Researchers study Playboy centerfolds.
December 20, 2002 8:28 AM   Subscribe

"Researchers" study 50 years of Playboy magazine and determine that the characteristic differences between men and women are becoming less pronounced.
posted by swift (24 comments total)
Well, I for one can't think of a better group to accurately represent the population than playmates.
posted by catfood at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2002

Seriously, I'm really mad at my guidance counselor. She said I should work with computers, I never knew there was an option to study playmates...
posted by KnitWit at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2002

Was looking at the new Victoria's Secret catalogue last night and noticed the same thing. Some of the women in there look like 12-year-old boys.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2002

What it shows is not that the differences between men and women are becoming less pronounced, but rather, that the characteristics of Playboy centerfolds are becoming more manish. Which raises a whole 'nother set of interesting questions...
posted by Windopaene at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2002

I think there are plenty of hour glass figure women out there. I would think this suggest that visual preferences are switching over to this more....stickish figure.
posted by Ron at 8:52 AM on December 20, 2002

Poor, poor RobbieFal... first his divisive abortion post gets deleted, and now his snarky Playboy article comment gets an FPP. Some people just can't win.
posted by jonson at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2002

I'm surprised to find that Kate Moss is actually bigger than Twiggy - Moss looks way more unhealthily underweight to me but then maybe Moss is taller.

You're right, Windopaene, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it is a larger trend. I've heard that beauty contestants are getting thinner too. Meanwhile the average woman gets larger. It'll be interesting to see what happens as media representations of life and actual reality become more and more divergent. Will the art have to change eventually, or will the divergence change the way we enjoy our art?

Aside: It's actually kind self-esteem boosting to find that my measurements are very similar to Marilyn Monroe's. I'm happy to leave the androgyny thing to Pat from SNL, thanks.
posted by orange swan at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2002

Re: Windopaene's comment, don't the centerfolds reflect Hugh Hefner's tastes? I've heard some (totally unsubstantiated) rumors about him that makes this trend believable. Then again, given Playboy's use of airbrushing and retouching (Photoshopping now, I'd guess) does anything about the centerfolds qualify as "data"?
posted by tommasz at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2002

Shouldn't that FPP read "Researchers" "study" 50 years of Playboy magazine?

I think that looking at the "women" in Playboy is a lost cause anyway. By the time the pictures get to print, they are typically airbrushed paintings of women at best.
posted by mikrophon at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2002

Sorry Jonson. As a rule, I don't read Metatalk.
posted by swift at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2002

From the article: "If Playboy didn't reflect ideals of attractiveness, they wouldn't still be around, so it must be that many men find this shape attractive."

Uh, no. Playboy doesn't "reflect ideals of attractiveness [in women]." It reflects ideals of consumerism. Playboy's masterstroke (whoops...) was to combine naked women with consumer culture to eroticize acquisition. Remember the "What kind of man reads Playboy" ads? Those weren't for advertisers, they were for the readers, assuring them that if they keep reading they'll miraculously turn into a suave millionaire instead of an eager chump.

I just saw the current issue sitting on a coworker's desk (don't ask) upside down. The back cover is a Bacardi ad whose text is: SCORE NIGHTLY. It's not a play on words or anything - there's no visual but a supersize logo and the bottle. It's this overall effect of ridiculous consumerist optimism that keeps Playboy going, not some scientific attunement to men's moment-to-moment tastes in porn.
posted by soyjoy at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2002

tommasz - any magazine, book, film or television program is by and large reflection of the tastes and decisions of a person or small group of people. A 'zine that no one reads is just one person's taste and self-indulgences. What makes Playboy and other media data is that it appeals to a lot of people and that they buy it and read/peruse/jerk off all over it.
posted by orange swan at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2002

< women 's studies contrarianism>

Perhaps this encouraging. The Marilyn Monroe beauty ideal was about domesticity and passivity -- a soft, unthretening, femininity.

The current slimmer beauty ideal is all about engagement, athleticism, and relentless determination -- qualities that it takes to maintain a size 2 shape in a SuperSize society.

Although both models have a self-sacrificing component, the old model was about sacrificing one's autonomy and physicality to create a safe and nurturing place for the family (and, by extension, society), whereas the self-sacrificing component now is about striving for a personal, albeit aesthetic, apothesis.

< /women studies contrarianism>
posted by MattD at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2002

Honestly, I can't help myself.

Metafilter: read/peruse/jerk off all over it.
posted by Skot at 10:10 AM on December 20, 2002

Sorry Jonson. As a rule, I don't read Metatalk.
posted by swift at 12:26 PM EST on December 20

You should check/search it, before you FPP something on MeFi. That's why MeTa is there.

It only takes a second, I promise.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:17 AM on December 20, 2002

Inspired by Salavon, (seriously) I went and carefully examined the centerfold archives. (Oh well, they appear to have disappeared, big shock there.) My first reaction was that the 50s girls really were super chesty, almost ridiculous in many cases. I can't judge personally how women have changed over the decades, but those girls didn't look any more like the average woman in my experience than the much-maligned Kate Moss. (It gave me a better understanding of the expression "sweater girl" though.)
posted by Wood at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2002

Two words: Natalie Portman.

Beauty of face comes over giant jugs any day.
posted by wackybrit at 10:57 AM on December 20, 2002

My tastes are so 1970s, I guess. I prefer women with boobs and hips, but the editors and buyers of Playboy prefer women without boobs and hips. It seems so ... I dunno ... contrary to men's nature.
posted by Holden at 11:00 AM on December 20, 2002

heh heh.

wackybrit said "comes over giant jugs."
posted by soyjoy at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2002

Was looking at the new Victoria's Secret catalogue last night and noticed the same thing. Some of the women in there look like 12-year-old boys.

They do? 12-year-old boys are getting breast implants now? Man... kids these days!
posted by scody at 12:50 PM on December 20, 2002

Some of the women in there look like 12-year-old boys.

Hmm, obviously going after the Catholic Priest market...

...sorry, couldn't resist ;p
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:13 PM on December 20, 2002

And here's a link to the article itself in the British Medical Journal.

First BMJ that *I've* ever seen with pictures of near-nekkid women...
posted by jasper411 at 2:15 PM on December 20, 2002

Breast implants. Kind of hard to avoid. Why would their models all have breast implants if they wanted women with small breasts? You ask me, overly large breasts are a masculine feature. There's nothing girlish about them. The whole white bread Britney Spears, Barbie line of plastic sluts is a very masculine idea of womanhood...they're the type of women men would want to be if they had no other choice but to become women.

Have noticed this trend for a while, especially the past few years. Playboy actually is becoming more androgynous. If you really think about it, and you have to stay sober for at least three days for this to work...but you can flip through the magazine and actually see that there are more pictures of men than women. If it's a "sex in the..." issue, there is more male genital exposure than female. And these "sex in the..." issues are becoming more common.

There's something creepily dishonest about a man who would masturbate to pictures that are "done tastefully" in the first place, if you ask me.

Mark my words: the day will come, probably within 10 years, when Playboy will have a male pictorial. They've already had transsexuals...and actually said up front that they are transsexuals (Penthouse has had a few, I think). The next step is probably a "universal sex symbol" type male...androgynous and "ready to party!" or some other offensive vulgarity against common sense and decency. This "person" will be portrayed as the ultimate male...the man Playboy readers should want to be like. We need to start protecting our bodily fluids.
posted by son_of_minya at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2002

Playboy actually is becoming more androgynous.

But that's because adrogyny is cool nowadays!

Take bloggers as a subgroup. There are plenty of sweater wearing compassionate guys, and plenty of bitchy sub-zero females. Gender roles are changing.

Plus, society's GLBT index is up 18% this year alone! In another fifty years, everyone will be bisexual, tender, hands on, yet prone to bursts of intense violence. Most dicks will have packed their balls and left, and what sex does remain will be mostly academic. I blame emo for this.

(Once you've deciphered the above post, please send me a copy.)
posted by wackybrit at 11:44 PM on December 20, 2002

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