BEN: As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there was a bit of a row a couple of weeks ago before last week’s Democratic convention in Los Angeles. Democratic Party general co-chairwoman Rep. Loretta Sanchez had organized a fundraiser to be held at the Playboy Mansion, home to editor and publisher Hugh Hefner and a handful of Playboy bunnies. When Gore and the gang realized what she’d done, they practically blackmailed Rep. Sanchez into changing the venue, threatening to cancel her speaking engagement at the convention and threatening to withhold support for her campaign.
We can do a lot of obvious finger-wagging here. It’s easy to spot the hypocrisy of a party whose president was embroiled in the largest sex scandal of the past decade being skittish about the Playboy Mansion. And threatening your own representatives to avoid a perceived PR disaster is pretty gross. But hypocrisy and dirty dealings are par for the course in the political world. What really drives me up the wall is the perception that an association with Hugh Hefner and the lifestyle he has adopted and promoted is deemed unacceptable.
I’m sick and tired of the suburbanite families and their “values” being the only ones that count in this country, especially in politics. We supposedly live in a country where we can live as we please, but it is repeatedly made clear that until we shack up legally and start squeezing out our 2.5 kids, then we can count ourselves out of the political picnic. Steadfastly single citizens just don’t have the same allure as the soccer-mom vote. But some people in this country aren’t interested in getting married, some don’t want to have children, some may have multiple sexual partners, some don’t do it in the missionary position, and some aren’t even attracted to the opposite sex. They all vote, and their opinions count.
What’s more, isn’t it time we started to think beyond this limited, puritanical, Judeo-Christian concept of society, especially when it doesn’t work half the time? Thirty years ago, Hefner spent two-and-a-half years doling out monthly installments of the “The Playboy Philosophy,” which essentially served as a deconstruction of the concept of marriage. Hefner asserted that marriage was ultimately a repressive institution. His inspiration was a study on male and female sexual behavior by Harvard-educated biologist Alfred Kinsey. Contrary to common assumptions, Kinsey found that 69 percent of the men in the study had had sex with a prostitute and 50 percent of the men had had an extramarital affair. I’d say that the Democratic Party’s champ Bill Clinton proves the study must still hold some weight. Besides, in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal, didn’t a lot of people point out just how ridiculous it was that we should be paying so much attention to the president’s sex life? And didn’t they say the same thing about John F. Kennedy more than 30 years ago? Maybe Hef’s lifestyle isn’t so taboo after all.
It’s amazing how nude pictures can color people’s conception of a magazine’s editorial content. Hefner and the Playboy organization have always stridently fought for women’s and gay rights. They also argued for wider dissemination of information about STDs and HIV long before it became fashionable in the ’80s. And don’t be fooled by those nude pictures. Sure, they’re designed for the male reader’s enjoyment, but when you look at the way women are portrayed in Playboy’s lower-grade counterparts (Penthouse, Hustler), you realize how much respect the magazine gives its playmates. There’s always editorial informing you what this person’s personality, hopes, dreams, and aspirations are. I know that a lot of people will argue that Playboy objectifies women, but I also think it’s possible to argue that it portrays them as self-sufficient, sexual beings. The magazine tells us that human sexuality, male or female, is something we shouldn’t be ashamed ofand that’s an idea neither Democrats nor Republicans have ever been comfortable with.
So shame on you, Al. Just because someone’s lifestyle and beliefs are different from yours or that of your voting demographic doesn’t mean their support is an albatross. Look at the Republicansthey won’t back away from their alliance with the NRA. You’d think that associating with an organization that wants everyone to have the proper tools with which to blow each other’s heads off would be far more disgraceful than associating with a horny free-thinker.
DANNY: Guess what, everybody?! Hugh Hefner is a humanitarian! All that silk-pajama-wearing, hot-tubbing, and girl-rubbing is just something he does in his spare time when he’s not out fighting “stridently” for women’s and gay rights. I think Ben has gay rights confused with reserving the right to show two women playing “kiss the kitty.”
In any case, holding a Democratic fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion is about as good of an idea as meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time at Déjà Vu. The bottom line is that it’s all about playing the game. In politics, in love, in life, in everything. I don’t think Al Gore is a hypocrite for “being skittish about the Playboy Mansion”I think he’s just trying to learn from Bill Clinton’s mistakes. I mean, he watched his boss get publicly crucified over a sex scandal for a full yearso he’s trying to tone things down a bit. Just because Bill went to hell in a handbasket doesn’t mean Al should pick up where he left off and give thank-you speeches from the mount of the Pussy Palace. He’s not running for student council or sheriff of Grundy Countyhe wants to be the president of the United States. And he’s almost there.
Let’s think for a second about the effect this fundraiser would have had on women voters. I think we can all agree that the purpose of this race is to be the one at the end with the most cookiesand women count for many a bag of chocolate chips. Al Gore recognizes that lots of women aren’t crazy about Playboy. Say what you will about how tasteful the pictures are or the strength of the editorial contentit still objectifies women, and guys read it with one hand on the page and the other in their pants. Anything associated with it just seems dirty.
I also disagree that Gore is catering to Judeo-Christian suburbanite families. Just consider his speech last Thursday at the Democratic convention, where he was willing to invoke some pretty liberal ideals at the expense of his middle-of-the-road identity. If anything, he actually seemed passionate about the issues, so can you blame the guy for being careful? Why take a bunch of flak for having a shindig at a porn plantation when you can rouse voters with talk of America’s future? Besides, the only people up in arms about this whole controversy are Ben, the woman who obviously had a lobotomy and planned the damn event, a few Playboy bunnies, and every guy with a subscription to the magazine. Al Gore is shaking hands, kissing babies, and trying to please everyone at the same time. Sure, he wants the money from Hef, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth risking his campaign over. And I, for one, don’t blame him.
Tisk tisk tisk
I was at Cleopatra it was awsoooooooooome
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