The Playboy Philosophy is a sometimes rambling, disorganized discourse, because the writing of each new installment brings forth a succession of ideas and feelings that vie for expression. We put them down as they occur to us. When we have concluded the series, we will probably edit it into a more disciplined form as a book, but for magazine publication, this more direct, organic approach suits our purpose, since the Philosophy is intended as a living statement of our beliefs, our insights and our prejudices.
This issue we had intended discussing modern America’s sex attitudes and behavior, but that fascinating subject will have to wait for a month or two, for another related concern-censorship-has been too forcibly and personally thrust upon us to be denied additional comment. On June 4th, we were arrested in our home on charges of “publishing and distributing an obscene publication.” If that fact seems incredible to our readers, the full story behind the arrest is even more unbelievable. It serves to emphasize a point we discussed in earlier installments of the Philosophy regarding the importance of the separation of church and state in a free society.
The arrest was allegedly prompted by the nude photographs of Jayne Mansfield appearing in the June issue of Playboy. Were these photographs the real reason for the action taken against us? Or is it possible that The Playboy Philosophy itself, critical of the church-state implications in the Chicago justice recently meted out to comedian Lenny Bruce, and emphasizing that true religious freedom means freedom from as well as freedom of religion, supplied the motive?
Knock, Knock. Who’s There?
The Mansfield melodrama began late on a Tuesday afternoon. We were asleep in our home (or, as Time reported it, in our “humble 40-room pad on Chicago’s North Side”). We had been working all through the previous day and night on the August installment of the Philosophy and retired in the late morning to grab 40 overdue and badly needed winks. We’d gotten about half that number when the intercom beside our bed buzzed us awake. It was our housekeeper, who informed us that four of Chicago’s finest were at our arrest and that CBS-TV was there also, with cameras.
The charge, we were told, was obscenity-someone had objected to the pictures of Jayne Mansfield in the June issue and managed to get a warrant for our arrest. Now, it should be mentioned that a violation of the Chicago obscenity statute is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum fine of $200 for the guilty; it is not uncommon, when the charge is a minor one, to serve the warrant and arrange for the booking and posting of bond at a time convenient to all concerned. We asked our housekeeper, therefore, to request that the officers contact our attorneys the following morning and make arrangements through them for accepting the warrant, etc. At this point the melodrama took on some of the attributes of high comedy as our housekeeper misunderstood our instructions-which were given, we must confess, while only three quarters awake. She went downstairs and gave our message, not to the police, but to the men with the TV cameras, who took it to mean that we would have a statement to make to the press through our attorneys the following morning.
We turned over, only half believing that we weren’t still asleep and the whole thing just a bad dream caused by the frankfurters and Pepsi we’d consumed just before retiring; we’d managed to get another 1½ winks when the intercom buzzed us awake a second time. We got our instructions straightened around and our housekeeper signed off to carry them down to the officers of the law; ½ a wink later the intercom buzzed again. The policemen had refused to listen to her, she said; what’s more, they had followed her back into the house and were, at that moment, in the hallway just outside our room. She was trapped in another part of the house-unable to return to her office, which opens onto our private quarters, for fear they would follow her there also.
Now fully awake, and convinced that the franks and cola had nothing to do with the situation, we decided it was time to call our lawyer; we reached him, appropriately enough, at a meeting of the Civil Liberties Union. We dressed to the thumpity-thump-thump of police fists pounding on our bedroom door. The protectors of law and order were contemplating breaking it down when our attorneys arrived.
From that point on, with our legal representatives on the scene, the police were most courteous. We drove to headquarters, were booked, posted bail ($200), and were free in less than half an hour.
But why, Irv Kupcinet wondered in his column in the Chicago Sun-Times the next day, had four armed huskies of the Chicago police force been required to arrest “one nonviolent publisher”? Perhaps, we suggested to Kup, they sent extra men along on the chance that one or two might get lost in our swimming pool with the Bunnies. But we couldn’t help speculating on the obvious attempt to make a public spectacle of the arrest. Who, for example, had tipped off the TV stations, so that television cameras were at the house waiting when the police arrived?
Whatever Happened to Baby Jayne?
The Number One Question is, of course, what prompted the arrest in the first place? Very obviously Playboy is not obscene-previous attempts to censor the magazine when we first began publishing were vigorously and successfully fought in the courts and Playboy has firmly established itself, in the years since, as a major publication on the contemporary American scene.
The press and news commentators of radio and TV tended to treat the arrest as a joke, and if the implications of governmental censorship were not so serious, we would have, too. “Just to balance things out,” said Alex Dreier on his WBKB-TV news show, “the National Geographic also has a great issue this month!” Tony Weitzel commented in his column in the Chicago Daily News: “Now that four husky gendarmes have succeeded in pinching Hugh Hefner for printing Jayne Mansfield unretouched, the June Playboy mag is a collector’s item.” Walter Winchell wondered whether or not it might just be another publicity stunt perpetrated by Jayne herself. It wasn’t. Jayne, in fact, expressed surprise over the photographs' appearing in Playboy. “Those pictures were supposed to be used to publicize the European version of the film,” she said. “I have no idea how Playboy got them. But when Hefner wants something, he usually finds a way of getting it.” Actually, Miss Mansfield and the producers of the movie had invited Playboy’s photographers onto the set to shoot the exclusive pictures and Jayne had posed in a separate session for the June cover.
Irv Kupcinet wrote, in his Sun-Times column: “The obvious question about the arrest of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner on obscenity charges based on the Jayne Mansfield nudes in the June issue is: Why now? Playboy has been publishing nudes of voluptuous dishes for years.” Conceding that Jayne is a bit more voluptuous than most, the question is still a good one: Why now? Jayne first appeared in Playboy as a Playmate of the Month back in February of 1955, and we chronicled her career in a half-a-dozen issues after that, as she went from a bit part in the Broadway show Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, wearing a towel even smaller than her role, to stardom in Hollywood, where she eventually dispensed with even the towel, in her Promises, Promises!
The June 1963 issue of Playboy includes eight pages of photographs of Jayne Mansfield nude in bed and bubble bath during the filming of Promises!, co-starring Tommy Noonan, Mickey Hargitay and Marie McDonald. Some of the pictures show a man (Tommy Noonan) on the bed, too. It is this, explained Chicago Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy, when pressed for an explanation by the press, that makes the June issue of Playboy obscene. Besides, he continued defensively, he’s received a lot of complaints, and the caption under one of the photographs states, “she writhes about seductively”; and in another, she is described as “gyrating.” The captions, according to Melaniphy, “arouse prurient interests and defeat any claim of art.”
Mr. Melaniphy thus appears to be making an interesting legal assumption-that a picture of a nude must either be obscene or a work of art. That, of course, is one of those assumptions that is aptly described as unwarranted. It is quite possible for a nude to be neither-and failing to qualify as one in no way establishes any criteria for assuming it to be the other. The pictures of Jayne in the June issue are, in our opinion, simply candid photographs of a movie in the making. The important thing it, they are not obscene-clearly and conclusively-for pictures far more brazen than these have been cleared of obscenity by the Supreme Court, appear regularly in a number of other magazines available on newsstands and by subscription (via Post Office approved second class mail) throughout the U.S. and in motion pictures, also, including films that have been passed by the Chicago Film Censor Board! (And we’ll have more to say about this a bit later.)
A Definition for Obscenity
At this time, we think some attempt should be made to define just what constitutes legal obscenity and try to determine how the June issue of Playboy squares with this definition. Every corporation counsel, district attorney, judge, police chief, and state or local official, whose position includes the power to censor what his fellow Americans may read, view or listen to, should be familiar with the following facts. And every newspaperman, columnist, and radio and TV commentator, who has the opportunity to comment upon censorship when it occurs in his community, should be familiar with them also.
No one needs to be told that the freedoms of speech and press are among the most precious guaranteed by our Constitution. Without them, all other freedoms would soon vanish and our democracy itself would disappear. The Supreme Court has declared, however, that obscenity is outside the protection of the First Amendment. If obscenity is to be an exception to these most basic freedoms, then it is imperative that we clearly understand just what constitutes obscenity. And we must be constantly on the alert to make certain that the label of “obscene” is not used to censor other areas of free speech and press that are our precious heritage, but to which some fellow member of society-for whatever reason-may object. The Supreme Court has stated, “The door barring federal and state intrusion into [the fundamental freedoms of speech and press] cannot be left ajar; it must be kept tightly closed and opened only the slightest crack necessary to prevent encroachment upon more important interests.” And Supreme Court Justice Harlan wrote, in a recent majority decision, “We risk erosion of First Amendment liberties unless we train out vigilance upon the methods whereby obscenity is condemned no less than upon the standards whereby it is judged.”
The principal problem in dealing with this exception to free speech and press is, of course, that “obscenity” must always remain, in the final analysis, subjective. Obscenity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. As D.H. Lawrence has brilliantly observed, “What is pornography to one man is the laughter of genius to another.” Recognizing this problem, the Supreme Court has established, in decisions over the past half-dozen years (principally in Roth vs. United States, 1957; and Manual Enterprises, Inc. vs. J. Edward Day, 1962), criteria to be used as a guide in determining what can and cannot be considered legally obscene.
In Roth, the Supreme Court supplied this partial definition for obscenity: “Whether to [the] average person, applying contemporary community standards, [the] dominant theme of [the] material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.”
While we share the opinion of Justices Douglas and Black that this standard is too subjective and vague (see The Playboy Philosophy, June 1963), the Supreme Court further clarified its position in the Manual Enterprises decision, in June 1962, and the present definition is more than satisfactory for the discussion at hand. (Justice Douglas argues convincingly: “The Supreme Court’s standard for obscenity as what offends ‘the community conscience of the community’ would certainly not be an acceptable one if religion, economics, politics or philosophy were involved. How does it become a constitutional standard when literature treating with sex is concerned?” It is, according to Justice Douglas, “too loose, too capricious, too destructive of freedom of expression to be squared with the First Amendment.” Justice Black states, on the subject of obscenity: “My view is, without deviation, without exception, without any ifs, buts or whereases, that freedom of speech [and press] means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they have or the views they express or the words they speak or write.”)
But whatever the shortcomings of the present Supreme Court test, it has established criteria for censorship that are more specific and limiting than any that preceded it and makes the majority of the current censorship activity across the U.S. extralegal - or without any legal justification - including, as we shall see, the June Playboy arrest.
In the Roth case, the Court attempted to separate what is protected under the Constitution from what is unprotected, by use of the term “obscenity.” It confirmed that “sex and obscenity are not synonymous…[and the] portrayal of sex, e.g., in art, literature and scientific works…[is entitled to] the constitutional protection of freedom of speech and press.” The Court has held in a number of separate decisions (Parmalee vs. United States; Sunshine Book vs. Summerfield; Mounce vs. United States; Manual Enterprises vs. Day) that the portrayal of nudity does not, in and of itself, make a picture obscene. And these decisions include total nudity of both sexes, appearing together in a single photograph, with pubic areas exposed.
In Roth the Court established that in order for material to be judged obscene, it must be “utterly without redeeming social importance.” The Court also rejected the “isolated excerpt” and “particularly susceptible persons” tests-that had been encroaching on Americans' freedom since the Regina vs. Hicklin decision of 1868-and established in their place the “dominant theme of [the] material taken as a whole” and the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.”
In the Manual Enterprises decision, the Supreme Court confirmed that its intent in Roth had been “to tighten obscenity standards.” The Court then proceeded to tighten them further by clarifying the definition included in Roth: It had been mistakenly accepted by some as a “single test for determining whether challenged material is obscene,” wrote Justice Harlan for the majority. Actually, it was only half of a two-part test, well established by previous opinions and court decisions. Noting that “the thoughtful studies of the American Law Institute reflect the same twofold concept of obscenity,” the Court quoted from its draft of a Model Penal Code: “A thing is obscene if, considered as a whole, its predominant appeal is to prurient interest…and if it goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters.” (Emphasis added by the Court.) The Supreme Court “requires two distinct elements” as proof of obscenity: “(1) patent offensiveness; and (2) ‘prurient interest’ appeal.” This is an important addition to the legal definition of obscenity, for it is quite possible for material to appeal to prurient (sexual) interests without being objectionable enough to be obscene.
In Manual Enterprises, the Court also clarified what it meant by “contemporary community standards” as “a national standard of decency,” rather than that of any lesser geographical area, which might “have the intolerable consequence of denying some sections of the country access to material, there deemed acceptable, which in others might be considered offensive to prevailing community standards of decency.”
The Court also confirmed that the determination of what is obscene in the statutory or constitutional sense is not a question of fact (i.e., a question of what happened), but a matter of fact mixed with a determination of law. It is, therefore, a “constitutional fact,” to be established by the higher courts rather than being left solely to the discretion of a jury, which might reach one conclusion if impaneled from a large heterogeneous community like San Francisco and quite another if it were made up of the members of a small town in New England.
These further clarifications should relieve some of Supreme Court Justice Douglas' previously expressed concern about the “common conscience of the community” being used as a guide to obscenity: “Under that test,” said Justice Douglas, “juries can censor, suppress, and punish what they do not like…. This is community censorship in one of its worst forms. It creates a regime where, in the battle between the literati and the Philistines, the Philistines are certain to win.”
Is Playboy Obscene?
Having described what constitutes obscenity, let’s take a look at the June issue of Playboy and see what level of legal expertise Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy is employing on behalf of the citizens of Chicago, in rendering his considered opinion that the magazine is obscene.
First of all, Melaniphy must consider not simply the eight pages devoted to Jayne Mansfield, but the entire 200 pages in the June issue-for the Supreme Court has admonished him, and all other would-be censors, not to judge a work by “isolated excerpts.” He must sincerely believe that “the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole” is obscene. And to justify his charge of obscenity, he must further believe that the entire June issue of the magazine is “utterly without redeeming social importance.”
The June issue included the first half of Jules Feiffer’s novel, Harry, the Rat With Women, about which Time magazine wrote, “Feiffer’s stylized fairy tale can be read, some of the time, as light summer fiction. It is studded with scenes of cheerfully skin-deep satire and divertingly chuckleheaded dialog. But occasionally Feiffer’s laughter comes close to a stifled cry of anguish-in a way that has not been matched since Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts.” It included the last installment of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the latest James Bond adventure by Ian Fleming, favorite adventure writer of the President. It included new fiction by Ray Bradbury and Brian Rencelaw: an article on folk music by Nat Hentoff and one on American holidays by Charles Beaumont, plus satire by Shepherd Mead and Shel Silverstein. The June issue contained a feature on Scandinavian cooking by Thomas Mario and one on proper male attire by Robert L. Green, a page on travel by Patrick Chase and three pages of gift suggestions for Father’s Day and Graduation. It contained 16 pages of cartoons, ten columns of reviews of current books, records, movies and theater; five columns of advice on dating, etiquette, fashion, grooming, travel and hi-fi; an interview with Billy Wilder; and the seventh installment of The Playboy Philosophy devoted, ironically enough, to an extensive examination of the dangers of censorship in a free society, including an interview with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the significance of the constitutional guarantees of free speech and press in the First Amendment. To justify the action he has taken against Playboy, Mr. Melaniphy must consider all of the foregoing as “predominantly appealing to prurient interest” and “utterly without redeeming social importance.”
But wait-that’s not all. That, as the Supreme Court made abundantly clear in its Manual Enterprises decision, is only the half of it. In order to be considered obscene, the June issue of Playboy must also, in the words of Justice Harlan, “be deemed so offensive on [its] face as to affront community standards of decency” and be an “obnoxiously debasing portrayal of sex…that is portrayed in a manner so offensive as to make it unacceptable under current community mores.” To be obscene under U.S. law, that description must fit our entire June issue-with the editorial comments listed above; including over 60 pages of quality advertising from 102 top American firms (as evidence of its acceptability in contemporary society); and a total sale of over two million copies (as further evidence of its acceptability in contemporary society); plus a pass-along readership (confirmed by an independent research organization as the highest of any major magazine in the nation) of more than 15 million (as still further evidence of the same).
Just who, precisely, does Mr. Melaniphy think he’s kidding?
But let’s go a step further. Though the Supreme Court will not allow it in any legal consideration of obscenity, let’s examine the Jayne Mansfield feature by itself-apart from the rest of the June issue. For it is our contention, and firm conviction, that even when considered alone, there is no justification for the charge of obscenity, so capriciously made by the Corporation Counsel of Chicago.
The U.S. Courts have clearly established that that nudity is not, per se, obscene. And this includes, as we have indicated, complete nudity on the part of both sexes, appearing together in a single photograph. It also includes nudity in bed, and out of bed, embracing, and engaged only in casual conversation. And it includes still pictures, and moving pictures, too. Our courts obviously believe that the adult American of today is just as mature as his European counterpart and that he may safely be allowed to view Brigitte Bardot in her latest bare-bottomed bedroom bout-winner take all-without any serious effect on his moral fiber. A rather rash assumption, perhaps, but one that the highest court in the land, after hearing considerable argument pro and con, has expressed itself as willing to make.
The nudity in the June photo feature does not begin to approach that which the Supreme Court has already held to be not obscene. In the bed sequence, Jayne is partially covered by a sheet; as for the man in the pictures, he is fully clothed. It must be pointed out, in addition, that there is no direct body contact; that the man is not reclining, but is seated upright on the edge of the bed, with his feet on the floor; that the photographs are clearly identified as being scenes from a movie; that it is also clearly stated that in the motion picture, the man (Tommy Noonan) portrays Jayne Mansfield’s husband.
Now what about those “obscene” captions underneath the photographs? The seductive writhings and gyrations that Mr. Melaniphy believes are calculated to “arouse prurient interests” actually describe Jayne’s unsuccessful attempt to interest her cinema hubby in coming to bed, while he remains thoroughly engrossed in a book of humor he is reading aloud. The excerpts from the two picture captions, as quoted out of context by Melaniphy and picked up by a part of the press in reporting the arrest, give a completely erroneous impression of the full captions which read: “Alas, poor Jayne. As she writhes about seductively, the best she can draw from Noonan are those funny lines.” And “Jayne, admitting defeat, stops gyrating and starts giggling. Too late, Noonan discovers there’s a live body in his bed.” Those are the lines that appealed to “prurient interests” and made the June issue obscene.
No one familiar with the extensive, explicit sexual dialogue and description now found in a great number of the nation’s best-selling novels, and considering that the forthright sex prose of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller has been specifically cleared of obscenity charges in recent U.S. high court decisions, can seriously suggest that those photo captions in Playboy even approach the obscene.
We have offered a number of examples of material that cannot be correctly called obscene. Where, then, do the courts presently draw the line between what may and may not be considered obscenity? In interpreting the Supreme Court’s recently established standards, the highest courts in New York, Massachusetts and California have ruled, in individual cases, that only so-called “hard-core pornography” can be considered so repugnant to contemporary society, so worthless and without redeeming social importance, as to be held “obscene” and, therefore, outside the protections of free speech and press guaranteed us by the Constitution.
Last year the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in ruling that Tropic of Cancer was not obscene, cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roth case, stating, “We conclude, therefore, as in effect the New York court did in the Richmond County News case, that, with respect to material designed for general circulation, only predominantly ‘hard-core’ pornography, without redeeming social significance, is obscene in the constitutional sense.”
In a unanimous decision involving the same book, in July of this year, the Supreme Court of the State of California also cited Roth, and stated, “This decision and others of the United States Supreme Court, we think, impliedly drew a line of constitutional protection around all material except that which has been described as hard-core pornography. In this analysis…we follow the interpretations of the distinguished New York Court of Appeals and Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.”
In a footnote to the decision, the California Supreme Court quotes from Pornography and the Law by Drs. Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen on the difference between erotic realism, which is not obscene, and hard-core pornography, which is: “In pornography (hard-core obscenity) the main purpose is to stimulate erotic response in the reader. And that is all. In erotic realism, truthful description of the basic realities of life, as the individual experiences it, is of the essence, even if such portrayals…have a decidedly anti-erotic effect. But by the same token, if, while writing realistically on the subject of sex, the author succeeds in moving his reader, this, too, is erotic realism and it is axiomatic that the reader should respond erotically to such writing, just as the sensitive reader will respond, perhaps by actually crying, to a sad scene, or by laughing, when laughter is evoked.”
In effect, the court was indicating that simply because the written word, or a picture, arouses sexual response is no reason for damning it-not if it has any additional worth or value. For as Judge Jerome Frank has stated, “I think that no sane man thinks socially dangerous the arousal of normal sexual desires. Consequently, if reading obscene books has merely that consequence, Congress, it would seem, can constitutionally no more suppress books than it can prevent the mailing of many other objects, such as perfumes, for example, which notoriously produce that result.”
While the high courts in other states are taking the Supreme Court to mean what it says regarding freedom of speech and press, in Illinois the Chicago Corporation Counsel’s attempting to censor one of the most popular magazines in America.
Is it possible that Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy is unfamiliar with the Supreme Court’s recent rulings regarding obscenity? Not at all. The Chicago Sun-Times reported: Melaniphy admitted “that he is fully aware of the difficulty of getting a conviction in the Playboy case, in view of recent Supreme Court decisions.” Melaniphy is familiar with the Supreme Court’s decisions-he just doesn’t think that he has to abide by them. That’s the kind of Corporation Counsel we have in the City of Chicago!
Nor did Melaniphy’s action end with our arrest: Immediately thereafter Chicago’s American reported, under the headline “COPS SEEK TO BAN ‘Playboy’”: “The police department, at the request of the Corporation Counsel’s office, today began a drive to halt further sale of the June issue of Playboy magazine. Brian Kilgallon, Assistant Corporation Counsel in charge of enforcing the city’s obscenity ordinances, said police throughout the city will attempt to purchase the magazine at newsstands, drug and bookstores, and other distribution points. Warrants charging the sale of obscene matter will be sought against dealers who sell the June issue with the knowledge that the city has declared it objectionable, he said.”
An attempt was thus made to ban the magazine before the charge of obscenity had ever been established in a court of law. It hardly mattered that such prior restraint and attempted intimidation of the city’s news dealers is unlawful; Corporation Counsel Melaniphy had already admitted that his office is not bound by Supreme Court decisions-that he is, therefore, above the law.
Chicago’s American also reported, “Maximum penalty for violating the city ordinance covering sale of obscene matter is a fine of $200. Kilgallon said most dealers are probably out of the magazine or have already stopped its sale. He said he has received several letters concerning the city’s action against Hefner, and all were favorable. ‘Most people are concerned over how we can prevent this type of magazine from falling into the hands of children,’ he said. Kilgallon estimated that two out of three of the magazine’s readers are under 21 years of age.”
The Assistant Corporation Counsel’s “estimate” is, of course, as phony as the obscenity charge itself. The composition of Playboy’s audience is a well established fact, for, like all other major magazines in America, we receive the annual Consumer Magazine Report prepared by Daniel Starch and Staff from a continuing, independent survey of general magazine readership throughout the U.S. The 1963 Starch survey indicates that 90.7% of Playboy’s male readers are between the ages of 18 and 54. The age composition breaks down as follows: 5.9% are under the age of 18; 27.1% are between the ages of 18 and 24; 40.7% are between the ages of 25 and 34; 11.0% between 35 and 44; 11.9% between 45 and 54; 3.4% are 55 and older. Playboy’s female readership, which is sizable, follows the same general age pattern.
Melaniphy’s assistant is employing a favorite device of the would-be censor-using a concern for children as a justification for censoring the reading matter of adults (see The Playboy Philosophy, February and June, 1963)-an action the Supreme Court has specifically held to be unconstitutional (Butler vs. Michigan, 1957).
Chicago’s American finished its story with, “James R. Thompson, Assistant State’s Attorney in charge of handling grand jury action against obscenity, suggested: (1) Citizens report to the State’s Attorney’s office books and magazines suspected of being obscene. (2) Formation of community or neighborhood organizations to meet with merchants to who sell objectionable material. (3) Boycotting of stores which sell obscene literature.”
Here is a prospect certain to gladden the heart of every true American: neighborhood vigilantes censoring the reading habits of their neighbors through intimidation of the local news dealer.
When will we learn that our own rights are based upon protecting the rights of others? If we do not like a particular book or magazine, we are not forced to purchase it; if it offends us, we do not have to read it. But we have no right to force our own tastes and predilections onto others.
The Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity makes reference to, as we have noted, “contemporary community standards.” Thus the obscenity of yesterday is not necessarily the obscenity of today, and the obscenity of today need not be the obscenity of tomorrow. Contemporary community standards never remain static, but offer ever-changing criteria for judgment. It is the subjective nature of obscenity that disturbs great men like Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who feels that the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution should be absolutes-a solid, unshakable foundation upon which our democracy is built.
We have discussed at considerable length, in previous installments of The Playboy Philosophy, our own opinions on the subject of censorship. We are fundamentally opposed to it in concept-believing that any control over the free exchange of ideas can be harmful to a free society. But if any restraint is to be exercised over the speech and press of free men, then it must be limited to those areas where unbridled expression can cause significant, provable harm. And if any control over sexual obscenity is to be justified on this basis, then surely what is “obscene” must be limited to only the most repugnant, perverted, negative aspects of sex-those that would turn sex from a thing of beauty and pleasure to a thing of pain, brutality and horror.
But as history has proven, over and over again, censorship strikes first at the most delightful, pleasurable aspects of sex and leaves the perverted, the twisted and the truly obscene to flourish.
Fortunately for us all, we live in a time when sexual suppression is on the wane. We are presently involved in what may rightly be termed a Sexual Revolution and we have previously made clear our conviction that this search for a “new morality” should lead Americans to a healthier, less hypocritical attitude on an essential aspect of life too long hidden and repressed.
Some of us tend to forget just how far we have managed to climb toward sexual freedom in no more than two or three generations. Contemporary man and woman are able to look at life and discuss it openly with one another in a manner that would have been unthinkable to our grandparents.
At the turn of the century, the can-can-a lively dance of the French music halls of the time-was considered highly licentious and was even outlawed in Paris, but a little past the midcentury mark, it seems perfectly proper entertainment to most everyone from Khruschev (who took a very dim view of the performance he witnessed on the set of the film Can-Can while visiting Hollywood a couple of years ago-Disneyland, it may be remembered, was more his speed); Judge Thurman Arnold remarked, in a Playboy Panel on “Sex and Censorship in Literature and the Arts” (July 1961), that pin-up photographs in the Police Gazette that were regarded as very hot stuff when he was a lad wouldn’t warrant a second look from the modern young man raised on Playmates; early in the 1900s, a girl was thought indecent, and was liable to arrest, if she ventured out on a public beach in a bathing suit that bared her knees, while a bikini-clad lass of today wears a suit that covers little more of her anatomy than do her shoes and gloves; the archcensor and bluenose Anthony Comstock caused a national sensation over the painting of an innocent young maid taking an early morning dip-Comstock called it “obscene,” among other things (he had a rich, blue vocabulary)-he made the painting famous and anyone who has ever seen a reproduction of September Morn may very well wonder what all the excitement was about.
In the Sixties nudity and sex no longer project the same sense of sin, shame and guilt for most of us that made them such deadening and oppressive burdens for our ancestors throughout history (see The Playboy Philosophy, August and September, 1963). The growing acceptance of Freud’s revelations regarding the sexual nature of man undoubtedly helped free us; more recently, Kinsey’s statistics on sexual behavior helped, too. As scientific perception has replaced medieval superstition, the fear and mystery surrounding sex have been stripped away and, with them, much of sex’s power to corrupt and pervert. As we have previously observed, sexual perversion thrives when normal sexual outlets-both physical and psychological-are suppressed.
England’s excessive Puritanism over the past two centuries must take the blame for not only the Englishman’s traditional lack of spontaneity, but the county’s extensive sexual perversion as well. (Britain’s more versatile prostitutes offer, as a common practice, such variations on the sexual theme as flagellation, for both sadists and masochists, and homosexuality has been long referred to as “the English vice.”) England is now undergoing a Sexual Revolution of its own-about which a great deal is being written-that should markedly reduce such deviations in the future and the chance of any more such pathetic public displays as the Stephen Ward-Christine Keeler-Mandy Rice-Davies trial.
There is still a substantial amount of sick, sin-laden and sensational sex available in every medium of mass communication here in the United States, but there is a growing willingness on the part of many to accept sex more simply and honestly, as a natural part of human experience that need be neither sacred nor profane.
Millions of Americans are reading the sexual realism of books long suppressed as obscene without turning into a nation of sex fiends.
On the one hand, we are still offered such tired tripe as “The Case for Chastity”, a 1962 reprinting by the Reader’s Digest of an article that originally appeared in that periodical in 1937, with a brief introduction by the editors that proclaims, “The problem it discusses is as acute as it was 25 years ago, and the sound advice contained in the article is, if anything, more pertinent.” Which places the Digest in the interesting position of apparently believing that sex has stood still in America for the last 25 years: The article is as “pertinent” today as it was in 1957 only in the sense that it was inaccurate, opinionated poppycock then, and still is now. (see The Playboy Philosophy, July 1963.)
In contrast, the August 2, 1963, issue of Time, reporting on a New York trial in which a new edition of the book (published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons) was held to be obscene: “Just when it was becoming fashionably sick, someone had to come along and remind everybody that sex can be fun. The contemporary five-foot shelf abounds in incest, lewd vagrancy, homosexual hanky panky, reckless driving, and other suburban indelicacies. Such misdemeanors seem thoroughly neurotic compared to the plain if repetitive dalliance of Fanny Hill, heroine of John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure….
"In an age when even serious authors treat the sexual act in terms of case history or social protest (and the Olympia Press' professional pornographers are driven to exploit De Sadean whips, chains and intricate multiple interlacings to keep ahead of the uncensored press), Fanny Hill’s straightforward heterosexuality must come as a shock. None of her escapades, for instance, are as unsavory as the AC-DC boy-meets-boy encounters of James Baldwin’s Another Country, nor are they as grubbily explicit as the climactic sexual passage in Updike’s Rabbit, Run.
"Certainly Fanny was no common harlot. Her Memoirs combine literary grace with a disarming enthusiasm for an activity which is, after all, only human.”
This remarkably refreshing tribute from Time offers evidence of just how far society has traveled on the road to sexual liberation, when it is remembered that only a dozen years ago sister-publication Life decried the obscenity in the award-winning best sellers From Here to Eternity by James Jones and The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, in an editorial titled, “From Here to Obscenity.”
It should also be remembered that in writing his powerful war novel, Mailer, no pussyfoot among contemporary authors, felt obliged to use fug and fugging for the more conventional four-letter word and its gerund-a compromise no self-respecting writer of realism, Mailer included, would think of making today.
Mark Twain wrote, “Man has been called the laughing animal, but the monkey laughs; and he has been called the animal that weeps, but several of the others do that. Man is merely and exclusively the Immodest Animal, for he is the only one with a soiled mind, the only one under the dominion of a false shame.” The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals-an organization with the avowed purpose of putting pants on all domestic animals (“for the sake of decency”)-notwithstanding, man suffers from a good deal less false modesty and shame today than he did in Samuel Clemens' time. The modern young male, and his female counterpart, seem perfectly able to look at the nudity of a fellow human being-even one as uncommonly voluptuous as Jayne Mansfield-without being reduced to an articulate state of blushes, smirks and snickers, or developing any of the symptoms of satyriasis or nymphomania. The present generation is being given ample opportunity to prove its newfound maturity, too, as there is more human nakedness on display nowadays than ever before in the magazines and newspapers people choose to read and the motion pictures they go to see. And we’re not even considering the problem of all those unclothed domestic animals running around loose-we’ll let SINA worry about that.
There can be no question but that we are living in a period of marked social change. In such a time of transition, some portions of society are certain to lag behind the rest. It would be nice to believe that the entire Jayne Mansfield incident could be explained on this basis: that those responsible for the arrest are simply somewhat “behind the times,” as it were, and not aware of the changes that have taken place so recently in contemporary standards. No such positive view seems possible. Not when the June issue of Playboy-or any issue of Playboy-is so far removed from anything even remotely resembling the truly obscene. And not when Playboy is so very much an accepted part of the contemporary scene.
When we first began publishing the magazine nearly ten years ago, it was much further ahead of the mainstream of contemporary taste and opinion than it is today. The publication was in the forefront of a remarkable sociosexual evolution that was then just beginning to gain real momentum. Playboy has continued to press forward in the years between, but a major part of society has moved forward with it. This shift in Playboy’s position, relative to the rest of society, can be seen both in terms of the magazine’s own increased acceptance and in the diminishing contrast between the more controversial aspects of Playboy’s editorial content and that of a great many other suddenly liberalized U.S. publications.
The circulation success of the magazine is by now legend: From a primary readership of just over 50,000 copies for its first issue, in December 1953, Playboy has grown in popularity to an average circulation of over 1.75 million, for the first six months of 1963, with the largest secondary, or pass-along, readership of any major magazine in America, pushing its total number of readers each month to more than 15 million. This is community acceptance, in a very real sense. (In an amicus brief filed by a “Group for the Defense of Literary and Artistic Freedom” in the California Tropic of Cancer case discussed earlier, the sale of the matter in question was actually used as evidence of its having met with community acceptance. The brief stated: “…over one million copies of the book have been distributed over the counters of bookstores and libraries throughout the land…. Although we would not cite such popularity as a necessary criterion of a work’s social importance, it seems to us undeniably sufficient.” If a one-million-copy sale of Tropic is “sufficient,” what must the continuing, month-in-month-out sale of now nearly two million copies Playboy each issue represent?)
The diminishing contrast between this and other publications in the editorial approach to sex and nudity is equally evident-and further proof of Playboy’s position, as regards contemporary community standards. We have already offered considerable evidence of this trend toward a more forthright handling of sex, in this and previous installments of the Philosophy, in almost every area of communication-books, magazines, movies and television.
When Playboy first began publishing, the appearance of a nude photograph in a major American magazine was a real rarity-not only in the family-oriented and women’s magazines, but in the men’s magazines as well. The calendar company that owned the now-famous nude of Marilyn Monroe, that became Playboy’s first Playmate of the Month, was so intimidated by the U.S. Post Office that the only version of the calendar they dared to send through the mails in 1953 had a ludicrously artificial black negligee overprinted on it. Contrast that Post Office position toward nudity with the present administrative attitude, whereby a second-class mailing permit was granted last May to Sundial and Nude Living, two American nudist magazines in which both sexes appear together in photographs completely naked with the pubic areas exposed.
While no major magazine has seen fit to go this far with its nudity, figure photography is appearing with increased regularity in the family and women’s magazines and the majority of men’s magazines now on the newsstands of the nation include photographs of undressed females in every issue.
Harper’s Bazaar published a full-page nude of high fashion model Contessa Christina Paolozzi early last year that photographer Richard Avedon had originally intended to submit to Playboy (see Playboy After Hours, April 1962); it provoked a stormy reaction in the women’s fashion world, but primarily because the Contessa is so very well known in high society. This May Vogue printed a double-page, full-color figure study that could have passed for a Playboy Playmate and it produced no apparent criticism; and Bazaar bounced back with a black-and-white nude in July with similar success.
Show Publisher Frank Gibney apparently learned a lesson from his brief experience as editor of Playboy’s now defunct Show Business Illustrated, for hot on the heels of his two-issue diatribe against The Playboy Club (he was a key-holding regular while working for Playboy, but became a Bunny-baiter after moving over to Show), his August cover carried a picture of Gina Lollobrigida as a mermaid, with naught but a few strands of hair for brassiere and enough bare Gina revealed below so that anything more would have matched the maximum exposure of Nude Living.
Time has taken to running photos of an over-ripe tomato or two almost every week and they offered readers a nude back shot of actress Carroll Baker (in a scene from her last movie) in the issue of July 5, followed by a bare-bosomed Fraülein at a Bavarian health resort on August 16.
Among the magazines for men, all but the smallest handful publish several pages of nude photographs every issue and a great many of them make Playboy look like Good Housekeeping by comparison. Posing in the altogether has become so respectable a part of contemporary mores that well-established film stars like Arlene Dahl, Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine willingly strip for magazine spreads. (In this issue, Playboy presents a nude picture story on Elsa Martinelli; within the next few months, we will publish similar features on Kim Novak, Susan Strasberg, Ursula Andress and Mamie Van Doren.)
Nudity has become an accepted part of American magazine publishing and movies are barer than ever, too. From super stars like Liz Taylor in the multimillion-dollar Cleopatra to the unknown starlets in the most expensive “nudie” films, the girls are baring their all to boost the box-office appeal of their pictures. More significantly, in terms of the Jayne Mansfield-Playboy arrest, the Chicago Censor Board left uncut the seminude scenes in Cleo: the nude shot of Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn; the male nudity in The Sky Above, the Mud Below; and the nude bedroom scenes of June Ritchie in the English A Kind of Loving, and of Romy Schneider in the Italian Boccaccio ‘70-both of which involved men (see Europe’s New Sex Sirens, Playboy, September 1963). Chicago’s censors have also approved the showing of a lengthy list of nudist and “nudie” films during the past year, with extensive female nudity in scenes including men.
But if nudity is now quite common in motion pictures, bedroom embraces in adult cinema are more the rule than the exception. Indeed, in foreign films imported to the U.S., it is difficult to find an example that does not include at least one tussle in, on, or near a sack. The Lovers, The Cousins, The Balcony, From a Roman Balcony, The L-Shaped Room, Shoot the Piano Player, Seven Capital Sins, Five Day Lover, The Joker, Odd Obsession, Jules and Jim, The Truth, Phaedra and Never on Sunday-all included tomfoolery twixt the sheets. In Les Liaisons Dangereuses, French film star Gerard Phillipe played mixed doubles in bed with the bare Jeanne Valerie and Annette Vadim.
And in the same month that we were arrested for those photographs of a nude Jayne Mansfield trying unsuccessfully to entice her husband into coming to bed, the Chicago Censor Board approved the showing of Sweet Ecstasy, in which see-worthy sexpot like Elke Sommer is decked by a male member of a boat party, has her clothes torn open, and is thoroughly manhandled in the passionate, horizontal embracing that ensues (see photos, page 82); in a previous scene on the same afternoon, Miss Sommer rolls about on a sandy beach with a different passion pal and consummates the sex act (while the camera, in a last-minute display of modesty, pans to the rolling surf.) The beach scene in Sweet Ecstasy reminded us of the tender seduction in the sand in the Swedish film One Summer of Happiness, and we recalled that the Chicago Tribune had thought it perfectly permissible to run a photo, in the Sunday roto section of that conservative family newspaper, showing the young couple in a nude embrace.
In our Jayne Mansfield pictorial, as we have mentioned, Tommy Noonan was fully dressed and there was no embrace: Jayne’s movie husband was seated upright, on the edge of the bed, reading. In the same month as our arrest, two other national magazines ran photographs of couples in bed: Esquire and The Saturday Evening Post (honest!). The Post picture, in the issue of June 22, showed Ian Fleming’s bold British agent James Bond, as portrayed by Sean Connery in a scene from 007’s second film adventure, From Russia, With Love, tucked under the covers with his latest adversary, a sensuous blonde. The July issue of Esquire had, as its lead feature, a picture profile of hip-beat author John Filler; in the last photograph, Filler is tucked under the covers with his hip-beat girlfriend for the night, a sensuous brunette.
These photographs are different from the bed sequence in the June issue of Playboy in several respects: In the Post and Esquire photos, everyone is nude, though partially hidden by covers; the couples are embracing, or in physical contact with one another; the couples are not married. We are left with the feeling that two separate standards are being applied here: one for Playboy; the other for everybody else. If that is true, it is certainly not the first time. It happened before in Chicago, when we opened the first Playboy Club, and the same Corporation Counsel decided that key clubs were illegal in Illinois. Chicago had key clubs for 25 years, but during the Playboy Club’s first week of operation, Corporation Counsel Melaniphy decided that key clubs were illegal.
We took the key club question to court – and we won it. We will do the same with the obscenity charge. The small fine is meaningless, but there are issues involved here that are all-important to anyone who believes in democracy. Because of the issues, we will fight this extralegal administrative action with every resource at our command – for ourselves, and for those others, less able to defend themselves, who all suffer intimidation and coercion at the hands of the bigots, the censors, the enemies of freedom, who are forever attempting to reshape society – by fair means or foul – into their own twisted image of what it should be.
In the next installment of “The Playboy Philosophy,” Editor-Publisher Hugh M. Hefner completes his response to the June-issue obscenity charge, offering additional evidence that it was less the Jayne Mansfield pictorial than this outspoken editorial series that initiated the action, and revealing for the first time the forces in Chicago, and throughout the country, that are most actively working against Playboy and against the interests of all men who wish to live free and unobstructed lives, thinking their own thoughts, and able to express those thoughts without interference or penalty. In the personal exploration of this single incident, and related incidents involving Playboy in the past, Hefner makes his strongest case yet for the separation of church and state in maintaining a truly free society. The details described involve Playboy, but the implications involve all of us. This is an installment of “The Playboy Philosophy” that no reader of this publication will want to miss.