August 1999
s m u g
target audience
by Leslie Harpold


An Open Letter
Dear Penthouse,

I never thought I would be writing to your magazine, but something happened to me today and I really have to share it with you and your readers.

I was listening to the radio and I heard ad ad that tried to emulate a group of activists, and although it was never stated, I'm guessing they were supposed to be feminists. It said they'd already put pressure on all the other magazines and forced them to be politically correct and that all they had left to conquer was Penthouse, and began examining the 30th Anniversary edition for evidence, apparently to begin mounting their arsenal to attack you.

When they opened the pages, they began to squeal with delight, giddy at the Bruce Spingsteen interview (with lucious photos!), the insightful political commentary and if memory serves, the shiny, shiny paper. (memory may be fabricated). After a quick riff through the table of contents, they came upon the pictorials and noted that after viewing them their men might want to... (trailing off) which triggered an epiphany for these women. Of course, I got the joke, it might get the men all hot and bothered and make them want to have sex! The women then were converts, eschewing the merits of the fine issue of Penthouse and decided to take it on home to the boys so they could, and forgive me for the crass language but let's be frank since we're all adults here, get laid.

I feel you've out me in a difficult position. The kind where all of a sudden it's just me and the pillows and I'm pretty sure there's something going on behind me but I just can't turn my head far enough around to be sure. While I applaud the general mockery of the overly politically correct, have no protests about adult materials and all things that can be described with the terms "naked" and consensual" I have that not so fresh feeling after listening to your ad.

In a passive aggressive move, which I confess is sheer brilliance on the ad guys' part, you've put me on the business end of your manly charms. I pretty much tooled along without having any particular feelings about the magazine, merely thinking of it as a rag with a lot of naked chicks in it, and although I'm not overly fond of the term "Pets" for obvious linguistic reasons, I long ago made peace with that and decided to let bygones be bygones. I also like the idea of "real" women being portrayed as having active sex drives, when most media would let us believe the only women who actively seek out intimate relations are sluts, strippers and Cher.

To take issue with you is to side with the polemically correct posse I so love to mock. Not to take issue with you though is to negate my own and other women's power to arouse our men without the assistance of airbrushed, silicon enhanced, backlit barely legals. You got me all worked up and left me responsible for my own happiness again, which perpetuates a stereotype you're trying to avoid, that of the unfeeling uncaring man who doesn't care about my pleasure, after all. A cheap date in a cheaper suit. So Penthouse, I feel resentful and jealous of you right now. Jealous that you were clever enough to make me spend all this time thinking about it, and resentful that I can't fully loathe it with the vigor this sinking feeling in my stomach demands without becoming something I don't like. I'd like to blame you, but I think this is likely the post Paglian fallout of the "new" feminists (aka feminists who like boys and lipstick! with the exclamation point) largely embraced by those who don't have the inclination to look deeper into the ideologies they serve.

While I'm pro boys and pro lipstick, I'm completely against saying that anything I like is plausible in spite of any other views I hold. In my world, my tastes can go wherever they want without having to throw an apology to another ideal. "I like lipstick but I'm also a feminist" implies that painting your kisser is a mark of betrayal to feminist ideals; It's not. It's just makeup. I don't want boys to kill spiders for me because I'm just a girl, I want them dead because I do not like spiders. In this vein, I do not think my man I'mm sorry, my temporary relationship partner) can read Penthouse because it will get him hot for me, but he can read Penthouse because he is a grown up and it's not my decision what kind of media he ingests.

I am fully cognisent that this ad was in no way geared at women, rather meant as a sly wink to the boys mocking the way we girls get. Instead of parodying the women you both love and fear, next time you might get a little further ahead if you're more up front: articles about things you like and naked chicks. I know it sounds kooky, but it's just kooky enough to work.

Nitpicky in New York


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