IN the 1950s, a young man named Hugh Hefner sought to change the world.
His mission: Sexual liberalisation.
His magazine: Playboy.
The first issue had a nude photo of Marilyn Monroe. All 51,000 copies sold out.
Fast forward to today. Pornography is available on the Internet at the click of a button. It takes Hefner offering
15-year-old Miley Cyrus a full photo-spread to raise heckles.
Is Playboy's mission still relevant in an age of Internet porn?
Playmate Stephanie Glasson is unsure.
How about the iconic Playmate?
She thinks so. But she doesn't think Playboy is porn.
'I would never even consider having anything to do with porn, although I realise that some people think they are the same... in my eyes they are not,' she wrote in an e-mail, but did not elaborate.
For Assistant Professor Mark Cenite, of the Wee Kim Wee School Of Communication And Information, whose research interests include freedom of expression issues with a focus on sexual content regulation, Playboy is still important - as a symbol.
Playboy, he says, represents the 'polite face of the pornography industry'. It has certain rules it does not cross, such as depictions of intercourse.
It is one of the earliest pornographic magazines to reach out to a wide audience, he says, recalling how, as a 10-year-old in the US, he could browse the magazine at stores.
Why it worked was that it combined nudity with serious journalism and commentary.
Its importance, he says, is as a symbol of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
He agrees that the pornographic market is probably oversaturated at this point, but its symbolic importance remains.
What does Glasson think? Does nudity still titillate or have people become numb to it?
'I believe that people are over-exposed to it for sure. I think we are rather numb to most things these days. We are over-exposed to just about everything,' she said.
This article was first published in The New Paper on Sep 20, 2008.