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The Playboy Way

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Playboy Magazine, Soldiers, and the Military in Vietnam

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Scholars often have ignored Playboy magazine’s role in the Vietnam War because many have assumed its only function was to provide soldiers with erotic images of women. This article analyzes Playboy’s content to explain its popularity in the Vietnam War. While acknowledging the importance of erotic images, this examination explores alternative reasons soldiers and the military embraced this “girlie mag.” Centerfolds provided soldiers with “round-eyed” sexuality, but the magazine also fulfilled other needs of the soldiers. Playboy provided a conduit through which soldiers understood social, cultural, and political issues of the time. Playboy’s treatment of racial tension, military life, the politics of the Vietnam War, and the individual soldier combined with the girl-next-door sexuality that appealed to soldiers on multiple levels made Playboy the magazine of the Vietnam War. Considering what surrounds the centerfold in Playboy illustrates the surprising importance of Playboy to soldiers and the military.

Affiliations: 1: Texas Tech University,


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