Defense Dep’t: ‘Playboy’ Not Explicit

Photograph by Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

Issues of Playboy and Penthouse magazines.

This may come as news to Hugh Hefner:

Playboy is not “sexually explicit.”

It’s “adult sophisticate” — according to the U.S. military.

And therefore, the Department of Defense says, the sale of Playboy, Penthouse and the like cannot be prohibited from sale on military property.

Morality in Media, an organization dedicated to “opposing pornography and indecency through public education and the application of the law,” had called on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in June to remove “all items of pornography” from sale in military exchange services, commissaries and ships “to help curb the plague of sexual assaults that afflict the United States Military.”

The group cited a 1996 law prohibiting the sale of periodicals in which “the dominant theme… depicts or describes nudity” in “a lascivious way.”

The sale of publications such as Playboy, Penthouse and Nude violate that law, the group suggested, maintaining that “now our military is reaping what it has sown, the sexual exploitation and assault of thousands in uniform.”

F.E. Vollrath, assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management, responded to the group with a letter last week noting that, under the law, the department had established a Resale Activities Board of Review to examine materials sold on its properties. Anything deemed sexually explicit under the law is forbidden, and where found “removed.”

The board has reviewed the magazines cited in Morality in Media’s letter — presumably there is no YouTube recording of those screening sessions — and “based on the totality of each magazine’s content,” found them not sexually explicit.

Which may follow that longstanding defense of subscribers: It’s the articles.

“All adult sophisticate material approved for sale is displayed on top shelves behind privacy panels, out of the reach of children,” Vollrath wrote.

On a more sympathetic note, he added that the department is “deeply aware of the current national dialogue” about sexual assaults and other violence within the military and is “committed to providing a safe and healthy environment on our installations for the entire military community.”

Military Times, which has followed this story since the complaint was filed in June, notes today that Morality in Media is not pleased with the response.

The Pentagon’s position “would be hilarious if it were not so tragic,” the Times quotes the group’s leaders as saying.



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