Dec 11, 2013

10 Reasons Why Playboy was a Gay Boy's Best Friend

  That's right, Playboy, the first mainstream magazine featuring female nudes, launched in 1953.  It reaching its height of popularity in the early 1970s, when 7.1 million hetero men bought it every month and millions of boys borrowed or stole copies from their fathers, uncles, older brothers, and next-door-neighbors.  Including many gay boys.  What did gay boys of the Boomer generation see in Playboy?  1. Stealing or borrowing copies to ogle was a rite of passage for boys in their early teens -- a requirement for "growing up."  So looking at the pictures, thinking "Gross!"  while your friends were moaning in ecstasy gave you a clue that you were different.      2. After you realized that you were gay, you still had to pretend to be heterosexual  -- if the wrong person found out, you could lose your friends, be expelled from your college, be kicked out of your parents' house.  And what better way to maintain a heterosexual facade than to "accidentally" leave a Playboy lying around?  3. When you got old enough to buy your own copy (if the cashier was male), you got to experience a moment of absolute, unconditional acceptance, something very rare for gay people who usually get surprise, hesitation, confusion, embarrassment, or outrage.  4. Speaking of absolute, unconditional acceptance, sharing the magazine with your heterosexual friends led to wonderful warmth and camaraderie.  5. And you could sometimes convince them to do the things heterosexual men do when there are no women around.  In your dorm room.  Right in front of you.     6. If you could ignore the gross pictures of naked women, there were stories by some of the greatest writers of the century, everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to Gore Vidal, and lots of great interviews with actors, sports figures, politicians..even Jimmy Carter.  7. Also "lifestyle" articles on grooming, fashion, cars, politics, things that teenage boys might find useful regardless of sexual orientation.   8. And some of the only positive references to gay people in all of 1970s mass media, such as an article on Steven Ostrow, owner of the Continental Baths, an early gay meeting place (1972).   9. The Playboy Forum regularly printed letters from gay men, discussing masculinity, homophobia, and harassment.  10. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, was an advocate of sexual freedom, even if it meant non-heterosexual activity.  As early as 1964, his Playboy Philosophy included "tolerance for those whose sexual inclinations are different from our own."  In 2012, he came out in favor of gay marriage, calling it "a fight for all our rights."  See also: A Porn Film for Halloween