A Lecture on Playboy

What’s this?

…and what does it represent?

It’s Playboy, you’ve heard of Playboy right?

Entertainment for Men” The Website states… ‘Find hundreds of sexy girls posing nude for Playboy including Playmates. AccessPlayboy magazine articles, sexy women and hot girls in photo galleries.

The bunny brand and it’s playful logo has been breading like… oh what’s the phrase?  Dunno, an over sexed mammal though. What do we think about Playboy?

And what’s the link with…

…The nations favourite High Street Newsagent and Stationers.

WH Smith hit the headlines in June 2005 for stocking Playboy branded Stationary. Such as this stylish pencil case.

And these delightful notepads…

Back to school…

…at the Playboy Mansion But not just WHSmith and not just Stationary.

Bedtime just got got stylish with this duvet cover and pillow case set
Kelly. T from Portsmouth on 11/02/2011
This is a really sweet duvet cover. My 13 year old daughter wanted some Playboy items and I wasn’t really happy getting them as I don’t think the brand is suitable for young girls. But this duvet was really nice and tasteful so I didn’t mind getting it. So now we’re both happy. Thank you PriceRightHome!

Thanks for that Kelly from Portsmouth.  Stylish?  Tasteful?  www.playboy.com real tasteful…


The Playboy strap-line is “Entertainment for Men”  But the Bunny Logo is being sold to girls and young women.  On the High Street, in Smiths.

But it’s just a logo, a symbol.  There’s nothing pornographic about a bunny in a bow-tie.

        But what does the logo symbolise?

Here’s how to draw the bunny.

Hugh Hefner with his fiancee Crystal Harris.

Hugh Hefner with his former fiancee Crystal Harris. Photograph: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

In an interview in 1967, Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, explained the ways in which women were like rabbits. The bunny “has a sexual meaning”, he said, “because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping – sexy.  First it smells you, then it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like caressing it, playing with it.  A girl resembles a bunny. “

Not to forget the phrase “At it like rabbits.” 

Back to the High Street Stationers.

In June 2005 Schoolgirls in Croydon staged a protest outside the Smiths on Croydon High St asking passers by to sign a petition calling for all Playboy branded items to be banned.

 “The protesters, ranging in age from 11-15, from Coloma convent girls’ school”. – Guardian Aug ’05 Teacher “Eleanor Kirwan saw the Playboy stationery range next to Disney and Winnie the Pooh in WHSmith and in her classroom, she reckoned her pupils deserved to know exactly what they’d been sold.  Companies must take social responsibility into account as well. Our argument is that they are simply prioritising financial gain over the moral offensiveness of using children to sell sex. I merely accompanied the pupils to their picket. They were present because they had made an informed and passionate choice.”

By placing the bunny logo on school equipment, underage children are seduced into buying into the pornographic brand – an adult, top-shelf brand that sells women as sexual commodities. But WHSmith denies that Playboy means porn.

Playboy is probably one of the most popular ranges we’ve ever sold,” says head of media relations for WHSmith, Louise Evans. “It outsells all the other big brands in stationery, like Withit [a range of cute cartoon animals], by a staggering amount. That should give you an idea of how popular the brand is. We offer customers choice. We’re not here to act as a moral censor.”   – Guardian Aug ’05

So at who’s feet does the responsibility fall?

  • Children for purchasing the pencil case?
  • Their parents for not properly informing them about Playboy?
  • WH Smiths for supplying and promoting the product?
  • Society for making the range ‘Fashionable’?
  • Playboy for producing the product in the first place?

The pressure group Object,  also campaigned against the WHSmith’s promotion of the Playboy brand to children, says:

Playboy’s logo clearly represents pornography. The magazine routinely features sexualised and full-frontal images of naked young women. It also promotes pornographic videos and strip shows. Playboy is about men buying women and presents this as natural and normal male behaviour. WHSmith is therefore endorsing pornography to young, impressionable and possibly underage girls.”

There’s a fear that this steers society towards a growing acceptance of the sexualisation of children.  Like this.

The campaign against WH Smiths  and other retailers stocking the stationary continued.

Vicars were getting involved, taking direct action – he cleared the shelf of all the Playboy products, moving them to another part of the store.

 The Reverend Tim Jones accused the soft porn empire of “cynical and wicked commercial exploitation”.

Bloggers produced campaign resources, intended for more direct action.



“I like the brand because it’s posh,” explains 14-year-old Tatiana. “It makes you feel like you’re worth something.” When I ask her if she knows what the bunny logo means, she giggles and says, “It’s porn innit? But people don’t think it’s porn. They think it looks nice.”   – Guardian Aug ’05

Three and a half years after that protest on the Croydon High Street WH Smith ditch the Playboy stationary, as reported with glee by the Daily Mail in Feb 2009.

“WH Smith would not be drawn on whether the decision to withdraw the Playboy merchandise was because of pressure.  A company spokesman said: ‘We continually review and update our range to offer our customers a wide range of products.  Each spring we renew our range of fashion stationery and as part of this update we have chosen to discontinue the Playboy range.’ ”  – Daily Mail Feb 09

It’s never good for a public limited company to admit to backing down to pressure groups.

David Cameron threatens curbs on sexualisation of childhood as the ‘Bailey Review is published’. – June 2011

Bailey report

David Cameron with children’s minister Sarah Teather (she is after all the closest thing parliament has to a child) and Mothers’ Union chief executive Reg Bailey (closest thing to a mother?) at No 10. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

What better proof of success for a campaign than the newly elected PM commissioning reports around the related issues?  Those school girls must be proud.

…or did the bunny brand simply go out of fashion?

The moral crusade against childhood sexualisation isn’t top of most parents’ agenda

Another article in The Guardian – this time questioning who’s agenda the anti bunny logo campaign served.

Remember what 14-year-old Tatiana said.  “It’s porn innit? But people don’t think it’s porn. They think it looks nice.”

It’s not symbolic of pornography or the sexualisation of childhood to the children we’re so keen to speak up for on their behalf – because of course they don’t know any better.

Does the school girl buying this think…

I want to be a lap dancer when I grow up?                  or

I can’t believe I’ve been co-opted into the mainstreaming of soft porn?

Are they in fact activeknowledgeable and nuanced consumers, aware of the brands connotations, choosing to following a fashion trend the appeal of which has more to do with rebellion than sexualisation or sexism.

“(parents) have legitimate concerns regarding the connection between the omnipresent cultural wallpaper of sex and children’s wellbeing.” but what about the views of the child
Very little work has been done that takes into account young people’s views – and when they are included it’s usually in a limited fashion, responding to an adult-set agenda.

But didn’t the playboy campaign start with School Girls?  Well actually if you remember it was their Teacher “Eleanor Kirwan who saw the Playboy stationery range next to Disney and Winnie the Pooh in WHSmith.  “I merely accompanied the pupils to their picket. They were present because they had made an informed and passionate choice.”  Informed by the teacher at Coloma convent girls’ school.  A highly selective Catholic school which has recently been criticised about the way it selects its students.  The more Catholic you can prove you are the better your chances.  So guess the demographic of the students and teachers.

Anyone who watched Poor Kids, Jezza Neumann’s powerful documentary about some of the 3.5 million British children living below the poverty line would have been prompted to ask whether sexualisation is indeed the most pressing harm facing our young people.  Of course, a social concern is not rendered benign because it is the least of the evils on offer. But this is a preoccupation favoured by the white middle classes who have the means to buy their way out and, on occasion, the inclination to use it as a method of policing other people’s parenting choices, and their taste.

There is deep disquiet among professionals that this crusade will end up cutting off young people from the sexual advice and support services they need.  …we owe it to ourselves and our children to interrogate whose agenda this serves and what that agenda is. It’s all too easy for legitimate, loving adult anxieties to be used as window-dressing for a far harsher and more insidious governmental moralism. – The Guardian June 2011

The logo enhanced products had their time in the sun and moved from being ‘fashionable‘ to being ‘tacky‘ and ‘chavy‘.  Ironically, it became childish, not ‘adult’.

Playboy returns to focus on its good old-fashioned routes.  Magazines and clubs.

As for WH Smiths???

They’re much more High Brow these days.

A starting point of the above lecture was from this RSA debate on Advertising in Society.

A key phrase that stuck with me which succinctly describes the trick advertisers pull is ‘Put value in your things not in yourself.’

Other links

Playboy founder uses social media site to tell the world his wedding with is off

Object cover up Ladmags in WH Smiths Paddington

OBJECT vs Former lads mags editor

The Wright Stuff on Lad Mags

Two feminists chew up an inarticulate WH Smith Manager

‘Sexualised children’ – is it always the media’s fault?

One Response to A Lecture on Playboy

  1. Pingback: Something that Offends me. Teenage Playboy #ofadcal 23, some thoughts on porn, playboy & pillowcases | Rubberears

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