Sitting reading the paper in the breathless air of the London Tube system on Friday morning, I was confronted with a row of ten smiling, nubile young women dressed in all-revealing in red and black corsets and sporting bunny ears.
Is this a lingerie advert, you ask? Or the promotional poster for the latest Hollywood tale of sex, sun and romance? If only.
In case you haven’t heard, the Playboy bunnies are back — and they have a whole new brand strategy. The new Playboy Club in Mayfair, which opened its doors on Saturday evening after a 30-year absence, says it “offers the key to a celebration of life’s finer things,” and that it is aimed at men “with money and taste”.
Naturally, feminist groups have been outraged by Playboy owner Hugh Hefner’s plans to bring the brand back to London — with all its associations of soft-core pornography and 60s sleaze. The groups Feminista and Object have already held demonstrations against the club’s re-opening, brandishing placards that declare: “Eff off Hef!“
And indeed, the idea that it somehow acceptable for women to prance around in barely existent outfits offering their services to wealthy men does seem a little archaic, and brings to mind all sorts of negative associations with women’s subordination and the struggle for female emancipation in the latter half of last century.
But whatever your viewpoint on the Playboy brand — and there are many varying opinions out there — it seems a strange sort of world where an obsolete gentleman’s club that reached mainstream status through the objectification of women in an era when such things were the norm has somehow come back into fashion through a bit of clever PR and a re-vamped marketing strategy. “Money and taste”? In who’s dictionary?
As one online commentator succinctly puts it: “Men with taste don’t go to these sort of places. Men with money want a bit more for their money than this and are already catered for elsewhere.”
Emanuelle Degli Esposti is a freelance journalist currently living and working in London. She has written for the Sunday Express, the Daily Telegraph and the Economist online.