Full disclosure: quite a few years ago–mid-1960s–I was a fan of Playboy magazine. Not that I often saw one; they were kept under the counter. But teenage boys somehow got our hands on them, and I can still remember the names of a few favorite Playmates. But that was a long time ago, and Playboy has gone badly downhill. Hugh Hefner is a disgusting old man, and the Playboy Mansion has degenerated into a germ factory.
Still, let us give credit where it is due: Playboy has a heck of a lot more courage than, say, Yale University or Comedy Central–two institutions that perhaps fall closer together on the cultural continuum than one might think.
The cover of this month’s German edition of Playboy features Sila Sahin, a Muslim actress who stars in a German soap opera. She says that the photo shoot was a reaction to the “slavery” of her youth:
What I want to say with these photos is, ‘Girls, we don’t have to live according to the rules imposed upon us’.
Here is the cover, slightly censored:
Radical Muslims have reacted as you would expect to the Playboy feature:
A Muslim kebab shop owner, asked on German TV what he would do if Sila were his daughter, replied: “I would kill her. I really mean that. That doesn’t fit with my culture.”
This is no laughing matter. It is quite possible that the German headquarters of Playboy (or the U.S. headquarters, for that matter) may be firebombed. Actually, it would be a bit of a surprise if something of the sort doesn’t happen. Playboy demonstrated a degree of courage that has rarely been seen in recent years by thumbing its nose at the predictable reaction to its photos–which were, of course, of a piece with what the magazine does in every issue.
It is interesting to compare Playboy’s photo shoot with the Florida minister’s staged burning of the Koran. Various distinctions can be drawn; which is more “offensive”? I don’t know. A number of liberals suggested, in the wake of the Florida Koran-burning, that such things should be made illegal. Would they take the same position with respect to topless photos of women, if they are (or used to be) Muslims? That would strike at the heart of American liberalism. It won’t happen.
All political, philosophical and religious issues aside, I think we should, however grudgingly, give Playboy the credit it deserves: unlike Yale, Comedy Central and many others, it is not intimidated by the threat of Muslim violence.