Bachelors and Bunnies
The Sexual Politics of Playboy
For a lot of people, thoughts about the sexual politics of Playboy run along the lines of what Gloria Steinem reportedly once told Hugh Hefner: “A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” Hefner’s magazine celebrates men as swinging bachelors and women as objects of desire; ergo, it’s sexist.
Not so fast, says Carrie Pitzulo. With Bachelors and Bunnies, she delves into the history of the magazine to reveal its surprisingly strong record of support for women’s rights and the modernization of sexual and gender roles. Taking readers behind the scenes of Playboy’s heyday, Pitzulo shows how Hefner’s own complicated but thoughtful perspective on modern manhood, sexual liberation, and feminism played into debates—both in the editorial offices and on the magazine’s pages—about how Playboy’s trademark “girl next door” appeal could accommodate, acknowledge, and even honor the changing roles and new aspirations of women in postwar America. Revealing interviews with Hugh Hefner and his daughter (and later Playboy CEO) Christie Hefner, as well as with a number of editors and even Playmates, show that even as the magazine continued to present a romanticized notion of gender difference, it again and again demonstrated a commitment to equality and expanded opportunities for women.
Offering a surprising new take on a twentieth-century icon, Bachelors and Bunnies goes beyond the smoking jacket and the centerfold to uncover an unlikely ally for the feminist cause.
“Playboy has always been a puzzling and complicated cultural phenomenon and its publisher, Hugh Hefner, a troubling icon. Carrie Pitzulo here takes a fruitful second look at the magazine and provides a fresh interpretation of the man and his empire of sex.”
“In this eye-opening study, Carrie Pitzulo turns conventional wisdom on its head. She finds in Playboy a message that, if not quite feminist, was nonetheless empowering to women in surprising and important ways. Her counter-intuitive analysis certainly persuaded me.”
"In a magazine long criticized for objectifying women and advocating irresponsible male hedonism, Carrie Pitzulo finds compelling evidence for reappraisal. Her perceptive account looks beyond Playboy's famous centerfolds to reveal the magazine's complex, paradoxical, and often progressive messages about changing gender roles, sexual equity and responsibility, and feminism."—Elizabeth Fraterrigo, author of "Playboy" and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America
"Pitzulo makes a convincing case that both Hugh Hefner's political views as expressed in his editorial column, 'The Playboy Philosophy,' and the philanthropic contributions he made through the Playboy Foundation were evidence that the magazine was not the mere purveyor of porn it was thought to be. She argues that it took seriously such issues as gender equality and civil rights, helping its readers to learn about the important issues of the day. Fans of Playboy, as well as students of feminist studies and gender politics will find this an interesting and well-researched book."