The Playboy Effect: Youth, Fitness and Sexual Desire

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Back in the days before the Internet, Playboy Magazine was a head rush for the imaginations of curious little boys. Finding a Playboy Magazine somewhere was like a high that lasted for lustful days, depending on your imagination and usage. It was like MAGIC. 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 to today, and there are some concerns that the free access to pornography is corrupting our minds and our expectations of sexual fulfillment. Often, pornography is sublimating the actual pursuit of a real "flesh and blood" relationship. As explored in the movie Don Juan, how can Scarlett Johannsen even come close to the raw 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 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.

If a woman I was interested in really wanted 30-year-old with a six-pack, 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.

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. 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 any more, 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 five-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.

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 that 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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