When Playboy Magazine was about 12 years old, Hugh Hefner appeared on “What’s My Line?” a show from when television entertainment was boxed in black and white. Sardonic, smug, and handsome in a slick sort of way, Hef now 84, acted like a frat boy who took his stash from under the bed and made lots of money selling it. Embarrassed to say that Playboy provided a great stimulus to take into those quick bathroom trips, men (mostly) said they read Playboy for the articles. Nobody believes that anymore, but men (mostly) still admire what’s in the magazine (not the articles) and especially admire Hefner for his continuing hold on 20-something Playmates.
Until his engagement, groups of young women still performed for him sexually. By certain accounts Playmates got weekly “allowances” of $1,000 but were virtual prisoners in the Playboy Mansion, stained mattresses and all. While some said the price of being demeaned wasn’t worth it, they still seem to have taken the money.
Lots of us “act as if”, like Hef acting as if he were that handsome guy in the early 60s. That Hef can pull it off is about things other than the cut of his pajamas. Pulling it off requires the collusion of young women. If you were a young woman, would you sacrifice? For how much and why? In 1987, a Cal State-Fullerton coed had the opportunity to not only answer those questions, but to act on them as well. Ellen Stohl was 23 then, legs paralyzed because of a spinal cord injury. She caught lots of flak from feminists and others who thought of her photo spread as exploitation, even though she was the one who approached Playboy. Her aim was to portray herself as a woman, not a disability. A creative way to replace your cake and eat it too.
Bring it to your own reality: What would you give in order to be other than who you are, physically? Would you be willing to “expose” yourself in order to be accepted? Accepted as what?
That was then. But here in 2011 I think it would still be a hard sell to have a bedroom scene featuring a disabled couple. Except for fetishists, intellectuals and chronically ill/disabled people, who’s in line at the megaplex? Films like “Coming Home” with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight focused sexual tension on a paraplegic’s return from Viet Nam; its success aimed at raising our awareness about relationship problems for returning soldiers. The film was bold for its time, but then again, those were stark times.
It might be time, again, to think of cinematic sex scenes that involve a new generation of returning soldiers. Injuries like PTSD are invisible, just like the cancers of Agent Orange, but no less disabling. Think of the sex scenes in most films and the action is most likely there for reasons other than plot. Sex sells. In order for disabled sex to sell we’d have to return to reality. These days, who wants to do that?