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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Penthouse

I was just at the drugstore standing in line behind a grown man who was buying the latest issue of Penthouse magazine. That's cool - who hasn't run to the corner in order to flip through a few pages of a soft-core porno mag on a late Tuesday afternoon?

What stood out to me about this whole situation was that his 3 to 4 year old daughter was bouncing around right next to him in line. "Daddy can you buy me that candy?" I mean, no big deal, right? He's an adult and has every right to buy that magazine. Where's the harm? His daughter would remain completely oblivious to the magazine and probably wouldn't even get curious considering it's plastic covering.

But DUDE, Penthouse?!

I remember first discovering Penthouse (along with other chestnuts like Hustler, Playboy, and Juggs) while exploring the area surrounding an abandoned factory near my neighborhood in the far south side of Chicago. This was about just under 20 summers ago and I was in the beginning of the peach fuzz and stifling B.O. era. Some neighborhood friends and I found what was literally a huge garbage bag filled with abandoned porno mags in the overgrown trees and bushes surrounding the factory. We proceeded to return to the secret spot almost daily with excuses for our parents involving something with baseball or lightning bugs. Upon each return, the pile-o-porn seemed to grow smaller and smaller.

The thing that struck me about Penthouse was its no-limit depiction of a wide assortment of sexual activities, especially when compared with other brands of adult magazines. In their 80s era, Penthouse really pushed the limits of obscenity. R. Kelly, if he really was in that video, probably drew some inspiration from a Penthouse mag. Flipping through Playboy was like seeing a quick boob shot in a PG-13 rated movie - mildly exciting yet too impermanent to be explicit. With Penthouse, though, I saw things that I probably should have waited years to see, things that continued to confuse me for much longer than that secret porn stash in the factory bushes lasted.

That's why I asked myself, "Why couldn't he wait to buy that Penthouse?" What is he potentially exposing his daughter to? I guess I take some solace in finding out that Penthouse has toned things down over the years, that now it's situated somewhere in between Playboy and Hustler in terms of explicitness. Anyways, that little girl was not my daughter and she didn't appear to be in any immediate risk of harm. In fact, she was completely oblivious to situation. Dad bought her a big, red, inflatable beach ball with pictures of princesses and unicorns on it, and she happily bounced her way out of the store.

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