The Men of Playgirl

posted by Madame Bubby

Playgirl magazine, often billed unofficially as the “magazine for women and gay men,” has undergone some changes in its presentation through the years (one can no longer obtain the traditional hard copies that were usually hidden under some gayling’s bed at some point).

Even the naked guys in the magazine have changed, and that change reflects some social trends. What is interesting is that as recently as last week, on a gay chat board, Datalounge, the subject came up, and it wasn’t just a retro/nostalgia discussion from the eldergays.

The original poster made a point that the models in the 1970s and 1980s generally revealed huge bushes, and that they were trim and muscular overall, not what one might term “gym-pumped” or, to be biased, “steroid” bodies.

Now, the first Playgirl centerfold was Lyle Waggoner, who gained fame by appearing as a regular on the iconic Carol Burnett Show. For her sketches, Carol needed a straight guy, and I bet she also knew she would attract a certain audience (the Playgirl audience) by showing off his easy, unaffected, yet indisputably, studly presence. The first issues of Playgirl did not show cock, though. That came later, when the previous censorship of such materials was finally letting up in the early 1970s.
 

Lyle Waggoner in the first issue of Playgirl
Lyle Waggoner in the first issue of Playgirl

Lyle Waggoner in a later issue of Playgirl
Waggoner in a later issue

When Burt Reynolds died recently, many remembered his moment in Playgirl. Of course the photographers hid his member, but there was plenty to fantasize about even if was not visible. And hair, so much hair. The poster I referred to on Datalounge mentioned hairy bushes as if that was a style of the past, and that observation brings up the issue of shaving. How much hair is attractive? Or the lack thereof?
 

Burt Reynolds on the cover of Playgirl in December, 1974
Burt Reynolds on the cover of Playgirl in December, 1974

And note that many of the models, especially in the eighties, loved showing off their luxuriant locks. This hair was not hippie long hair that evoked Woodstock dancing and shabby communes in the woods; it was more like the idealized long hair of medieval knights and cavaliers and the like, heroes and antiheroes of romance novels.

But the long hair encouraged even more muscles, perhaps a reaction to possible associations with effeminacy in the more conservative eighties. Thus, tight pants, pastel colors, and long hair were acceptable if your body wasn’t just buff, but pumped up.

And in 1992, a pumped up, hard-bodied stud with a tattoo (harbinging what is now a rather generic look among millennials) named Dirk Shafer appeared as Playgirl’s Man of the Year. And he was gay. He didn’t come out as gay until much later, and he died in 2015.
 

Dirk Shafer as the Playgirl 1992 Man of the Year
Dirk Shafer as the 1992 Man of the Year

Another Playgirl model, Bill Cable aka Stoner, apparently appeared with Christina Crawford (!) in a mysterious video which has disappeared from youtube, alas. He also died young, kiiled in a motorbike accident in 1992.
 

Bill Cable aka Stoner
Bill Cable aka Stoner

Now that gay for pay is prominent in the adult erotic world, one might assume that some of the current models in Playgirl’s online edition are gay. And perhaps, depending on their situation, they aren’t concerned about concealing their orientation. Still, this open fluidity seems to produce rather generic results.

The secret thrill of an actual print magazine that enticed because of its very danger, dangerous imagery, a dangerous situation for the reader, is missing.

I am not advocating for the closet, but one wonders if it’s time for Playgirl to reexamine its purpose and not just serve an Instagram page in a larger format accompanied by tips on fitness. Remember, this magazine actually dared to in its earlier years explore female orgasms and polyamory and reveal men as sex subjects and objects for women and gay men.

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Inside Those Secret XXX Places …

Te'Jay's Adult Books sign

I used to see when I was traveling by car (including places with my parents when I was a child) places with signs like XXX, adult, bookstores, Girls! Girls! Girls!. I was blissfully ignorant, being more concerned at that point in my life with Star Trek and J.R.R. Tolkien, but I do remember now that we lived down the road from a notorious strip of what used to be called go-go joints. I later found out they were owned by the Mafia, and what looked like apartments above them were actually places where the johns could take the girls.

This underworld really invoked no curiosity, until right after high school my friend Nancy expressed an interest in going to an adult movie theater. Nancy's mother, far more hip and liberal than my parents, warned us that people might masturbate in there. The place itself, in the suburbs, didn't look much different than a mainstream movie theater. It was clean, physically, and the clientele wasn't the scuzzy people Nancy's mother thought would be whipping out their dicks. In fact, the people in there I noticed were more my parent's age. And the movie of course was heterosexual, but I saw oral sex for the first time (I was shocked at the size of the erect cocks, not in my experience at all), and an orgy scene. I was disappointed the guys were not doing it with each other. I also asked the ticket taker if they showed any S & M movies. He was cute, bearded in a kind of shaggy seventies style, and he said “No.” So, that was it, I guess. For now …
 

Image from A Night at the Adonis
Image from A Night at the Adonis: DVD / Streaming

When I moved to the city, like many suburban gay guys did, to explore sex, I discovered gradually a deeper, more physically threatening underworld. The XXX adult bookstores prevalent at that time on Rush Street band State Street north of the Chicago River beckoned, and I even went to one during my lunch hour. I bought three of those pulp jack off books we sell on our website, all with S & M themes. About that time, I also remember going with Nancy again (by the way, she is now a doctor, interpret that development as you wish) to one of those stores. I was shocked by the titles of two books, Carol's Strange Choice (the family dog) and Widow Loves Farm Animals. Yikes! Moving on …

At this point I was feeling both titillated and shocked, but never really comfortable, like I was where I belonged. I graduated to a couple of places called bookstores which had peep show booths and glory hole booths, but I didn't actually do anything in them. The back room of a bar called Touché (the old one at Lincoln and Diversey) was the first place I actually fooled around with a guy in public, and it seemed like the places where I was exploring my sexuality were becoming more and more “divey” in the physical sense: dirty wooden floors, spilled beer … that unique scent of a bare cock and balls, skin and sweat and funk. Subsequently, I got to know floors quite well … the AA Meat Market, and several leather bars in New York City.
 

Vintage ad for Touche at Lincoln location

But the gay adult movie theater was still an unexplored place. I finally made it there, most unfortunately, long after its halcyon days, the Bijou Theater on Wells Street in Chicago. I went on a tour with the group Masters and Slaves together (it seemed clean and quiet, and I didn't make it to the upstairs maze. Yet. That happened a few years later when I went to a leather event at the theater, and I was one of those people (albeit dressed in leather) Nancy's mother warned us about. I do wish, however, that the event continued in my apartment.
 

Vintage Bijou Theater ad and exterior photo
Bijou Theater upstairs maze and dungeon
Bijou Theater upstairs glory holes
Bijou Theater exterior and interior

Now that sexual exploration begins and ends with the Internet and social media apps, those secret XXX places can exist in one's phone and in one's home, but I think, overall, one loses some of that complex reaction to a physical place where the most physically powerful and also vulnerable of acts takes place.



Man smoking outside adult theater, 1970s
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Featured

Sexology in 1965

 

March 1965 issue of Sexology


In March 1965, the sex education magazine Sexology, which came out in the early 1930s as the brainchild of Hugo Gernsback, addressed still at that time risque subjects such as female orgasm, lesbianism, homosexuality, and, showing the increasing interest in Eastern culture, the Kama Sutra. 

The physical culture movement, which really took off in the early part of the last century and which fed into the homoerotic muscle/physique magazines of Bob Mizer and others had condemned prudery about sexual issues, but still held up heterosexual marriage as the ideal situation in which to enjoy sex. 

Sexology reflected most of the psychosocial attitudes of that time, but after the famous Kinsey Report, when this issue came out, previous views about sexuality that relied on social conceptions of "normality" and prudishness about the body's physical functions were beginning to come under serious scrutiny. 

Gernsback, actually more famous for publishing the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, was still the publisher and editor-in-chief when this issue came out. 
 

Issue of Amazing Stories

In 1965, America was beginning to more fully experience a cultural revolution, especially in larger cities. The Baby Boomers had become young adults who were questioning the 1950s ideals about gender and sexuality, while the dissemination of the birth control bill created, especially for women, a view that emphasized the pursuit of individual happiness (which could mean a healthy, enjoyable sex life) rather than traditional communal values that emphasized, church, kitchen, and children. 

Homosexuality was still a taboo subject, and homosexual acts still illegal in many states, but under the influence of a more confessional culture that was beginning to allow for a more open discussion of feelings, people were finding an outlet to seriously discuss it in magazines like Sexology. It wasn't just a “dirty” subject to titillate or even shock as in the pulp fiction of the 1950s or the gossip rags like The Hollywood Reporter

Even though the medical consensus, more specifically psychologists and psychiatrists, still considered homosexuality a “condition” or “problem” or even “disease” which needed to be treated, there were glimmers that this interpretation could be misguided, and that a homosexual person could not pretend to be or become a heterosexual. The letter below - which is the question of the month, “Homosexual Anxiety” - from this issue shows that so many gay and lesbian persons ended up in heterosexual relationships and then marriages because it was the social norm, to often disastrous results. 
 

Sexology's Question of the Month: Homosexual Anxiety

A 23-year-old man writes to Dr. Rutledge, concerned that even though he is sexually active with women, he has often masturbated while thinking of men. He also notes he did not have gay sex while in the military (interesting, which could imply it was not unusual to do so!). He is afraid he will “fall” into homosexuality, and he wants to experience “normal” feelings again. 

The doctor's response pretty much shows that the idea that sexual orientation is inborn, not learned, was still prevalent, and sadly, for him it is still a “problem” with three possible causes. He claims gender confusion because of emotional problem in childhood (thus the boy thinks he is a girl), a typical stereotype during that time). Remember, this was long time before medical science began to understand transgender persons, and that gender identity could be a different issue than sexual orientation. 

He then claims, and this is where he could be grasping at the idea that maybe, just maybe, being gay is not a choice, that because of a problematic heterosexual family dynamic that “they turn their natural sexual interests toward the same sex rather than the opposite sex.” He does blame the family, but perhaps he is hinting that one could naturally be gay, and that a person could who identifies as gay is doing so to make one's life easier (quite a claim in this period!) because one does not have to worry about pregnancy and financially supporting a family. (Those are also reasons why many people, especially women, had been joining religious orders, but the price was no sex at all!) 

Rutledge finally claims that extreme stress could cause one to have gay sex, in that case, a temporary aberration. Overall, he wants the person to get psychological help. 

Now, this response these days doesn't particularly strike one as being enlightened in light of our medical discoveries, but just ten years later theAmerican Psychological Association declared that being gay was not a problem or condition or abnormality, and that steps should be taken to remove its social stigma, which the writer of the letter (one might claim in these days he was bisexual) definitely feels. 

And one should also take into account another article in this issue affirms the physical and especially psychosocial importance of the female orgasm, long a taboo subject, and quite revolutionary for a generation whose mothers and grandmothers saw the sex act as something fundamentally “dirty” and revolting to be endured only for the sake of producing children. 

And, more significantly, one of the lead stories (perhaps the subject of another blog) is an actual interview with a lesbian, even if the title, “How I Became A Lesbian,” implies that it is more a learned or developed behavior than an orientation. 

Sexology ceased publication in 1983 after Gernsback sold it to another publisher, but its legacy lives on in Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Talk Sex with Sue, who wittily and wisely counsel many, encouraging an open, diverse climate that celebrates the amazing spectrum of sexual expression and relationships. 
 

Dr. Ruth

By the 1970s, the sexual revolution that had begun in the 1960s was in full swing, and in the heady days after Stonewall gay men were confident enough to share and interpret their sexual experiences and relationships on film. Check out some of our titles from that period on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com!   

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What's really a sexual taboo these days?

What's really a sexual taboo these days?

The National Geographic Channel has recently been airing a series called Taboo, focusing on topics ranging from religious practices that involve extreme bodily pain (of course, having been taught by pre-Vatican II Catholics who often focused on graphic details in the passion of Jesus, not really that strange, at least to me?!) to obesity (why is fatness taboo?), to “strange love.” The one episode focusing focusing on “strange love” that has garnered some media attention is the real-life "Lars and the Real Girl" relationship, when a man in the United States falls in love with a sex doll (see http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/taboo/4599/Overview).

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