Playboy is a warped liberation

28th July 2000

IF Jesus Christ himself walked up O’Connell Street, he would have scarcely received the welcome that Playboy got.

Dressed up as curiosity, the wall to wall coverage the great magazine’s first coming revealed a lot of the shallowness of the new Ireland.

The new willingness of Irish women to take their clothes off has supposedly signified our arrival into modernity.

My generation is at fault here (thirty-somethings and under). We were the first generation to be brought up with TV. Most of what we saw came from Britain and America. We compared it with our own existence and we found it wanting. Very wanting.

Ireland and her old fashioned ways became an embarrassment to us. We wanted the four lane highways and the skyscrapers. We wanted the showbiz style and mid-atlantic accents. We wanted to be free of conformity and inhibitions.

We invented a political ideology to deliver us from the past. It was called the ‘liberal agenda’. Most of the reforms were needed anyway but they wouldn’t have succeeded without our psychosis.

This affliction of seeing faraway hills as greener (and lifestyles cooler) has limited our ability to see things objectively.

So Playboy’s ability to get our women’s clothes off after thousands of years of inhibitions was greeted with a total absence of criticism. So I’d like to make up for it.

Firstly though, I don’t have a problem with nudity (as a card-carrying thirty-something, I’m not going to admit to any prudery). The two problems I have with Playboy are in the areas of male sexuality and female solidarity.

Whatever Playboy’s publishers might claim, the magazine is at the soft end of the pornographic industry. This industry has a warped – and warping – view of male sexuality.

This view is that sex is something men do to, or take from, women. In all the pornography I have seen, in print or on the web (ahem,not much really), I have never got the impression that the women actually want to be there.

Isn’t it truly amazing that the vast majority of men and women in the real world can fall in love and make love out of sheer friendship; and then a massive worldwide industry can grow up that completely ignores that reality?

The second point is the so-called liberating effect of Playboy for women. A lot of the media coverage made a big deal of how great it is for these women to shed their inhibitions.

But the reality is that only the ‘perfect’ bodies will get chosen. This is the great crossover point between the male porno industry and the female glamour mag industry. In both cases it’s obvious that the women are faking it.

Unfortunately, in the process, they set ‘standards’ which the other 99.99% of women can’t meet.

Given the media concentration on these matters, young women would be forgiven for thinking that their sole role in life is to look beautiful and be sexually attractive.

In this respect the real women’s liberation movement has been a total failure. The central idea that women should just be themselves has very depressingly failed to catch on. Instead, magazine editors decide what women should look like – social and peer pressure does the rest.

I wonder how would it go down if I suggested that women have a responsibility not to dress up? That they have a responsibility to reject the notions of beauty, or perfection?

How would it sound if I were to suggest that all humans are innately beautiful and that humanity is much more broader than mere looks?

I’d sound like an idealistic fool, mainly. But I’d still be right.

At the root of this is, of course, money. The ‘cures’ to our imperfections are worth trillions – telling us we’re lovely doesn’t sell.

The real scars are the growing angst about our appearance. Healthy young people queue up for plastic surgery.

Being mature and modern isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


As well as that…

When bad news is hard news

The German Minister of Transport and the French President were on the scene of the Concorde crash within 24 hours.

While the loss of 113 people is by any standards huge, more people are killed on the roads of France and Germany every three days.

Nothing grabs public attention like a plane crash and the fear of flying is out of all proportion to the risk. But included in the excessive coverage is the fact that we are in the middle of summer, the worst time of the year for news.

Even so, I read that the UN estimates over 1.5 million people have lost their lives due to war in the Congo over the past two years.

I suppose all news is relative.


No right to dump

Elsewhere in this paper the question of whether some Travellers are being treated with undue favouritism over dumping in the Dodder River is raised.

As an ardent defender of Travellers’ rights in the past I’d like to state my position.

No one has a right to dump with impunity, and it does no good to Travellers in general to let a minority get away with it. The polluter should pay – all polluters!