was to hip-hop.
posted by joeclark (61 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related article from Daily Kos. The thesis seems to be that the author brokered the connection between Levi Johnston and Playgirl on behalf of Polish LGBT groups (?!) in order to donate his "finder's fee" to charity.

As one does. For charity.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:49 AM on November 11, 2009


I was going to object and say that Scott Gomez is Alaska's most famous hockey player, but sadly you're probably right.
posted by ghharr at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck sympathy! I don't need your fuckin' sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnston!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on November 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


the magazine that was to the nude-male pictorial what Marky Mark was to hip-hop.

I've got to admit that I'm having a difficult time parsing this. Does that mean that, while Playgirl was mediocre at best at the nude-male-pictorial we should expect it to have a much more successful and respected second incarnation as, like, a poetry journal or something?
posted by dersins at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2009 [21 favorites]


My favorite playgirl moment was when Michael Lucas (SFW) appeared in Playgirl as a straight guy who "Likes smart women."
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yipper, Dersins – and it will be a poetry journal that is still built like a brick shithouse well into its late 30s.
posted by joeclark at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2009


Hi Playgirl. So you're a magazine? That's cool. I'm Mark Wahlberg. We should work together sometime. Say hi to your mother.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on November 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Ah, Playgirl.

I guess I owe the magazine a small debt of gratitude along the way. I was 18 in the mid-1980s, a freshman in college and the product of an extremely conservative Southern upbringing, still trying to come to grips with being gay. This was back before Internet, kids, before all the porn you'd ever want and more was available with just a few clicks.

I finally screwed up the courage to walk into a corner store - it was late in the evening - and stand in line until it was my turn at the checkout stand. The clerk, a stereotypically pimply guy about my age, looked at me and prompted "Yes?"

Under my breath, I muttered, "I'd like a Playgirl, please", gesturing to the magazine behind the counter. He turned and began reaching for the Playboy as if by habit. He caught himself up short as he registered what I'd said.

He turned back to me and asked, "Which one?"

I cleared my throat and said, louder and more clearly than I'd intended, "Playgirl."

He slowly turned around, picked up the magazine and placed it on the counter. I avoided eye contact with him, paid the money and took it back to my dorm room. I hid it from my roommate and any other eyes until I could go down to the basement of the dorm and look at it. Which I did, for a long, long time.

The next morning, I wrapped it up in my trash bag, tucked down so it was hidden, and took the trash out to the dumpster two dorms away from mine, as if it were a murder weapon.

I've come a long way since that day, over 20 years ago. Thanks, Playgirl, for being an early and memorable milestone on this journey.


Nevertheless, I have no interest in seeing Mr. Johnston au naturel.
posted by darkstar at 11:10 AM on November 11, 2009 [38 favorites]


I have heard that the editors of Playgirl could sneak in a subversive photo shoot from time to time, but on the whole I've never understood either Playgirl OR Playboy. It must be a generational thing.
posted by muddgirl at 11:11 AM on November 11, 2009


Fuck sympathy! I don't need your fuckin' sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnston!
posted by shakespeherian


Whaddya need that for, Dude?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:11 AM on November 11, 2009


I hope, darkstar, that I don't offend by calling your story "cute," but it was indeed pretty endearing.

In my case, the one and only copy of Playgirl I ever purchased was for a craft project -- I'd decided I was going to make a sekrit storage box to keep condoms by my bedside, and decided to use a chocolate candy box. Except I would "decorate" the inside with a collage of photos of male genitalia, so when you opened it there would be dicks all over the inside of the box.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Except I would "decorate" the inside with a collage of photos of male genitalia, so when you opened it there would be dicks all over the inside of the box.

Hey, I got one of those for Christmas last year.
posted by albrecht at 11:19 AM on November 11, 2009


Muddgirl, I literally read Playboy for the articles as a wee lad. I would ferret them out from the closet and secretly read the articles. What the hell else was I going to do with that kind of magazine? (The People vs. Larry Flynt’s diatribe against Playboy and its fetish for quadraphonic stereos rang true to life for me, BTW.)

Years later I was walking home from high school and there, on the ground, was an actual gay-porn magazine. (“Brock: He’s built.”) I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve learned in recent years this is a surprisingly common story – gay kids across my land and America have run across discarded porn at an impressionable age.
posted by joeclark at 11:19 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I almost appeared in Playgirl in 1997. True story, had an offer from the publisher and everything. I'm thankful that I didn't go that route.
posted by autodidact at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2009


Autoeroticdidact, please upload your contact sheet.
posted by joeclark at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


What is it with porn aimed at women, like Playgirl and all those romance novels, and its fixation on Fabio-hair?

When I was 13 I can remember a lot of intense speculation about whether or not Playgirl showed erections or not, but none of us were willing to try and buy one to find out.
posted by Forktine at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was asked to be part of Burt Reynold's chest hair for the famous Playgirl shoot, but passed, and regret it, as some of the others hired to play chest hair went on to have significant careers. Jeff Goldblum, for example.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


Now I will embarrass myself by sharing a story.

In or around the sixth grade, my friend Betty got ahold of some Playgirls, as well as Penthouse Letters, The Joy of Hairy 1970s Sex and The Happy, Descriptive Hooker. This would have been around 1989 or so. Two or three of the girls and a boy we were friends with wound up hiding in the girls' bathroom at school (this was a chilled-out Montessori-ish school, with lots of free periods for hiding in the bathroom and reading porn), learning about how naked men liked to rest their semi-erect penises on any available furniture for photographic purposes, the gross things our moms and dads got up to when we weren't looking, and all the things that apparently happened when you grew up and had next door neighbors and delivery people coming over all the time to have sex with you.

The lesson was that apparently adulthood was a riot of kinky sex! It wasn't evident from the grey, dreary-looking lives of the adults around us but according to our new reading material they spent the hours when we were at school or sleeping engaging in light bondage and having orgies in stuck elevators.

I had the sneaking suspicion that there might be some exaggeration going on -- it seemed like our parents also spent a lot of time at work, running errands and grocery shopping -- but it was a while before I could look at Betty's parents again without blushing (at least a couple of the books had come from their bookshelf.)

Our bathroom hijinks were never discovered, but some random lady yelled at us in the halls for letting a boy into the girls' bathroom. If only she knew.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


I bought a Playgirl or two while in high school, and read it for the articles. Seriously. They were much more erotic than the pictures; it's a well-known stereotype that women are less visual than men, and prefer stories (where they can use their imagination) to the pictures. Perhaps that's why Playgirl folded.
posted by Melismata at 11:44 AM on November 11, 2009


I was too scared to every buy Playgirl as a gay teen, even though they were always openly on display right up there with Penthouse and Playboy and Hustler behind the counter at my local 7-11.

However, the people at those other magazines must have realized this, as every single one of them usually had dirty letters or stories or graphic advertisements featuring gay male sex. Which just reinforced my opinion that Playgirl really was for women.

However, I finally got over my nervousness when Dan Pastorini posed for Playgirl. Mmmmm, quarterbacks.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


dersins: Does that mean that, while Playgirl was mediocre at best at the nude-male-pictorial we should expect it to have a much more successful and respected second incarnation as, like, a poetry journal or something?

Well, what exactly did you expect Poetry Magazine to do with that $100M bequest from the Lilly heiress anyhow?
posted by aught at 12:01 PM on November 11, 2009


21 comments and none yet about Levi's johnson? You're slipping, people!!!

don't expect me to do your dirty work... no wait, I want to do you're dirty work!
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 12:08 PM on November 11, 2009


Why is there so much hating on poor Levi Johnston? I greatly admire his candor about the Palin family milieu and his escape from a hack GOP entourage to found his own upstart entourage. Furthermore, he is the only figure who was able to walk away from the disastrous McCain campaign with his head held erect.
posted by knoyers at 12:13 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I literally read Playboy for the articles as a wee lad. I would ferret them out from the closet and secretly read the articles.

Me too. Though I do find myself sexually attracted to women, the treasure trove of jokes and (potentially misguided) sexual knowledge was far more valuable to my 8-year-old self than the pictures of naked ladies (though these weren't so bad either).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2009


I guess I'm just having a hard to mustering any enthusiasm about him. I thought his recent interviews were sort of sad, in a "hanging off the coat-tails" sort of way.

Much more interesting to discuss the penis:vagina ratio in Penthouse, Playboy, and Playgirl.
posted by muddgirl at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2009


I keep hoping that if we stop paying attention the whole sordid Palin episode will just go away already.

Playgirl, you're not helping.

(On preview: I see what you did there, knoyers.)
posted by Space Kitty at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2009


Why is there so much hating on poor Levi Johnston? I greatly admire his candor about the Palin family milieu

I would too if it weren't for the fact that he's trashing his son's mother's family in the press.

And I have zero interest in seeing him naked.
posted by orange swan at 12:42 PM on November 11, 2009


When I was in high school, it was a rite of passage in my little group of friends to buy each other a Playgirl magazine when each of us either turned 18 or graduated, whichever came first. IIRC my mom was very interested in my copy when I got it. My best friend's mom purchased it for me (probably because my friend would have died of embarrassment if she'd had to make the purchase herself.)

For those who never saw one, all the guys inside were "at ease" if you get my drift. At least the ones I saw. This would be in the mid to late Seventies.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:43 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


What happened to the days when it was only women - like Rita Jenrette and Jessica Hahn - who could cash in on tangential connections to embarrassing politicians by posing naked for money?

I WANT MY AMERICA BACK!
posted by Joe Beese at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the former managing editor's interview: if it had evolved differently, it could have informed contemporary conversations about what women desire and how we construct our sexualities.

I actually remember all those perky claims (I think it was when one of the UK's major newsagent chains was planning on relaxing on which shelf they stocked the soft porn mags.)

I remember thinking that even if you wanted to look at magazine male pin-ups in a free and open manner, like on the tube, what if the woman next to you started making appreciative slurping noises over your shoulder?

The idea made me cringe.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm glad I'm not the only person who was into "collage art" with dicks—my roommates and I knew someone who worked at a porn store who brought us tiny rubber erections from promotional materials, to affix to the crotches of the cut-out centrefold dudes. Surely this is what Playgirl was for.
posted by bewilderbeast at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2009


I think it's completely awesome the way that Levi Johnston is helping to create a cloud of ridiculous and sordid white trashy soap opera all around his son's relatives, considering who they are.
posted by knoyers at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is it with porn aimed at women, like Playgirl and all those romance novels, and its fixation on Fabio-hair?

This trope is examined in the Jessanne Collins article:

This is why Playgirl failed in the first place. The men in the boardroom had no idea how to market or appeal to either women or gay men—never mind to both at the same time [...] The tragicomedy of Playgirl's particular aesthetic failure starts to make a lot of sense if you consider that it wasn't constructed by anyone who professed actual physical interest in the male physique. If would-be Fabios were standard, that's because "musclebound with a ridiculous mane" is a comfortable caricature of what women find sexually attractive as doodled in the minds of out-of-touch old dudes.

Interesting post, joeclark.
posted by applemeat at 12:52 PM on November 11, 2009


By helping to keep her from the red button, he contributes to everyone's future safety and peace of mind.
posted by knoyers at 12:53 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would too if it weren't for the fact that he's trashing his son's mother's family in the press.

But... his son's mother's family is a pack of flaming assholes. I mean, I respect loyalty, but there are limits.
posted by rusty at 12:59 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


that's because "musclebound with a ridiculous mane" is a comfortable caricature of what women find sexually attractive as doodled in the minds of out-of-touch old dudes.

Yeah, I read that. I'll buy it as an explanation for Playgirl, since I certainly don't know any better. But how does that explain romance novel cover art? The Fabio look was really common for a long time, and still is to a lesser degree. It's a look that I think of as very particular to that sub-form of pornography.
posted by Forktine at 1:00 PM on November 11, 2009


Women all over the world have been crying out that there pussies have not been getting wet enough because of a serious shortage of prime beefcakes. Dudes are yelling and crying like little babies because they jam up their weiners up and bend them sideways trying to run up on dry gulch there.

These are some dark ass times. Babies are crying and moms aren't coming, windows are broken out of houses, and wild dogs are chasing cats around a yard. Some weird airplane just flew overhead and nobody knows what it is. It is getting dark earlier and earlier. Foundations and studies and shit have gone through scientifically but there is no cure for this crisis that is threatening humanities.

Until now.

Levi Johnston, former potential professional hockey star who got sidetracked from his MVP rookie year on the Oilers by politics and is now a magazine cover model, professional interviewee, and media mogul, is releasing in this press release the announcement that he is getting super ripped for Playgirl Magazine. It's like Playboy magazine but for girls and gay dudes.This announcement is sure to send ripples through nipples and wet up some goddamn seats like girls got cups of water in their back pockets.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


I love Sarah Palin threads. She needs her own page on MeFi.

I really hope Palin does sue and use the Playgirl shot as evidence that Levi is an incompetant father, as she's told the press recently. In my best dreams, Jenny McCarthy then gets pissed at Palin, and argues that she's a good mom because of her experience at Playboy. Their two massive, irrational fanbases then duke it out, one side saying "SARAHISALWAYSRIGHT2012!!!1!" and the other saying "VACCINEZ GAVE TRIG THE DOWNS! THE DOCTORS ARE IN THE POCKET OF BIG MERCURY!" Then, the media covers the huge fight, and we get an epic Mefi thread about it with 3K posts. We also get CNN covering it by giving equal time to both the Palinites and the antivaxers, letting them both make ludicrous and wrong claims in the interest of equal time.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Furthermore, he is the only figure who was able to walk away from the disastrous McCain campaign with his head held erect.

...nah. Too easy.
posted by quin at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Still, it makes me sad that the Palins are fighting with Johnston. He's America's ex-boyfriend. We all get angry at him and try to push him away, but deep down we really want him to come back. We miss him, nay, we need him.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:20 PM on November 11, 2009


WolfDaddy: Eponysterical.

PS:Moar like WolfBabyDaddy
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:23 PM on November 11, 2009


Optimus Chyme: "Women all over the world have been crying out that there pussies have not been getting wet enough because of a serious shortage of prime beefcakes. Dudes are yelling and crying like little babies because they jam up their weiners up and bend them sideways trying to run up on dry gulch there."

That was way more awesome than I expected, especially when he talks about which news shows he'd like to go on.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2009


When we were in high school my friend and I got up the courage to buy a Playgirl magazine. Then we examined the photographs of Raoul, who lolled around poolside with his flaccid member. We wondered if Raoul was really his name. We wondered what possessed him to pose for the magazine. We felt sorry for him. I think this is the problem with pornography for women: we couldn't suspend disbelief.

With Levi Johnston, one knows so much about him and what is possessing him to pose for the magazine that I can't imagine for a moment that looking at him would be a pleasurable experience.
posted by acrasis at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2009


The belief men need to suspend is that sex is inconsequential.

I miss that Rotten Library article... "HAVING A GREAT TIME", "WISH YOU WERE HERE", "THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING AT&T"
posted by Rat Spatula at 1:42 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


[..] I'd decided I was going to make a sekrit storage box to keep condoms by my bedside [...]

A friend of mine kept her sekrit condoms inside a stuffed hedgehog...
posted by twine42 at 2:52 PM on November 11, 2009


Ah, Playgirl. Lauren, Allie, remember when you got high and thought it would be hilarious to cut out pictures of nude men and hide them between the pages of my notebooks, some of which I didn't find till months later? Oh, the memories.
posted by Rinku at 2:55 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm glad I'm not the only person who was into "collage art" with dicks...

Ah, to behold the four walls of the front mens' room at the famous A-House (aka the Atlantic House) in P-town. All plastered with photos of naked men from '70s and '80s porn magazines.
posted by ericb at 3:21 PM on November 11, 2009


So Playgirl was, in actual use, a pre-internet griefing device to shower people in dongs?
posted by The Whelk at 3:31 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kathy Griffin: Levi Johnston Needs 'a Very Large Fig Leaf'
Kathy Griffin appeared on Joy Behar's show on Friday and much of the conversation revolved around - guess who - Levi Johnston (who actually called in to the show) and the media frenzy surrounding his Playgirl shoot. Griffin says she's seen the goods.

GRIFFIN: I would say he's going to need a very large fig leaf to cover it up, because it's something to behold. And women and gay men everywhere are going to be thrilled.

BEHAR: Do you think he realizes that Playgirl is not really read by women?

GRIFFIN: I don't think he cares. He's getting in great shape. He's getting a paycheck. And Levi enjoys being in on the joke. He likes playing along. He likes anything, I think that is a middle finger to Sarah Palin, and I'm with him on that one.
posted by ericb at 3:37 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I feel like this is something I'll want to tell my grandkids about. I don't normally read Playgirl, as I am a straight male, but I think I should get a copy to preserve, just to tell future generations "I WAS THERE." Do they print mutliple editions? Should I keep it in the plastic liner, or put it in something like a cigar box to reduce aging? Or should I just download a PDF and keep it backed up on DVD, my primary hard drive, and an off-site RAID1 array?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:51 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm glad I'm not the only person who was into "collage art" with dicks

As far as I can tell that shit is universal. It's like Barbie mutilation.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:51 PM on November 11, 2009


mccarty.tim: Like all of Playgirl, it's online-only.
posted by muddgirl at 3:54 PM on November 11, 2009


My favorite playgirl moment was when Michael Lucas (SFW) appeared in Playgirl as a straight guy who "Likes smart women."

What
posted by Avenger at 4:10 PM on November 11, 2009


It was under a nome de porn a while back. Oh the laughter it caused. Can;t find the issue number however.
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on November 11, 2009


See, it's funny because it's almost like Meta-pr0n. A gay Russian/Jewish guy pretending to be a straight American guy who likes women but who is then presented to the gay male audience as such for their entertainment. There's like at least three layers of postmodernist (pornmodernist?) deception involved there.

THE TEXTUAL UR-PENIS IS FUGITIVE
posted by Avenger at 4:23 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine kept her sekrit condoms inside a stuffed hedgehog...

Leave Ron Jeremy out of this.
posted by jonmc at 4:25 PM on November 11, 2009


See, I just absolutely love all this Levi Johnston stuff because you just know that every time there's another mention of his Playgirl photoshoot, Sarah Palin pukes. I imagine that by the time the pictures actually get published she'll be like Mrs. Creosote and explode, sending gallons of vomit flying in all directions.
posted by dnash at 8:40 AM on November 12, 2009


I would too if it weren't for the fact that he's trashing his son's mother's family in the press.

But... his son's mother's family is a pack of flaming assholes. I mean, I respect loyalty, but there are limits.


Well, yes, Sarah is at least. And I wouldn't blame him for hating her guts and saying some unminced words about her to a few of his own trusted friends and family members. But it's a big step from that to this. Indulging in some public feud like this is NOT in his son's best interests.
posted by orange swan at 10:50 AM on November 12, 2009


orange swan: I feel you, but some kids are just born doomed. Harsh, but that's how it is.
posted by rusty at 11:00 AM on November 12, 2009


Bristol seems like she'd be a pretty decent person if she could only get away from her mother. I don't see how she could do that, though, when she needs financial help from her family. Poor kid.
posted by orange swan at 12:28 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


GOOD NEWS PEOPLE! Gawker got the scoop! LEVI IS POSING NUDE WITH A HOCKEY STICK!

This is the rare event that unifies everyone. Tonight, we are all nude and holding a hockey stick.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2009


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