The Semiotics of Playboy
An interesting essay by Eric Raymond about the unerotic and disturbing nature of much or most online porn reminded me of my own experience browsing the Playboy archives last year while researching an article on porn for Wired.
The Playboy centerfolds from the '70s were pretty young women, airbrushed to be sure but with natural-looking bodies. They seemed real. Flash forward to the '90s, and the natural look is long gone, replaced by surgical jobs so orblike and protuberant that realism is clearly not a goal--volume seems to be an end to itself. Even the women without aftermarket boobs are shaved and teased and made up to look like porn stars.
What happened to the fantasy of the girl next door? Is this just an indication of the changing tastes of weird, Viagra-addled old Hugh Hefner? Or, as Raymond suggests, is it about meeting the demands of a marketplace of men who are insecure with real, pretty women? Is it a post-AIDS thing--were the '70s about sex as natural and fun, and now sex is clinical and controlled?
Finally, what is the relationship between idealized women in photographs and the establishment of a man's taste in women? I was a teenager in the '70s, and I like pretty, natural-looking women. Cause or effect? If I was 15 now, would I like women who look like porn stars, or would I just hate Playboy?