Dutch Playboy’s ‘Lesbian Issue’
I will be the first one to admit that the plans for a lesbian issue of the Dutch Playboy magazine sparked my curiousity when I first heard about it roughly a year ago. The plan was to release a unique ‘lesbian issue’ of the magazine instead of a regular edition, which was to feature lesbian models only and would be put together by two actual lesbians, Lot and Maartje. These two guest editors came up with the plan themselves because they were avid Playboy readers who found the usual models attractive, but were put off by the stories about these models and their boyfriends. It was a very promising and interesting plan, because after all, it’s not often that lesbians get taken seriously as (media) consumers by big companies. A call for lesbian models followed suit, and a few months later, in September, the issue was released. A lucrative move for Playboy I’m sure, because it seemed to have sold out faster than any other issue to date – the copy I ordered online was still out of print when the next issue was already on the shelves.
The result of this promising one-time endeavour is unfortunately quite disappointing. Yes, the “100% real lesbians” on the cover and in the magazine are attractive. It’s just too bad that from the models that are featured in the 112-page magazine, only three of them are lesbian, while according to the magazine’s interview with the guest editors, their lesbian casting was very well-attended. In addition to the lesbian models, the issue features a straight Playmate and a more explicit ‘lesbian’ photo shoot to please the regular, male readers. All photos aside, though, when looking at the articles in this special edition is where it gets truly disappointing.
It quickly becomes clear that even with this ‘lesbian issue’, Playboy never intended to appeal to actual lesbians. Lesbian sex just sells and they know it. In their interview, the two lesbian guest editors disclose that they have had sex with men and enjoyed it, and don’t exclude the possibility of doing it again. And while they claim to want to show “the diversity of women that love other women” with this issue, the other interviewees have nothing to do with lesbianism at all. Furthermore, the way the magazine writes about lesbian celebrities and lesbians in general is shameful, and divides them into a ‘typical lesbian’ (read: ugly) group and a ‘beautiful’ group. They are quick to skip over Ellen DeGeneres’ succesful talkshow to talk more about her “beautiful” wife Portia, and find it odd that when asked in a survey, lesbians indicated to be attracted to women like Martina Navratilova and Jodie Foster.
Unfortunately Playboy did exactly what could be expected from a men’s magazine, and exploited lesbian sexuality for the benefit of their own bank account, without trying to challenge any stereotypes or educate their readers in any way. This would not be a big deal for me had it not been for the two lesbian guest editors that were responsible for this issue. They created the exact opposite of what lesbian media need and tried to sell it as their ‘gift’ to other lesbians. From them, I expected more. I’ll keep my copy as a shiny example of how it should not be done, and keep supporting the true pioneers who hardly make any profit while catering to our lesbian needs. They are the ones that should be featured in a special lesbian issue of any magazine.