The Portland title image
About Us - Subscribe - Contact & Submission info

Front Page > Issues > 2004 >July

Media critics blind towards Playboy’s soft porn

I attended Playboy’s 50th Anniversary Club Tour when it stopped by McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom because as a feminist writer I knew I wanted to do some sort of story around the event. What I encountered there was nothing unexpected; almost wholly white and young male attendees taking many pictures of the far outnumbered “bunnies” and female attendees.

Coverage of the event by Portland’s alternormal media was similarly predictable with lots of nudge nudge wink wink praise of the fifty year history selling subordinate female sexuality to male consumers and talk about how tasteful Playboy’s porn is compared to other types. Neither conservative nor liberal media had a bad word to say about Playboy Magazine and its influence on the not-so-tasteful porny saturation of American culture in 2004. Because I know better than to believe Playboy Inc. is different from other global media corporations, I wondered about the lack of substantive criticism and decided to step into the vacuum both nature and journalists abhor.

As a member of the media, I often read critiques of newspapers, magazines, and news shows that fail to live up to expected standards of journalistic integrity. Investigating several liberal news sources for information about Playboy revealed references to interviews and articles but no examinations of the magazine’s content as a whole.

One reference made by FAIR, the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting media watchdog group, called Rush Limbaugh on spreading misinformation about Chelsea Clinton’s private school forcing students to write an essay titled “Why I Feel Guilty Being White.” The truth was one class wrote about “Should White People Feel Guilty and Why.” Limbaugh credited the story to CBS News, which prompted CBS News Vice President Larry Cooper to write in USA Today (7/20/94),“Limbaugh’s source was actually Playboy Magazine.”

FAIR accomplished its mission of debunking Limbaugh but left unturned the stone where Playboy Magazine spread false information through their February 1994 article, “Unbearable Whiteness of Being.” Playboy is one of the world’s best selling magazines and reaches more people than Limbaugh, yet no one at FAIR felt the need to call for a critical examination of Playboy Magazine’s content.

For decades Playboy Magazine has published child pornography and incest materials which could cause “copy-cat” crimes, wherein consumers criminally act out sadosexual and child abuse scenarios. This is not my declaration, but the ruling of an Amsterdam court in 1994 which defended these statements made on a Dutch television station. When the station reported on a study by the U.S Department of Justice and said Playboy was facilitating child sexual abuse and incest en masse, Playboy Inc. sued for libel and defamation. Presented with the evidence of photographs, illustrations, cartoons, letters, and stories depicting positive portrayals of sex between adults and children as well as incest, the court ruled against Playboy in a case widely reported in the Netherlands but conspicuously unreported in the United States.

Most of the evidence presented came from a mid-1980s study by Dr. Judith Reisman, “Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler.” Alarmed by the increase in juvenile rapists using these three porn magazines as a manual for their crimes, a grant was awarded to document the visual ideas mainstreamed in “soft” pornography from December 1953 to December 1984. According to Dr. Reisman, “Playboy published 3,045 cartoons, photographs and illustrations of children under age 18. Most were girls; 47 percent were ages 3 to 11 and 33 percent ages 12 to 17. Two-thirds of Playboy children were sexualized.”

A Playboy cartoon from 1979 shows Dorothy post gang-rape by Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Another cartoon from 1972 features a young girl about age seven emerging from the bedroom of a white-haired, robed man saying, “You call that being molested?” Reisman found that for 30 years Playboy had child imagery an average 8.2 times per issue. Abruptly after the study’s release there was a decrease in the number of child images used and child photos in the centerfold “biography” were suddenly older.

But competition is fierce in the business of selling sexuality and as the better selling, more violent Hustler Magazine increased promotion of child-adult sex through their infamous “Chester the Molester” cartoons, Playboy kept pace with their use of child imagery. Pornographer Mickey Bee said recently in a Los Angeles Times article, “If we do something really disgusting, it’ll sell better than boy-meets-girl,” and selling better has always been Playboy Magazine’s only goal.

The September 1988 issue of Playboy Magazine featured the article "The Child-Pornography Myth" by American lawyer Lawrence Stanley in which the harms of child sexual exploitation are downplayed as baseless hysteria. Playboy editors neglected to inform readers the article originally appeared in Paidika, The Journal of Paedophilia. and that Stanley specialized in defending people accused of child pornography. He was also affiliated with Uncommon Desires, a pedophile newsletter calling itself "the voice of a politically conscious girl-love underground." One year after his article appeared in Playboy, Stanley was accused of conspiring with photographer Don Marcus to import child pornography into Canada. Marcus is still a wanted fugitive and Stanley was acquitted on his lawyer's claim that he did not know the suitcase he picked up from Marcus contained child pornography. Two years after his Playboy Magazine article Stanley was charged with "sexual aggression" against a girl in Quebec but Canadian officials never sought extradition.

Despite Stanley's associations with organized pedophilia groups and his growing sexual offender record, Playboy Magazine published a letter from him in 1992 giving false information about a United States court case involving child pornography, U.S. vs. Stephen A. Knox. Once again, Playboy editors did not disclose Stanley's professional, personal and criminal interest in making sex with young children more publicly acceptable.

In June 1992 Playboy Magazine ran the article "Presumed Guilty" claiming child abuse is a fantasy and that recall of childhood sexual abuse is false. The author quotes Dr. Ralph Underwager, a former Lutheran pastor and founder of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation without informing readers that there is no scientific or medically accepted syndrome for false memories. Dr. Underwager was forced to resign from the foundation's board when he said in a Dutch pedophile magazine that pedophilia is, "a responsible choice" and urged pedophiles to "make the claim that pedophilia is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity." His testimonies on behalf of accused child sex offenders have been routinely rejected by courts prior to his appearance in Playboy, as in the 1988 trial court decision in New York that determined he was "not qualified to render any opinion as to whether or not (the victim) was sexually molested" and a 1990 case when his testimony was thrown out "in the absence of any evidence that the results of Underwager's work had been accepted in the scientific community."

There are numerous examples to draw from when making the argument that Playboy Magazine has often spread false information to advance its "sexual liberation" agenda. This is only one article and my intent is to open up the question among liberals as to why there is an almost complete lack of media criticism aimed at one of the most widely circulated magazines in the world despite evidence of misinformation and biased 'expert' writers. The complete record on Playboy Magazine's unethical journalistic standards and role in facilitating child sexual assaults remains to be written as the will to investigate Playboy Magazine and other widely circulated porn publications remains curiously absent from the largest progressive media watchdog groups. Surely it is not at cross purposes with the First Amendment to honestly review and critique the content of pornographic magazines, and such self-imposed censorship by liberals does a disservice to the basic tenets of free speech.


For more information check out

Dr. Judith Reisman website

Dr. Linnea Smith's website

One Angry Girl Anti-Porn Star

Dr. Diana E. H. Russell website

Nikki Craft's website

S.M. Berg is an activist, bicyclist and writist living in Portland.


Back to Top


The Portland Alliance 2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
Questions, comments, suggestions for this site contact the webperson at

Last Updated: August 5, 2004