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Original Essays | September 18, 2014

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Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America


Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Launched by Hugh Hefner in 1953, Playboy promoted an image of the young, affluent, single male-the man about town ensconced in a plush bachelor pad, in constant pursuit of female companionship and a good time. Spectacularly successful, this high-gloss portrait of glamorous living and sexual adventure would eventually draw some one million readers each month.

Exploring the world created in the pages of America's most widely read and influential men's magazine, Elizabeth Fraterrigo sets Playboy's history in the context of a society in transition. Sexual mores, gender roles, family life, notions of consumption and national purpose-all were in flux as Americans adjusted to the prosperity that followed World War II. Initially, Playboy promised only "entertainment for men," but Fraterrigo reveals that its vision of abundance, pleasure, and individual freedom soon placed the magazine at the center of mainstream debates about sex and freedom, politics and pleasure in postwar America.

She shows that for Hugh Hefner, the "good life" meant the "playboy life," in which expensive goods and sexually available women were plentiful, obligations were few, and if one worked hard enough, one could enjoy abundant leisure and consumption. In support of this view, Playboy attacked early marriage, traditional gender arrangements, and sanctions against premarital sex. The magazine also promoted private consumption as a key to economic growth and national well-being, offering tips from "The Playboy Advisor" on everything from high-end stereos and cuff-links to caviar and wine.

If we want to understand post-war America, Fraterrigo shows, we must pay close attention to Playboy, its messages about pleasure and freedom, the debates it inspired, and the criticism it drew--all of which has been bound up in the popular culture and consumer society that surround us.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraterrigo is Assistant Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago.

Table of Contents


1. "We Aren't a Family Magazine": Sex, Gender, and the Family Ideal in Postwar Society

2. "Work Hard and Play Hard, Too": Modern Living and the Morality of the Playboy Life

3. Pads and Penthouses: Playboy's Urban Answer to Suburbanization

4. The Ideal (Play) Mate: Gender, the Workplace, and the Single Girl

5. "For Us It Is the Good Life": The Ascendant Playboy Life

6. "Casualties of the Lifestyle Revolution": Playboy, the Permissive Society, and Women's Liberation

Epilogue: America's Playboy Culture


Selected Bibliography


Product Details

Fraterrigo, Elizabeth
Oxford University Press, USA
United States - 20th Century
History, Other | Cultural History
US History - 20th Century
World History-General
Publication Date:
18 halftones
6.1 x 9.2 x 0.9 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

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