By Megan Hussey, The Feminist Sexpert
As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March (Happy Women’s History Month by the way—huzzah!), we also pause to remember those who time has forgotten—those women who, whether individually or as a group, have been omitted from history books and deleted from popular culture.
I know something about those women, and women’s groups—because I’m one of them.
I’m Megan Hussey, Feminist Sexpert at Sexpert.Com, erotica author, journalist and feminist activist. And in the early 2000s, I was the leader of the Playgirl Posse, Playgirl’s fan club.
Upon reading this information, some readers may have done such a swift double take that they now suffer from whiplash. Sorry about that! This is because, at least once every few months, I read online that Playgirl was a gay magazine read only by gay men. Oh, and for good measure, they say all of the models were gay too.
I have nothing against gay people or gay porn. What I do have something against is the total cultural erasure of Playgirl’s initial mission and female readership. It kinda sucks to be told that one doesn’t exist, ya know?
I was a woman who strongly responded to the message, mission and models of Playgirl, counting it as that single tool that helped get me through lonely nights, bad breakups, and even college! Because aside from being a feminist since birth (I often joke that I came out of the womb with the sole intention of overthrowing the patriarchy by preschool), I just really loved seeing hot men with little to no clothes. And how.
As a magazine, Playgirl was created in the early ‘70s for women as a feminist response to Playboy–and for most of its run, the magazine’s readership was split down the middle between gay men and straight women. Aside from centerfolds that were romantically shot, far less graphically than those featured in gay beefcake magazines, Playgirl magazine featured erotic fantasies and photo layouts featuring female/male couples, interviews with female celebrities, articles about issues like feminism, women in the workplace, dating violence, and reviews of erotic books and films.
The PlaygirlTV hardcore DVDs, introduced in the early 2000s, showed heterosexual couples and showcased male stars like Jean Val Jean, Evan Stone, Niko, Marcus London, etc. And the PlaygirlTV cable/video on demand service showed these same scenes online and on cable.
I first read about Playgirl on a pop culture message board. Immediately I thrust a defiant fist in the air and issued a Sally-like (“I’ll have what she’s having”) cry of “Yesss!!!”
OK, so—during college, I actually created a model channel guide for a PlaygirlTV channel—that’s how freakin’ badly I wanted, no needed PlaygirlTV. So when I wrote to the Playgirl marketing department to congratulate them profusely on the realization of a women’s erotic network, I made an immediate friend in the wonderful Heda Eisenberg, marketing specialist for Playgirl.
Soon they brought me on as a spokeswoman and as the head of the Playgirl fan club, the Playgirl Posse. I became a Playgirl writer and was suddenly corresponding with people like world-renowned sexpert Jayme Waxman and legendary femme porn director Candida Royalle. I had a Playgirl column and blog, and was on the programming review board for PlaygirlTV.
The Playgirl Posse was 95 percent female and featured members such as Heth Mares, the female marketing manager of Wicked Pictures, sexperts/adult models like Tara Tainton and Sassy Vee (host of the “Sex with Sassy” show), Amy Co Accessories owner and Vegas party planner Amy Miller, renowned adult journalist Cyndi Loftus, many erotica authors and publishers, adult commentators like short filmmaker Jana Cleveland, sex toy expert Stephanie S., and female adult film critics Ravyn Riccio and Mistress Liss. We also boasted grandmas, nurses, homemakers, breast cancer survivors, adult toy saleswomen, strippers, and career women. Selena Kitt, whose book “Babysitting the Baumgartners” was made into a movie by Adam and Eve, was a Posse girl.
The Playgirl Posse were ladies on a mission; representing Playgirl at the AVN show one weekend and at the Playgirl male revue show plenty of weekends. We flowed through the doors of adult video and bookstores, demanding more Playgirl. I wrote fiery letters to news outlets who claimed that Playgirl wasn’t really for women, because women just weren’t visual. This despite the fact that handsome hunks are used to sell everything from romance novels to soap operas intended solely for a female audience. And I lived every gal’s dream, receiving a birthday phone call from adult video actor/PlaygirlTV star Jean Val Jean, my big crush. He was a total sweetheart who sang me “Happy Birthday” in French and sent me a swoonworthy autographed picture—one I treasure to this day.
Our club did include a handful of gay men, also straight men who wanted to model for Playgirl. And yes, many of the men who posed for Playgirl were indeed straight.
Towards the end of Playgirl’s history, the direction of the magazine changed to acknowledge more of its gay male audience—steering away from the Posse in the process. Even before then, I was stung when Tina Fey, one of my idols, joked on Saturday Night Live that “PlaygirlTV was the channel made for women, but watched by gay men.”
Really, Tina? Well, let me let ya in on a little secret. The gals of the Playgirl Posse were the same women who buy tickets to your movies and comedy shows, in an effort to stand by you and other strong women. They stood by me when my first erotic book was published, and when my father passed away. And I made sure to honor them when they got jobs and degrees, when they married and had children, when they needed a listening ear.
We are women, and boy, did we roar. Or should I say—Playgirl, did we roar.