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Fact Sheet for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Sports, Children, Drugs, Crime and Violence in Playboy Magazine

The following is an abbreviated version of the fact sheet for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on "Sports, Children, Drugs, Crime and Violence in Playboy Magazine," compiled by Judith Reisman, Ph.D., and presented by Linnea Smith to the NCAA in 1987.

The Fact Sheet data are based on Dr. Reisman's United States Department of Justice, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Grant No. 84-JN-AX-K007 "Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler : The Role of Pornography and Media Violence in Family Violence, Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, and Juvenile Delinquency," 1989.


Why would NCAA be concerned about the content of magazines in which NCAA athletes appear?

Athletes are acknowledged as primary heroic role models for American youth. Any magazine which profiles prominent American athletes is naturally sought out, read, and traded by juvenile males. Since youngsters may review the magazine content favorably due to the presence of admired athletes, its content should appropriately reflect the time--honored image of American Sports. Youngsters are drawn to those publications which profile their admired heroes; such as Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times, Basketball Digest, Sport, Football Digest, Baseball, and Playboy. While sports magazines cater mainly to the sports community, does a sexually oriented magazine such as Playboy serve the long term interests of the sports community?

To answer this question, the following fact sheet briefly addresses specific components of Playboy: its depictions of sports, its record on drug use, its treatment of children, its standards on crime and violence, and its position on male sexuality. Workshops on these issues are strongly urged.

  1. Are sports figures portrayed on Playboy?

    Nearly every Playboy publication (N=368) has carried some article, interview, review, or reference to sports.

    Approximately 10% of major Playboy interviewees were sports figures.

    Since November 1977, Playboy has annually cameoed top collegiate basketball players and collegiate football players since the '50's.

  2. What are the selection criterion for Playboy's All-American Team?

    The selection method is unclear. Does the publication employ a group of experts as do legitimate polls, i.e., UPI, AP, U.S. Basketball Writers, etc.? Apparently the magazine will exclude those players from the All-American Team who are unwilling or unable to be photographed.

  3. Were sports associated with drugs in Playboy?

    Playboy has profiled sports along with depictions of recreational sex since 1953. Depictions of recreational drugs emerged in 1968. Decriminalization of drugs has been a primary editorial, legislative, and financial Playboy commitment since November 1970.

    Beginning in the late '60's, a minimum of 293 visual drug scenarios were identified, 82 (28%) of these involving juveniles. Moreover, we estimate several thousand textual drug references were included since the early '70's. The majority of this information promoted recreational drug use. Moreover, a review of these texts found that criticism of drug use focused upon the individual's personality as the determinant of abuse.

    In 1970, the Playboy Foundation formally underwrote the creation of NORML (National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws, subsequently called National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

    Most recreational drug references were located in "The Playboy Forum," "Forum Newsfront," letters to the editor, advice columns, interviews, jokes and film reviews. Many references were found in special articles, colorful graphs and charts and reports of drug legislation. Governmental abuse of young users was a prominent topic.

    Many drug references were juxtaposed with information on sports figures and the "All-American Teams." An example of the magazine's combination of sports, recreational sex, and recreational drugs can be seen in the September 1978 issue. Adjacent to the "Drugs '78" article was: 1) Playboy's "Pigskin Preview;" 2) graphically nude "Girls of the Pack 10" and 3) a rainbow colored and detachable "Drug Centerfold."

  4. Do children read Playboy? Would its contents appeal to children?

    According to Mediamark Research, Inc. (Spring 1984, M-1), Playboy has at minimum, a monthly audience of nearly 16 million adults. In 1975 over 6 million in-home readers had one or more children residing in their domiciles. The " Playboy Advisor" has printed advice to sexual queries allegedly from juveniles.* The publication is aware that the magazine has been, and continues to be, a source of education for youngsters.

    While juveniles are not counted as readers in official marketing statistics, most studies on early sex information identify Playboy as primary informal sex education for children. In 1979 psychologist Aaron Hass identified Playboy as a sex education forum relied upon by juveniles for information and often for advice, values, and mores (Teenage Sexuality, 1979).

    Our analysis identified a minimum of 30% of Playboy cartoons and illustrations holding special appeal for children, i.e., Santa Claus cartoons and illustrations, Cowboys and Indians, coloring books and cut-outs, sports figures and the like. For example, Playboy published a colorful drug game, "Feds 'N Heads" in May 1971. We called these visuals "Child Magnets."

  5. Did Playboy portray children with licit or illicit drugs?

    A content analysis of 373 Playboy issues yielded 3,045 child images, an average of 8.2 images per issue. Our research on the magazine's visual and cartoon materials identified 158 (5%) of Playboy's 3,045 child images associated with the use of drugs or alcohol.

    52% (82) of the 158 child images were drug related. More than half of the child visuals included illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and PCP.

    48% (76) of the 158 child images were alcohol related.

  6. Has Playboy portrayed children in sexual or violent scenes?

    Although Playboy currently states that they have never portrayed children in sexual encounters with adults, 415 (14%) of the 3,045 images associated children in some sexual scene with adults. In comparison to the 415 child/adult sex associations, a maximum of only 17 images involved the negative health consequences of recreational sex- venereal disease, etc. Included in the 3,045 images were:

    21% (646) images associated children with nudity

    14% (424) images associated children with genital activity

    8% (236) captions to visuals described a child in sexual terms

    7% (208) images associated children with force

    6% (184) images associated children with genital/anal exposure

    3% (82) images associated children with sex with animals or objects

    2% (54) captions described a child in violent terms

    Altogether, 1% (33) child images were associated with "runaway" or venereal disease scenarios

    0.46% (14) adults were portrayed with hairless (shaved) genitalia, simulating child genitalia

    43% (1,323) were photographs

    39% (1,196) were cartoons

    17% (526) were illustrations

    A major Playboy photographic technique for displaying adult-child sex was via its "Sex in Cinema" feature (including oral and incestuous activity).

    Nearly all depictions of child sexual abuse portrayed the child as unharmed or benefited by the activity.

  7. Does Playboy sexualize violence?

    Corroborating the Malamuth and Spinner's (1980) research on violence in "best-selling erotic magazines," our data document 8,009 scenarios and 10,740 acts of crime and/or violence associated with Playboy's graphically sexual content. These included: the trivialization of gang rape, incestuous abuse, juvenile prostitution, necrophilia, and sadomasochistic activity. For example:

    Approximately 38% (3,068) images of nude/genital display were found in the 8, 009 crime and violence scenarios.

    1,483 visual images of violent props: guns, whips, knives, chains, and bats

    1,121 images of assault and battery

    1,006 images of killing or near killing

    586 images of direct sexual violence

    Text and articles on sexualized violence have dramatically increased since the late '60's.

  8. Hard-core magazines are known to be used by sex offenders. Has this magazine also been documented in cases of child sexual abuse?

    Playboy has been used in the sexual entrapment of children. Its use is confirmed by numerous case histories, testimonies of sex offenders, and incest survivors, as well as research on child pornography, child prostitution and sex rings, and onsite crime evidence. It is therefore of some concern that most children depicted in Playboy were between six and eleven years of age-the most common age group for actual incestuous abuse and general child maltreatment.

    Our slides identify two Playboy-associated crime site cases. The first case involves child sexual abuse; the second is an autoerotic fatality. In both, Playboy photos were the visual stimuli used for the activity. In the first example, the adult offender disinhibited an adolescent sister and brother with the magazine photographs. Hard-core magazines are often poor quality, less available, and more foreign to a child. In this case, attractive content and famous people made it easier to persuade the child to pose for child pornography.

  9. How is male sexuality defined in Playboy?

    Many researchers have charged that the Playboy/Penthouse genre has a negative influence on male sexual satisfaction. They have pointed to the depiction of men and boys as manipulators and "hunters," out for female sexual conquest. And they have warned that men were given expectations of constant macho sexual performance, leading to frustration, recrimination, and occasionally impotence. Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld also observed that the magazine consistently mislead and ridiculed men about their sexuality. He especially singled out the role of cartoons:

    Humor is the basic source of education,... and sexual humor boasts all the old crap and all the old fears. It counts. Sex is loaded with anxiety, even for ten-year-olds. Cartoons that poke fun at impotence or other male inadequacies would outweigh any supportive things said in the advice column (cited in Weyr, Reaching For Paradise, 1978, p. 218).

    Conversely, Dr. Dolf Zillman of the Institute for Communications Research at Indiana University, commented on the possible effect of pornography on women's attitudes toward men:

    This research focused on callousness toward women. It is conceivable, of course, that massive exposure to pornography promotes women's sexual callousness toward men as well (Pornography and Sexual Aggression, 1985, p. 135).
  10. Until recently, people thought of Playboy as a contemporary publication. With this new knowledge do they still feel that way?

    Times are changing... Until recently it was reasonable to suggest that a large number of people saw Playboy as an intellectually adventurous magazine which also portrayed pretty young women in the nude. Breaking away from rigid sexual stereotypes, the Playboy editorial team was seen as creating an image of healthy admiration for the girl-next-door --nude. Our research does document a somewhat more complex sociosexual Playboy agenda; one which involved the magazine as both pro-actively and reactively affecting the current mores of the American male--thus American society.

    We now know that Playboy has mixed drugs, sex, violence, and children in its pictorial and text format. Researchers such as Zillman, Court, and Malamuth have all concluded that the mix of sex and violence affects normal men, socializing self-admitted callousness toward and even interest in sexualized violence. Russell, Finklehor, and Burgess' research, and federal testimony established the use of sex materials to coerce wives, girlfriends, and children into both abhorrent and violent sex acts. Said Dr. Neil Malamuth, Communication Studies, UCLA:

    ...the portrayal of sexual aggression within such "legitimate" magazines as Playboy or Penthouse may have a greater impact than comparable portrayals in hard-core pornography (Pornography and Sexual Aggression, 1985, p. 42).

    The public assessment parallels that of the sex researchers. The Gallup/Newsweek poll in March 1985 reported that 73 percent of respondents felt sexually explicit materials lead some people to sexual violence, and 93 percent said magazines with sexual violence should be strictly controlled. Issues of children and drugs in these magazines have never been addressed. Other researchers have identified violent content in Playboy. Few people realize that a popular magazine such as Playboy has, for years, carried mixed messages of sex, images of children as appropriate sexual partners, drug advocacy, male sexual inadequacy, and crime and violence. Our future research will further identify these components over time.

For the entire unedited text, write to: Linnea Smith, M.D., P.O. Box 16413, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

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