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The Playboy Effect: Obsessed with Youth and Fitness

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Back in the day before the internet, Playboy Magazine was a head-rush for the imagination of curious little boys. Finding a Playboy Magazine somewhere was like a high that lasted for lustful days, depending on your imagination and usage. But needless to say, it was the gateway drug for things to come in out sexual futures.

But of course, Playboy Magazine offered a very top-heavy, warped version of attainable beauty and theoretical romance. Yes, those beautiful women existed, you could see they were real in the pictures. (This was before Photoshop.) And some of us as young men got stuck there with the Playboy bunny as the ideal female. Um, WRONG. But it was difficult to get the images out of our heads when comparing what we saw and imagined in Playboy and reality. Rarely was there a woman in our sphere, much less interested in us, who could fulfill our reinforced and revisioned fantasy of a sexy and beautiful woman.

Jump cut to today, and there are some concerns that the free access to pornography is corrupting our minds and our expectations of sexual fulfillment. Often the pornography is sublimating the actual pursuit of a real “flesh and blood” relationship. As in the movie Don Juan, how can Scarlett Johannsen even come close to the raw punch of full-on punch of 19-year-olds ready for action? All action. And always ready.

That’s not the way the world works. And even as an adult, I know my early experience with Playboy Magazine has had a lingering effect on my sexual preferences. And the current mainstream media obsession with rail thin 19-year-old goddesses is way out of hand and off the map of reality. Unfortunately, even my 11-year-old daughter is considering dieting because of the images she sees in her pre-teen magazines. It’s gross, what we’ve done to objectify women’s sexual bodies, and how far we have distorted those images. It is much the same way Playboy set an unrealistic body type that was accompanied by breast-waist-hip measurements.

Not even trying to contemplate the drugged death spiral that must accompany a young boys exposure to online pornography, I am aware that my vision is still clouded, my reality is still framed, and beauty is still judged by the media’s representation of beauty today.

When I see the 20, 30, or 40-something yoga goddess in LuluLemons, I get an immediate hit of dopamine. But it’s not real. It’s about as real as the foldout in Playboy.

The lie of this fiction and obsession with youth=beauty is that produces a false sense of desirability from us males. At the base of our brains, we are animals, and we are looking for the best, healthiest opportunity to further our genes by procreating with the attractive female. And a freshly minted, athletic, woman is entering the peak of her child-bearing attractiveness, according to our reptilian brains. She is IT.

But she’s really not IT for me. And I’m working to understand and parse out the reality from the pornography that still runs through my mind from time to time. Stay with me for a second while I take this a step further to exemplify a point. My 11-year-old daughter is beautiful and perfect. She’s athletic. She loves brightly colored fitness clothes. In some ways, she’s a mini-version of these older generations of beautiful young women. But she’s not at all sexual to me. And that’s the connection I am trying to make in my brain about these media images, and passers-by who are amazingly youthful and beautiful. Youth and beauty are great things. They keep our species going.

I am not interested in procreating anymore, nor having a relationship with a 20, 30, or “early” 40-year-old. I’m sure there could be exceptions in the last category that could show up and make a convincing case, but in general, I am more interested in women within a 5-year range of my own age. And when you take the yoga babe standard to the early 50’s you are really talking about a rare breed. I’d love to meet her, but I’ve sort of moved on. In fact, I’m a bit suspicious about the ultra-fit, ultra-hot women at my age.

So, my attempt to reconnect with myself and my more age-desired vision of beauty has changed dramatically from my Playboy-hazed youth. And as I try to decouple my image of beauty from the mass media obsession I look to find beauty in women all shapes and more within the realistic construct of my own fitness. If a woman I was interested in really wanted a six-packed 30-year-old I would have little chance of attracting her. And it is physically impossible for me to get back to the fitness and beauty of my youth. GOOD. I don’t have to worry about that.

Today, for myself, I am much more interested in fitness in terms of health, blood pressure, and what it feels like to be in my skin. When I’m overweight I feel it. When I’m in a more trimmed state I feel better, and I know my health is better. So I’m not doing crunches to try and attract the younger babe. I am exercising and eating better to be a more self-satisfied version of myself. And I suspect as I further decouple from the stacked deck of the Playboy bunny I will get even more interested in a woman of my own age who is a bit more realistic in her fitness and happiness ambitions as well.

Happiness is fleeting. Hang on to it. Youth and fitness are fleeting too. First, you’ve got to get comfortable with yourself. Then you can start examining and reconstructing what YOU see as beautiful. Real-world beauty untouched by Photoshop.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Debbie

    Wow! An incredibly insighful article on an issue very close to my heart. I was that woman, married to an older man 22 years my senior. He was still in search of what you are already understanding and it is so refreshing to see the male’s point of view on this and feel hopeful that many men out there are on a path of enlightment like this. Thanks for an awesome article.

    1. jmacofearth

      Thank you Debbie. I appreciate the comment.

  2. Stephanie

    It sounds to me like you realize how porn has warped your mind? And that you’d like to be attracted to women who more fit your own level of attraction, but you won’t be able to do so until you do further uncouple from the stack of playboy bunnies/porn. We are created to to be conditioned sexually. It’s the only way one can stay attracted to ones spouse. Unfortunately to many men fill their minds with lust and compound it with masturbation and they lose that ability to form that sort of lasting bond and attraction to one woman. Until men can actually uncouple their minds and physiology away from their porn habits, they won’t be able to attract or keep or create a healthy intimate relationship with a women. I know you don’t agree with me about the porn thing. You stated in another post that you don’t believe porn can cause problems in a relationship. I don’t agree with you!

    1. jmacofearth

      Stephanie, porn is not the problem, the addiction is the problem. Just like alcohol is not the evil juice, it just is. All the behaviors you mention are part of a physical addiction in my opinion. And in my experience, personally, I did not see any loss in my attraction or connection with my now-ex wife. Are you saying that women don’t enjoy porn?

      What I was trying to say in this post, is that porn and our media obsession with ultra-thin and ultra-young bodies, both male and female, has got our sense of beauty all mixed up. My training began with Playboy magazines when I was a kid. And I am happy with women of my own age and fitness level. I’d like to improve mine, but that’s more about me.

      Thanks for your comment, I’m always open to conversation.

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