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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I buy Playboy magazine. I've wrung my hands over writing this down for several days now. I've wrestled with the question not of what buying the magazine says about me, to me, but what it says about me to other people. Would I get looks of horror if I talked about it? Complicit winks? Smirks of disgust?

I buy Playboy magazine because I love the Playboy Advisor. This is the section where the magazine answers readers' questions about all sorts of things. And I mean all sorts of things: how to age beef, if it's acceptable to wear sneakers with suits, what brand of home theater system to buy, or what grills, charcoal or gas, grill steaks better. And of course they ask about sex. All kinds of sex. I owe a good deal of my sexual education to the "Playboy Advisor." Its answers to readers's questions are well-reasoned, funny, and no-nonsense. The Advisor's level-headedness took me completely by surprise when I first read it. I was fascinated (and, let me be honest, put off more than once) by the crazy, weird things people do in the bedroom. And I was amazed at how non-judgmental and practical the advice these people got from the Advisor turned out to be.

It is in the Advisor that I read for the first time about male pregnancy. A man really exists in the world right now who is pregnant with a real baby. That just blew my mind. I thought this was something that medicine was considering experimenting with in the far future. But here it is. Male pregnancy is one issue I see no way to make a moral decision about. I can feel my way around cloning. But a pregnant man fills me with wonder and discomfort and also an unbreakable confused silence. I don't know how to think about it. I have no tools to decide if it's right or wrong.

I used to get very angry when I read about or heard men saying that they buy Playboy because it has interesting articles. But they do have a point. It's a small point, a minuscule one, barely visible to the naked eye. But it's there. The pictures of naked women still disturb me. I'm puzzled when I read that a lot of these women want to be in Playboy, that they consider it an accomplishment to be photographed and displayed like that. They may have mindlessly internalized the values of a culture that limits women's accomplishments to looking stereotypically beautiful and being sexual objects. But to me that explanation is not sufficient.

I wish there was a way to get the Advisor without the rest of Playboy. What I really wish is that there was a forum for talking about sex without shame and guilt, without the specter of embarrassed giggles crowding in one corner of the room, without the daunting weight of prejudices pressing down on the mind. For me, the Advisor is that place. In a way, that's sad. And in a way, it's not.


Anonymous Maven said...

Read Bust, girl. Betty Dodson runs the sex column, and if you want a real forum, there's one online where you can lurk or post about anything you can think of. I'm there pretty sporadically, but every time my crisis and fury about the dearth of good birth control options are renewed, I check out all the threads about this topic and come away with lots more to think about.

March 17, 2006  

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