Representations of Women and Men in Playboy Sex Cartoons



Playboy magazine occupies a remarkable place in the publishing history of the English-speaking world. It is, first of all, the premier publication of a now much-imitated genre, variously known as the ‘girlie’ or ‘soft porn’ or ‘men’s entertainment’ magazine. This last, more euphemistic, designation accords with Playboy’s own proud boast on its contents page that it is ‘the men’s entertainment magazine’. It is also the advocate and disseminator of a widely-desired style of life: well-heeled, urbane and sophisticated. This style of life is not merely recommended through the pages of the magazine but has been actively promoted through the establishment of Playboy clubs, casinos, hotels and the wide range of personal goods bearing the distinctive ‘bunny’ logo. The special cast and appeal of Playboy has been very much shaped by one man’s preferences and vision, Hugh M. Hefner, who has edited and published the magazine since its first issue in October 1953. For many years Hefner took the final decisions on matters large and small concerning the image and content of Playboy. Yet it is equally clear that the wide appeal and success of the magazine speaks also to important changes occurring in American and other Western societies in the postwar world: as Thomas Weyr put it, ‘in the early 1950s the world was waiting for Hugh Hefner — or someone just like him’ (1978, p. 3).


Premature Ejaculation Female Character Cartoon Character Male Stereotype Sexual Play 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berger, John, Ways of Seeing ( London: British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  2. Bogardus, Emory S., ‘Sociology of the cartoon’, Sociology and Social Research, vol. 30 (1945) pp. 139–47.Google Scholar
  3. Brady, Frank, Hefner ( New York: Macmillan, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  4. Burgelin, Olivier, ‘Structural analysis and mass communication’, (orig. 1968 ) in Denis McQuail (ed.) Sociology of Mass Communications: Selected Readings ( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  5. Cantor, Joanne R., ‘What is funny to whom? The role of gender’, Journal of Communication, vol. 26 (1976) pp. 164–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cantor, Joanne R., ‘Tendentious humour in the mass media’, in A. J. Chapman and H. C. Foot (eds) It’s a Funny Thing, Humour ( Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  7. Coward, Rosalind, ‘Sexual violence and sexuality’, Feminist Review, no. 11 (1982), cited in Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality ( London: Pandora Press, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  8. Dworkin, Andrea, Pornography: Men Possessing Women ( London: Women’s Press, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  9. Emerson, Joan P., ‘Negotiating the serious import of humour’, Sociometry, vol. 32 (1969) pp. 169–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fine, Gary Alan, ‘Sociological approaches to the study of humor’, in Paul E. McGhee and Jeffrey H. Goldstein (eds) Handbook of Humor Research: Vol. I Basic Issues ( New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983 ).Google Scholar
  11. Fry, William F., Jr, Sweet Madness: A Study of Humor (Palo Alto, California: Pacific Books, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  12. Glassner, Barry and Jay Corzine, ‘Library research as fieldwork: A strategy for qualitative content analysis’, Sociology and Social Research, vol. 66 (1982) pp. 305–19.Google Scholar
  13. Goffman, Erving, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience ( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975 ).Google Scholar
  14. Goffman, Erving, Gender Advertisements ( London: Macmillan, 1979 ).Google Scholar
  15. Greenberg, Bradley and Sandra Kahn, ‘Blacks in Playboy cartoons’, Journalism Quarterly, vol. 47 (1970) pp. 557–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harrison, Randall P., The Cartoon: Communication to the Quick (Beverley Hills, California: Sage, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  17. Hines, Edna, ‘Cartoons as a means of social control’, Sociology and Social Research, vol. 17 (1933) pp. 454–64.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, Isabel Simeral, ‘Cartoons’, Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 1 (1937) pp. 21–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones, James M., Gary Alan Fine and Robert G. Brust, ‘Interaction effects of picture and caption on humor ratings of cartoons’, The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 108 (1979) pp. 193–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. King, Josephine and Mary Stott (eds) Is This Your Life?: Images of Women in the Media ( London: Virago, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  21. Kris, Ernst and E. H. Gombrich, ‘The principles of caricature’, in Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art ( New York: International University Press, 1962 ).Google Scholar
  22. Lederer, Laura (ed.) Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography ( New York: Morrow, 1980 ).Google Scholar
  23. Lemert, Edwin C., Human Deviance, Social Problems and Social Control (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  24. McKay, Timothy D. and Marcia E. McKay, ‘Captioned and non-captioned cartoons: effects of structural properties on ratings of humour’, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 54 (1982) pp. 143–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marcus, Steven, ‘Pornotopia’ Encounter (1966) pp. 9–18.Google Scholar
  26. Michaelson, Peter, ‘How to make the world safe for pornography’, in Philip Nobile (ed.) The New Eroticism: Theories, Vogues and Canons ( New York: Random House, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  27. Miller, Russell, Bunny: The Real Story of Playboy ( London: Michael Joseph, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  28. Moye, Andy, ‘Pornography’, in Andy Metcalf and Martin Humphries (eds) The Sexuality of Men ( London: Pluto Press, 1985 ).Google Scholar
  29. Orwell, George, The Art of Donald McGill’, in Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. II: My Country Right or Left ( London: Secker and Warburg, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  30. Palmer, C. Eddie, ‘Pornographic comics: a content analysis’, Journal of Sex Research, vol. 15 (1979) pp. 285–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Platt, Jennifer, ‘Evidence and proof in documentary research, parts 1 and 2’, Sociological Review, vol. 29 (1981) pp. 31–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Posner, Judith, ‘Dirty old women: Buck Brown’s cartoons’, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 12 (1975) pp. 471–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Root, Jane, Pictures of Women: Sexuality ( London: Pandora Press, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  34. Sacks, Harvey, ‘Some technical considerations of a dirty joke’, in Jim Schenkein (ed.) Studies in the Organization of Conversational Interaction ( New York: Academic Press, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  35. Sewell, Edward H., Jr, ‘Appreciation of cartoons with profanity in captions’, Psychological Reports, vol. 54 (1984) pp. 583–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Seymour-Ure, Colin, ‘How special are cartoonists?’ in Anon., Getting Them in Line ( University of Kent at Canterbury: Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature, 1975 ).Google Scholar
  37. Stauffer, John and Richard Frost, ‘Male and female interest in sexually-oriented magazines’, Journal of Communication, ol. 26 (1976) pp. 25–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stephenson, Richard M., ‘Conflict and control functions of humor’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 56 (1951) pp. 569–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sumner, Colin, Reading Ideologies: An Investigation into the Marxist Theory of Ideology and Law ( London: Academic Press, 1979 ).Google Scholar
  40. Tuchman, Gaye and Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  41. Weyr, Thomas, Reaching for Paradise: The Playboy Vision of America ( New York: Times Books, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  42. Wilson, Christopher P., Jokes: Form, Content, Use and Function ( London: Academic Press, 1979 ).Google Scholar
  43. Woollacott, Janet, ‘Messages and meanings’, in Michael Gurevitch, Tony Bennett, James Curran and Janet Woollacott (eds) Culture, Society and the Media ( London: Methuen, 1982 ).Google Scholar
  44. Zidjerveld, Anton C., ‘Jokes and their relation to social reality’, Social Research, vol. 35 (1968) pp. 286–311.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chris Powell and George E. C. Paton 1988

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations