When i was a little girl, i was enthralled with the big Playboy sign hanging in all its pink-neon glory from the Drake Club Hotel off of Lake Shore Drive…aka, LSD.
It was all because of Gloria Steinem.
My mother made me watch some TV special about the famous feminist writer’s undercover time as a Playboy Bunny. I was totally enthralled with the costumes, the beautiful women sauntering around in tight satin corsets, ears and bunny-tail. The men in well-tailored suits smoking cigars and drinking martinis…i wanted to be one of them. Wanted to wear a duck-egg blue bunny-suit and mesmerize these men with my beauty, my sexuality…
I am pretty sure this is not the effect Ms Steinem was going for.
I understood this, and why, but it didn’t really make a difference. I knew that many of the “elegant” men attending these clubs were misogynist Pigs (a term my mother used freely and often), but then again, those were everywhere.
There were also men like my best boy-friend Ian’s father, who once took us to lunch at the Drake and managed to sneak us in for a moment to peek at the Bunnies; a jovial Texan who taught his son all about the difference between fantasy and reality when it came to women.
When he learned Ian was my first kiss (which took place whilst straddling a branch in our favourite tree), he made sure i wasn’t somehow traumatized, and gave his son The Talk.
“You see these girls in the magazine, Son? Notice you can look, but you can’t touch. I mean you can touch the paper, heh heh, but with a real woman, it’s not so goddamn simple. They’re people, just like your mother and your little friend, here (meaning me). Believe me, kid, you try and treat a real woman like a centerfold photo in Playboy, you’re a bigger fool than i raised you for. And if she slaps the shit outta you, i’ll say ‘i told you so’, and slap the other side for her!”
Neither of us were scarred for life by our trip to the Club.
Partially, i imagine, because i was already going down some alluring path that would eventually lead me to the shining example of Non-Comformist Post-Modern Post-Feminist Exhibitionist Freak that you see before you today.
What appealed to me about the Bunnies, in part, was the element of sexuality as “play”. A concept i’ve developed as i’ve developed my ideas of sexuality over the years. As with everything i do in life, i approach femininity and sex with a sense of the absurd (plus a tube of lipstick, a pack of smokes and a pair of motorcycle boots).
I attended Catholic schools up until high-school – so am very familiar with the fascination of girls in uniforms. It makes sense to me that men who attended these schools naturally have a fetish about the girls they fantasized about as kids – watching us develop in front of their eyes, the buttoned up shirts, plaid skirts and knee-highs not sufficient in hiding the hypnotically changing bodies beneath.
So, i was already a uniform type of girl – slowly developing into a girl who understood the sexual subtleties uniforms – and costumes – possess.
And let’s face it – Playboy Bunnies’ uniforms are ever-so much more exciting than tartan-plaid and knee-socks. Or so it seemed to me.
But by the time i was old enough to actually pursue this possibility of Bunny-hood, the Playboy club shut its’ doors.
It seemed like some kind of ironically innocent era had ended. Pin-ups and cheesecake gave way to a new, harder-edged sexuality that seemed to somehow lack class.
Not that i’m the classiest girl, you understand. At least, not underneath the surface sheen. Not with the chosen few who’ve been allowed to see that side. But that was the point of the Bunny fascination i had – underneath the polished, beautiful and somehow innocently sexy surface, there was the hint of the potential for intense, powerful sexuality that women innately own, but are discouraged to tap when attending Catholic Schools…
It’s not a raunchy power, there’s a subtlety to it. It’s the dichotomy that’s the key, or so it always seemed to me.
Well, i wanted to tap it like a pink Hello Kitty Pez Dispenser.
I’d recently been introduced, via my best friend Tiffany’s older brother, to Hustler magazine. Stolen beers in hand, hiding under the stairs to the basement laundry-room, he whipped out the glossy magazine and flipped to the centerfold.
There before my 9 year-old eyes was a woman spread-eagled to the camera, 70’s bush pried open by two lacquered talons. I can’t even remember if her face was fully visible.
This was definitely not Playboy, and i was a little grossed out. Where was the mystery, the dignity? The goddamn Art?
I was fully aware that i shared the same basic equipment as the woman in the Hustler photo, but i also knew i didn’t share the desire to vulgarize it that way.
I’d vulgarize in my own way, thanks.
I don’t care what anyone says, there was an art to the 1970’s Playboy photographs. It started a lifelong fascination with the female form, with my female form, and i already knew there was a little burgeoning exhibitionist of sorts budding in me, even then.
People will argue that nudity is nudity, and “Porn” is a nebulous, changeable and subjective word.
I agree. At least, i do now, as a woman who’s been around long enough to ease up a bit on the whole question of Nudity vs. Pornography, since it’s ultimately a matter of personal Opinion rather than objective Fact.
I’ve been called a pornographer, a whore, etc., because i occasionally take nude self-portraits. Because i, at one point, stripped for a living in order to put food on the table for my son and myself.
Ultimately, i’ve come to believe that anyone who judges another woman for what she chooses to display (or not display) of her body is ignorant, uninformed, sexually repressed and probably really just needs to mind their own goddamned business.
I may not be interested in flashing the Pink to anyone other than the person who has the pleasure of seeing it up-close and personal, but i sure as Hell am not going to give you a hard time if that’s what you want to do. I simply choose not to look. Because i like a little mystery, a little “Art”, whatever that may mean to you.
I know what it means to me, and that’s the point.
It’s Subjective, Mysterious, and Indefinable and ultimately Unknowable.
Much like Women.
Much like everyone, when it comes right down to it.