Christina Cauterucci looks at all 734 Playboy centerfolds in a single sitting for Salon…
There’s no wrong way to read Playboy’s new coffee table book of naked ladies. You can breeze through the encyclopedic collection of centerfolds in chunks, stopping when a shiny lower lip or well-groomed clitoral hood catches your interest. You can use the index to find a favorite Playmate, if you’re the kind of person who has a favorite Playmate. You can turn to the year you were born or bat mitzvahed and see what the residents of dudeland were drooling over that month. You can flick the pages like a flipbook, watching faces and skin blur together like a demonic wormhole that really, really wants to have sex with you.
But if you’re going to drop up to $75 on an 8 1/2-pound volume of exposed flesh, I’d recommend taking an hour or so to leaf through the entire thing, page by page. Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, 1953–2016 offers exactly what it advertises: every single centerfold the magazine has published through February of last year. That is a remarkable number of bodies to trap in one volume. Taken together, they offer a kind of biological survey few humans will experience in their lifetimes. Even the world’s busiest doctors and most-overbooked porn stars don’t see 700-some-odd naked women in a single hour.
If you take this route, as I did on Thursday afternoon in a painstakingly sequestered corner of the Slate office, you will catalog approximately 1,400 nipples of various shades, textures, and surface areas. You will see several hundred labia and, if you have a set, think carefully about your own. You will despair at how the satin robe and garter belt industries have escaped any attempts at meaningful innovation in the past half-century. You will wonder why, in the 2010s, just as Earth was experiencing the hottest temperatures in recorded history, all women suddenly got visibly cold.Christina Cauterucci
By the time I was coming of age, in the 1970’s, Playboy was already being seriously challenged by its competitors. As far as I was concerned, that was a very good thing.
I was never really a big Playboy guy, it was really too vanilla for me. I was more a fan of Penthouse, which was far more to my taste. Penthouse had better letters (at least for my sensibilities) and I felt that its photoshoots were far more interesting too. Playboy was for my Dad’s generation, it seemed, Penthouse was for mine.
I had a cousin who worshipped at the altar of Hugh Hefner. I’ll never forget him classifying all of Hefner’s competitors as being akin to gynecological handbooks. I told him that it was a shame he liked bush more than pussy.
Later on, a few years down the road, my cousin went to work for the Republican Party. At that time, I accused him of liking Bush more than pussy.
Some things never change I guess…
I’ve never been a big centerfold fan, just as I’ve never been agog of celebrity. While I could envision having Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds as part of my personal sexuality library, I’m also sure there are dozens of other books I’d rather own.
In the end, I’d probably classify this weighty tome (844 pages – 8.4lbs shipping weight @ Amazon) more as a book of art than a picture book. Playboy’s airbrush artists seem as endemic to High Hefner’s vision as the actual photographers and models. These women are far from “real”, in almost every manner, shape and form.
I’m sure if someone paid me, like they did Christina Cauterucci, to read through the whole thing in a single sitting, I could. But, most likely that’s what it would take.
Sorry, Mr. Hefner, that old cliched joke about buying Playboy for the articles was far more true than you might have thought. At least it was in my case…