Bras, Fancy Knickers, and Playboy Bedding

In a brief moment of good parenting the other day I suggested to the girls that it was high time we bought some new bedding for them. We have, in truth, been using a rag-tag of hand me downs and un-matching bedding for years, and I thought it might give them a bit more pride in their bedrooms and just be a nice thing to do.

In a flash Preez piped up with “don’t worry about taking us shopping Dad, I’ll click onto Argos and see if I can buy the Playboy bedding on-line”

Oh the feelings!

  • relief on not having to take them shopping
  • a certain discomfort that she thinks Argos is a good place to shop!
  • PLAYBOY!!? – what sex and fun and rabbits…on your bed?!

And it was then I thought through matters. I was 14 once. And I had a “relationship” with Playboy. Loads of 14 y/o boys did.

That relationship was in private though. Well I say private. Sometimes a whole gang of us would ride over to Smithy’s House to have a flick through his Dad’s stash. (they were in the suitcase at the top of the Cupboard – sorry Mr Smith, but we all knew). The thing is at 14, boys liked Playboy!

I thought about it some more and now respect my Daughter’s desire to be part of popular culture (the Playboy Bunny seems to be everywhere just now), and I am left with the decision to make…do I buy it or not?

I am aware that when push comes to shove I let my D’s get away with what they want. Well within reason. I’m simply not that good at saying “no” to them. I really thought I might buy this for her. I appreciate that it is a bit edgy and my take on it is I see a 14 y/o pushing the boundaries (and possibly her luck) with her Dad. All normal stuff, I thought.

…well that was true until I had a conversation with a very close friend, who explained to me that as an “adult sexual image” this bunny should not be marketed to children. “But it is” I replied…and then we got into a “but that doesn’t make it right” argument. I have been left a bit confused!

I was already a bit confused! Earlier this morning I was flicking through some blogs when I read Crystal Jigsaw’s piece on Watershed Viewing and it got me thinking! In truth, part of me thinks I perhaps should share some of this vigilance – and it sort of concerns me that I don’t.

Am I just being too lax as a parent? My girls (14 and 11) watch You-tube clips which often show scantily dressed females dancing provocatively. It’s what “pop stars” do. There is no getting away from it; and even if I was to try to monitor their consumption they would only be going round to their mates to watch it. Wouldn’t they?

There is an on-going debate at the moment on the “increasing sexualisation of girls”. From a Dad’s perspective it is all quite scary. Especially when you don’t fully understand the arguments!

Take underwear. When I was 14 and trying to fumble around with bras, they were always white and boring! Now when 14 y/o lads are fumbling around they will find red and black, altogether rather more racy numbers – probably with some kind of padding.

My point is this. 14 y/o lads will still be fumbling, and some girls will let them and other girls won’t. Hasn’t it ever been thus? Whether the girl is wearing sexy kit or “M&S boring”…what’s the difference?

Some of you reading this may remember that about a year ago I had a rant on Twitter about when P came down stairs one evening dressed in an overtly (what I thought then) sexual way. I remember doing the “you are not going out dressed like that” bit! It was in truth my first glimpse of her as a young woman rather than a girl. Those “moments” are hard for Dads (and I guess some Mums too).

Well a year on, I’m more relaxed. Not just used to it…actuallly more comfortable with the whole issue.

Popular culture has always done weird stuff to kids. I can remember trying to listen to my Black Sabbath albums backwards! The next generation saw young people sticking safety pins through their noses. Now we see pop stars gyrating in thongs. It will all pass!

I anticipate (as with my friend this morning) that this post may cause some strong reaction. It’s not meant to. It’s a post outlining a modern dilemma for parents and offered as food for thought and in so doing tries to outline why I will not be censoring my Daughter’s choice on this occasion.

For those reading this with younger children I’m sure the answer will seem straight forward. I anticipate for those raising teens (the first generation with FULL internet access) the question will pose a real issue about how on earth we keep up with, and deal with, the pressures on them to express their sexuality and character. 

I think the question is this: If I buy it for her, what does it say about me and what message does it give to my daughter. And if I say she can’t have it, the same; what message does that really give to my daughter? Or am I missing something?

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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30 Responses to Bras, Fancy Knickers, and Playboy Bedding

  1. fleetwoodboy says:

    Lol Bob the pleasures of being dad to young ladies. My puzzle is why does she want playboy cos that was titillation for us fellas. I thought she may have gone for Stag or the Chippendales, ??

    • onlydads says:

      I think (but am not entirely sure) that she viws it as a “style” image more than anything else.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Bob

  2. foj84 says:

    Bob, ask her why she wants PlayBoy stuff – after all her opinion of it and that of her peers maybe very different from mine and yours.

    If you say no, you’re going to have to go into the reasons why, otherwise it’ll just be taken as Dad said no he’s such a loser, type teenage response. And in my experience make the desire for that brand higher.

    You should be safe in the knowledge 14 y/o can’t pull the “well all my friends have it” line because who cares if they do – its bed linen. If that does happen I would go for offering an alternative, suggest something from Debenhams, something classy – cost abiding of course!

    Good luck, I’m not looking forward to these chats with my daughter.

    PS: Yes i know debenhams may not be classy but its one up from argos surely?!

    • onlydads says:

      Get you and your up-market Debenhams bedding!!

      I will be asking her why though. Not in a critical way, just out of interest. I’ll let you know the answer…

      Bob

  3. Yes, it has always been thus.

    This is not a bad article at all. Highlights the dilemmas and pressures we as parents face, daily.

    My pause would be in ensuring you (and importantly) your daughters understand the message behind some of the logos and branding.

    Our eldest was into a particular rap artist growing up. It was only when her Dad and I deconstructed the lyrics were we able to ask her did she honestly want to support an artist where he advocated raping and beating women?

    The devil can be in the detail.

    • onlydads says:

      Thanks for the comment. I am glad you didn’t think it was a bad post.

      I too have had conversations with P about some of the Rap music she likes. I could hear myself sounding like an old fart!!

      This stuff is tricky – part of me thinks that whatever we say as grown-ups, kids will go their own way anyway. Isn’t it all part of growing up??

      Tricky stuff!

      Bob x

  4. I think the real issue here is not what’s aimed at 14 year old girls but the fact it’s marketed at much younger girls who really shouldn’t want bras, or thongs, or crop tops or playboy bedding. Hell they shouldn’t even know about these things.

    At 14, it’s always going to be a battle of wills, they are young women who are for the most part trying to attract the attention of boys. It’s part of being a teenager and it’s OK at 14 just not at 7.

    I would have thought though that by 14 most girls would think the Playboy logo a bit old hat… but then it’s a long time ago since I was 14 so what would I know.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for your comments.

      It’s hard not to agree with everything you say. We are stuck in deepest Devon – Playboy is still clearly reaching us as a brand!

      Bob

  5. CoffeeCurls says:

    I am often told that I am quite a victorian parent with what I do and don’t allow. I don’t have girls – need to point that out first – swiftly followed by the fact that I respect each parent’s view on how to raise their children. This just happens to be MY opinion on the subject. Doesn’t necessarily mean I think someone else’s opinion would be wrong – just different.

    However, I can’t see the big deal with the PB bedding. It’s just a logo. Like Hello Kitty is a logo. It presumably doesn’t signify a secret desire to be a sex worker. It just means it’s a slightly risky currently on trend logo.

    Do all the parents telling you this is wrong ban their boys from football logos – after all football seems synonymous with sex, swearing and violence at the moment. Do they ban their boys from playing Black Ops in case they take it literally and think they are a sniper?

    She’s 14, I’m guessing the only person who’ll be seeing her bedding is her, Annz and you!

    I think there are bigger battles to fight. Why on earth would you pick this one.

    Having said all that…. I don’t agree with the sexualisation of young girls but I believe it to be a completely separate issue to brand recognition which is all that is going on here. I don’t think young girls should wear padded bras, thongs etc THAT is pure sexualisation and isn’t appropriate either for the girls themselves or for the boys who they are friends with.

    My twopenneth for what it’s worth

    xx

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for your comment Lisa.

      This is a question of perhaps losing the odd battle in the hope of winning the war.

      BTW – I am not surprised at your view – It seems a very sensible one to me 🙂

      Bob x

  6. Crikey! I’m not looking forward to this chat in five years time with my stepdaughter. But her Dad (and Mum) and I are of the same view: if she even thinks about such a request, she’s grounded for life 🙂
    Now I realise that is probably a very naive view and in reality it is never going to happen because a teenage girl’s will is probably one of the strongest forces on Earth.
    But should we just accept that ‘that’s the way it is’?
    Why should we just accept the relentless tide of commercialisation brainwashing our children?
    If we keep saying, ‘That’s the way it is’ it won’t be Playboy duvets in a few years time, it’ll be: ‘Dad, can I have a vibrator for Christmas. A Playboy one – y’know the GIANT RABBIT!’ All the girls are BUZZING about them at school.’
    Or: ‘Teenage Tits mag have asked me to pose in my thong and pout so that teenage boys can jerk off over my picture. Can I, huh, can I? Awww, go on, per-leaaase, don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud spoilsport.’
    What you (and I) did as 14 year-olds was part of our rebellion. Our fathers didn’t hand us a stash of porn and say: ‘Fill yer, boots, lad. It’s good for you.’
    If our daughters are going to rebel, give them something to rebel against. Because if you approve of Playboy, they’re going to want to find rebellion in something worse.
    Not on my watch, no sirree, Mister.

    • onlydads says:

      First of all thank you so much for your comment. As always thoughtful and robust!

      I do get your point. I think. Am I setting off down a slippery slope? Well I am not convinced I am, but time will tell…

      …there is more thinking to be done on what you have said, but in the meantime – thank you.

      Bob

  7. Lousy Mum says:

    I’m with the other guys – ask her why she wants Playboy bedding and what she thinks the logo means? It is probably “just cool”, to use our parlance, like Hello Kitty is to my little ‘uns. But, if she understands the message behind it, she might not be so keen. I guess once you’ve had that conversation, you might want to give it a while to sink in. She might just come round to your way of thinking. Better than a row!
    Good luck!

    • onlydads says:

      I did ask P…it seems to her that the logo is cool and she has no problem separating this from the porn side of the PB industry. None at all!

      Kids eh!

      Bob

      • Hervé says:

        I would have reacted like Lousy Mum and suggested to ask her what she thinks of the logo. As a disclaimer, have 2 boys and one girl but they are all under 6 (princess is 10 months, so god knows how things will be in 13 years, suffice to say, I am not looking fwd to these conversations 🙂 ). On to the whole knowingly now (as if, just adding my $0.02). I think the issue is that at 14, the logo looks cool as you said. In other words, teens views are limited. There is a dichotomy (wow, I know some words after all!) between what we know of the porn industry and what they know. You associate with PB all the things you know and don’t want your daughter to be associated with. She doesn’t and has a superficial view of the whole thing, limited to the “cool factor” which PB works hard on. I would think that part of the issue of the current debate, children have a partial view then the whole sexualisation creeps in and leads to excesses.
        The solution? Well, I don’t really know. Of course, one route would be to be showing the reality of it. Tad harsh I suppose! Maybe getting more into the details about the industry and why, if that is the way you would want to go, you wouldn’t want to have her having this bedding. Just a thought…

  8. Ruth says:

    I’m going to try to be brief, you’ve heard my views at length today and our conversations have left me disappointed and depressed.

    To recap:
    1 – Playboy is an adult brand, it should not be marketing to children.
    2 – The Playboy brand represents an outdated and unhealthy gender dynamic. It objectifies women and only allows female sexuality to be expressed in a way that is acceptable to the straight, male hegemony. In buying their products you are buying into this world-view.
    3 – Their marketing of the logo as a cool, harmless and fun logo to children and young people is creating an unquestioning audience and future consumers of the Playboy brand. In doing this it is perpetuating a misogynist view of women and sexual relationships and upholding them as a norm therefore doing both young men and women a disservice.
    4 – Ask yourself if your child wanted to throw a Playboy party where she and her friends dressed up as hostesses and looked after their male friends (in a non-sexual way but under the same servile gender dynamic) would that be acceptable to you?

    This is the Playboy brand, in buying their products for your child you are endorsing and reinforcing this as normative and an acceptable representation of women.

    Is that what you really think?

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you Ruth…I understand very clearly that you have strong views on the matter.

      At one level ALL you say is correct. I don’t think many people would argue with that. But it is (in my opinion) just that…at one level.

      The point I was making in the post is that this “sexualisation” of girls is everywhere. Every time I do my daughter’s laundry I see it. Your average teenage girl will now have a knicker drawer that gives more than a passing nod to the Anne Summers back catalogue!

      In my own personal situation, buying a bit of Playboy merchandise for Preez will not turn her into an “unquestioning audience”. It just won’t. She has been brought up to be questioning and proud. I simply do not see how buying a bit of bedding is going to undo these core values??

      For me Playboy is a symptom, not the cause, of society undervaluing women. One has to look at the major world religions (all patriarchal bar none), and modern society’s failure to endorse and facilitiate shared parenting roles for Mum and Dad as the major causes.

      Many of the comments made suggest that I have raised an ethical issue. Perhaps I have. In all walks of life I might slip-up from time to time. Sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. That’s the human condition!

      Hope this comes across as reasoned 🙂

      Bob X

      • Ruth says:

        Hi Bob, I know we’ll never agree on this but here we go again, because the “bit of bedding” is seen as harmless and fun Playboy have managed to get their brand to seem to be exactly that, to you and to countless other parents and young people. At the opening of your post you describe your reaction & interpretation of Playboy as “sex, fun and rabbits” so your starting position is entirely different from mine.
        P is a young woman, growing up and discovering her sexuality, with far more access to brands, merchandise and imagery, than you or I ever had and with far more aggressive and pervasive marketing and advertising of said brands.
        You’re doing well to be having these discussions with her. I don’t subscribe to the view that a pair of lacy knickers or a padded bra will “sexualise” a child, your child is a sexual being and she deserves to be treated with respect by all who meet her however she expresses herself and that aspect of her.
        If you look at the Playboy website you’ll see that their media presentations of women aren’t about equality and respect unless the woman conforms to their view of how a woman should be. Not just the images, the language too, is the bunny really completely disassociated from its parent brand?
        Now your girls may well be lucky, may not have met sexism of either the casual or entrenched institutional variety. But they will. Playboy is a part of that. That is what I object to.
        In buying their branded products you are endorsing not just the brand but the gender divide it sets up to maintain.
        Of course it is one of the many symptons and not the reason of a sexist society but when something is wrong you have to treat both symptons and cause of the ill.
        If you want my honest advice about this, don’t buy the bedding, tell her if she wants it she can pay for it out of her pocket money.

  9. Ruth says:

    You’ve heard my views on this at length today, our conversations have left me disappointed and depressed, so you can read it all again over here. http://lemonadelife.co.uk/feminism-2/why-the-bunny-isnt-funny/

  10. Kate says:

    I’m certainly no prude, I’m 34 years old and have a young family but can’t help thinking The Playboy Bunny is a symbol of degradation and cheap sexualisation of women, unfortunately young women now see this symbol as a talisman of fashion. Not something I would want to acitvely promote to my teens.

    • onlydads says:

      Very clearly put Kate.

      There is in my 14 y/0’s mind a very clear divide between the style icon that is the playboy bunny and the grimmer aspects of Playboy and their clubs and magazines.

      She may be wrong on this (see Ruth’s argument) but I know she is not alone in this view.

      Thanks for taking the trouble to comment.

      Bob x

  11. Vegemitevix says:

    I suspect your daughter may think the brand a heady mix of cool and cute – like Hello Kitty and may not know the real meaning behind the Playboy brand – which is to objectify women. Truth is that’s what Hef set out to do and that’s what he has done quite spectacularly. I have three kids two girls about the same age as yours (14 and 11) and a 17 year old son, and I’ve faced some of these dilemmas in my extended family and friends’ kids. The playboy duvet is a really small deal compared with some of the other stuff I’ve heard of. I’ve heard of teenage parties were the 14/15 year old boys are ‘fluffed’ by 14/15 year old girls who see it as their duty to get the boys off. This isn’t behind the bike shed stuff that our generation may be familiar with, but en masse group sexual behaviour. The idea completely messes with my head and I wonder whether there is some kind of association between identifying themselves so young in such a sexual way long before sex holds any emotional meaning. Daughters of this age need their male role models/Dads/StepDads to give them cues about how they can expect boys/men to treat them, and that’s where silly decisions about duvets and dress come into play. I know I had a disturbing discussion with my 15 yr old daughter the other day where I pointed out that the major problem with porn is that most women and men don’t look like that, nor do they make love like that.! I tried to point out that sex could be wild and passionate and racy and fun and breath-taking but it simply isn’t like porn, unless you are performing to an audience. I pointed out too that women have a right to pleasure and physical fulfillment as men do. It gave her something to think about. By the way, my ex bought my (then) 12 year old son a Playboy duvet as the first bed linen in his new flat. Considering poor son shared the room with his two sisters, he was absolutely mortified. I hope you don’t buy the duvet mate. Vix xx

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for taking the trouble to add such a meaningful comment.

      One of the points I raised in my post was the wider issue of our teenagers being the first generation of kids to have full internet access. I know that this means boys (and girls) have an unlimited access to sexual content like no other…!

      Truth…this frightens me because I don’t know what the outcomes will be. Men of my generation spent their childhood with occasional glances of top-shelf mags…boys these days (in the words of an expert police officer on the subject) explained to me that lads are just three clicks away from being able to watch rape!

      Will I buy the duvet set?? Not sure in truth, but if I do it will be a decision made in the light of some really good comments made on this post.

      Many thanks

      Bob

  12. Karen Jones says:

    Bob as you know I was party to this conversation today. Don’t really think the issue is the bedding, its just the tip of the iceburg as far as said friend was concerned. Agree totally that it would be interesting to find out why she wants Playboy bedding! If its style and cool she wants, send her my way ! I am a couple of years ahead of you in the teenager stakes. I could really make your eyes water with stories of a 16 yr old boy ,

    Always

    Karen x

  13. Harriet says:

    Bob
    While I am hugely passionate about the sexualisation of EVERYTHING these days, and singers like Rhianna make me sick with the constant accessible pornography they produce. I do feel that at 14 your daughter should be able to choose what ever bedding she likes. I’m pretty sure it won’t turn her into a porn star, it will make her happy and feel included with her peer group. I am willing to bet she has no real concept of what Playboy is really about, she is just trying to be cool (though Devon is clearly doing strange things to her, I thought Playboy went out of fashion about 5 years ago, also Argos??) Pick your fights, save your disapproving dad voice for the day she comes down stairs dressed like a Bunny Girl, not the day she wants new sheets.
    Just my opinion….
    Harriet

  14. Chris Moss says:

    Too many commentators here are too comfortable with the word brand. You should be trying always to get your children out of the brand mindset. It’s not Playboy v Debenhams v Argos. All brands are insidious, all so-called ‘loyalty’ is a marketing scam. All represent something other than the clothes or the child inside them. Don’t let child-centred opinionating – from adults or your kids – inform much less guide your purchases. It’s your money. Refuse to invest in this tacky tat.

    • onlydads says:

      That’s a good point Chris. I can come back with a short story.

      I took Preez to have a look around our local Steiner School (reputation for being a bit liberal).

      One of our “guides” explained that although they have no school uniform, they did insist that children did not come to school in clothes with logos on. I could see P look on. I could read her mind!!

      …I bet her thought process went something like…

      “OMFG lady…what?? What are you saying? Why!?…followed by, “Dad, there is NO way you are sending me to this loony tunes establishment”

      Being P and all that she is, on the way home we got into a longer discussion. She pointed out that all the children looked the same.They did! They may not have been wearing the latest Man U shirts but they had been spending daddy’s money in the wholesome organic clothing shops in Totnes!

      Branding without the brands.

      It’s an interesting subject.

      Cheers for the comment pal

  15. Will says:

    You gotta love that Hugh Hefner. His Marketing team have taken something unpalletable in polite society, stripped it of it’s questionable qualities, wrapped it in a presentable package and sold it as kiddie pencil cases, t-shirts and duvet covers and even got Disney to include references to it in their latest cartoon. All this without losing the connection to the original, unsavory product.

    How is Hugh able to to this? You have got to blame your grandparents for the unrelenting march of sexualisation on our young people. They should have listened to their parents ranting on about Elvis Presley and his gyrating hips, that Rock and Roll is the work of the devil and should have stopped listening to all that soul music chanting about sex. Your grandparent’s generation (or maybe your parents) brought sex into the mainstream. The tabloids fed on the population’s demand for something shocking to discuss and the rest of the media latched on to the feeding frenzy by creating celebrities with no more talent than taking their clothes off in inappropriate places.

    So the Playboy bunny duvet cover and all the other playboy paraphenalia available in reputable high street shops raises questions. This is your opportunity to provide the answers. Even if the answer is a plain “No!”.

    I think this issue is about you and what you believe.

    Your role (and mine) is to educate our children and show them the principles that you prefer to live by. Not everyone will agree with those principles but you have to demonstrate what you believe to be true and educate your children about it. If you think a Playboy duvet is not the direct route to a porn diva then why worry? If you disagree with the insidious tide of desensitisation of the sex industry then say so or just say “No!”.

    Your kids will get over it either way.

  16. Anna Ellis says:

    I think that a lot of the comments here are based on the generational mindset of the individual, shaped, as always, by their life experiences.

    Your daughter’s view on the subject is also based on her generation’s mindset. If she sees Playboy bedding/jewellery/notepads as a brand and divorced from the 20th century view of Playboy, then so do her generation.

    To be honest, she’ll grow out of it in a couple of years time; by the time she’s 16 she’ll want a completely new set of bedding, regardless of what you buy for her now.

    I realise you’ve probably already bought whatever the two of you have agreed upon; my own daughter is positive proof that fads have a limited shelf life (goth in her case) and that we are not thanked for trying to do their thinking for them. You’ve obviously got a strong and loving relationship with your children; that’s a better defence against the vagaries of societal behaviour than any number of lectures from others.

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