recipes for instant sex
Born on his very own kitchen table (and floor), Hugh Hefner’s Playboy brought the gentleman into the postwar domestic nucleus—the home. Catering to the secret agoraphobic and culinary ambitions of manly men, the popularized monthly magazine pulled the cutting mat out from under the hands of housewives and placed it on the bedside tables of bachelors throughout America. For the first time, the kitchen, and other spaces within the house were opened up to the stylish men who coveted them through the invention of the bachelor pad.
While the rave success of Playboy was indebted to the publication of nude pictorials (circulating to nearly a million a month by 1959), its relentless integration of pornographic content with a world of style-conscious consumerism embodied a masculine lifestyle of material pleasure and formulated a new list of credentials pertaining to heterosexual manhood. Men purchased Playboy to be teased by a rotating assortment of disposable bunnies, but the Playmate of the Month was just one ingredient in the magazine’s universe of cosmopolitan indulgence. Pages of saturated images and articles introduced a masculine approach to consumerism, despite the American man’s struggle to maintain a stable sexual identity facing the emasculation of post-war consumer culture. Both the corporate workplace and the domestic center in this period saw the rise of female authority and undermined the dominance men had previously held in the public domain. For this reason, Beatriz Precadio states that, through a range of visual media, Playboy pursued the more political and architectural goal of “a male sexual liberation movement, to arouse the American man’s political awareness of the male right to domestic space, and to construct an autonomous space of the sexual and moral laws that governed heterosexual marriage” (Preciado 2014, 30). The post-war Playboy culture introduced a masculine approach to consumerism with new attitudes toward cuisine, fashion, and the home; a strategy wherein a figure of masculinity was projected through consumption, urban life, and the maximization of sexual encounters. Through the blatant showboating of his ‘instant sex’ lifestyle the playboy refuted accusations of homosexuality, which came naturally as a response to his interests in the home, and used the tools provided to construct a heightened persona of heterosexual space. Regarding the male right to domestic space, Playboy designed multiple domestic settings where only the hyper-masculine, ‘heterosexual single male’ could thrive, rejecting the culture of the suburban family home. Within the magazine, fictive architectural spaces such as the Penthouse, Townhouse, Rooftop Terrace, and Weekend Getaway attack the typical spatial divisions that governed the habitats of the post-war nuclear family and began to manifest a hyper-masculine brand associated with openness and flexibility:
“Playboy did a striptease of the spaces that until then had remained hidden, through each turn of the page of the magazine: The articles and stories unveiled the interior of apartments, bachelor pads and, finally, the mansion. Playboy was undressing the private space in front of the eyes of North America, and by doing so, it was shaking its conventions and its codes of representation.”
(Preciado 2014, 76)
In 1953, Playboy magazine was introduced as a glossy portal for young men into a world of indulgence; its pages filled with saturated fantasies of a new private realm that revealed the suppressed sexual ideals of a suburban generation. Each month, Hefner’s enterprise distributed images of a new domestic interior, an invented space where young men could consume a lifestyle of complete debauchery without being subjected to the laws and dangers of postwar society. Playboy provided a world wherein men could retreat, an erotic utopia with social and spatial consequences whose pages implied that the magic to seduction lay in transforming the ways men used domestic space. In so doing, Hefner not only invented modern pornography through layout, colour, and content, but was able to use this portable magazine as a tool to shape an underground social consciousness that appealed to hetero-hierarchical masculine sexuality.
Portability and tactility are important qualities when considering the social implications of Playboy in the 1950s. In compiling opinions and images of women, food, sexuality, and masculine identity within a single object – the magazine – Hefner was able to market a movement against suburban culture as a plaything to be handled by male readers. The implications of reducing fantasy space into a physical body are best represented through Playboy’s infamous centerfold (Figure 1). As a mechanism, the centerfold functions to hide the sensual imagery of the monthly playmate within the confines of the magazine. The object of fantasy is transformed into an entity of desire, unlocked and made accessible only by participating in the performance of operation. The magazine purveyor becomes the key to unlocking the gateway to desire once he flips, turns, and unfolds his way to material satisfaction. The intimacy of this transaction is performative by nature and consensual in involvement, generating a non-directional space wherein the model can be rotated and viewed from multiple perspectives. Like an erotic machine, it is the “male play of turning the page that operates the transformation of the next-door neighbour into a real Playmate, that converts dressed into undressed, folded into opened, hidden into exposed, private into public, and finally the peeping into instant sex” (Preciado 2014, 57-58). Thus it is clear that the playboy is first and foremost identified as a consumer. His concerns lie in efficiency, purchasing power, and satisfaction. Playboy Magazine, the object, is then a gateway to curated objects of desire, which like the playmate, can be accessed by leafing through, unfolding open, and peeping into at an instant. These items of desire leech into the consciousness of the male spectator and cause a longing in both his loins and living quarters. Objectified, men can easily imagine these articles and housewares incorporated into their real, liveable space. In obtaining these items, just the notion of their presence, and their latent powers, provides the same satisfaction and promise of instant sex. If all it takes is to “just add scotch” to unveil “the Playmate . . . [who is] instant sex,” then it is the object on which sexual satisfaction and realization of fantasy hinge (Colomina, Brennan and Kim 2004). With the simple additions of these elements to a man’s apartment, he transitions from man, to gentleman, to playboy. His space upgrades from apartment to bachelor pad. Even without women in the picture, he (and his level of satisfaction) is already elevated. In this way, the furniture, the gadgetry, the spaces constructed are guarantees of, or even replacements for, the kind of satisfaction gained from the sexual act itself. As Joel Sanders puts it, “the bachelor apartment may have epitomized sexual freedom but, ironically, it also served to regulate the bachelor, who was now expected to locate his sexuality in the consumption of a whole repertoire of new products and technologies promoting masculine glamour” (Sanders 1996, 30).
Imagined as spaces for liberating men from the constraints of domestic ideology, the architectural schemes of Playboy are as pornographic as the centerfolds they follow: they were designed to satisfy a man’s ravenous sexuality through the increasingly important activity of consumption and were fundamental in representing Hefner’s concept of bachelorhood as a viable alternative to married life. With its urban location and open plan, the bachelor pad functioned as the primary setting for the performance of heterosexual masculinity and directly associated a man’s home with his sexual identity: while the metropolitan site implied the carefree wealth privileged to the playboy, as well as an unlimited stock in female prey, the configurations of spatial boundaries within the dwelling endowed him with visual authority over his guests. Maneuverable partitions and long, horizontal surfaces allowed the host to observe his subjects from anywhere, empowering the male gaze from both “active” and “quiet” zones of his domain. The marginal division between public and private functions to bring out the performative basis of the bachelor’s heterosexuality, reinforcing “the duality of the Playboy’s life, articulating the transition from work into leisure, dressed into nude, the professional visit into the sexual encounter” (Colomina, Brennan and Kim 2004, 239). The “active” zone of the apartment is a direct affront to the multi-person suburban residence – a space designed around the logistics of a family – and is oriented towards entertaining and exhibitionism theatricalizing bachelorhood as a performance or spectacle:
“The apartment is not divided into cell-like rooms, but into functioning areas well delineated for relaxation, dining, cooking, wooing and entertaining, all interacting and yet inviting individual as well as simultaneous use. The kitchen, for example, can be closed off from other rooms or it may, more often, be open onto the dining room, so the host can perform for an admiring audience while sharing in conversation.”
(Hefner, Playboy's Penthouse Apartment 1956, 65)
In the September 1956 issue, the “quiet” zones (bedroom, office, bathroom) were no more concealed than the active spaces within the penthouse creating a level of exposure analogous to a playmate’s silhouette under a blanket of bath bubbles. However, as part of Playboy’s attack on the domestic sphere, the most private space in the whole layout is the kitchen; Shoji screens exotically and tastefully shield the culinary domain so that no guests can see the interior of the kitchen. Treated like shameful or unpleasant viscera, the kitchen can be obscured entirely in the event of a party. Countertops and tables beyond the screens provide surfaces for culinary performance, but, according to Playboy, such events would never take place within the actual kitchen. A look at the mid-century hand-rendering of the fantasy kitchen is even more alarming (Figure 2). One can detect a basin sink, but no snake drain underneath it. The faucet is also operated with foot pedals, not conventional knobs. There is no recognizable stove or oven in sight—no burners – and no handles or swings on the cabinets. There are no towels with which to dry dishes and there is no table—only stools, implying that this is not a social space but a rejection of feminine food prep. One must rely on the description of the kitchen to infer where the drainage, cleaning, and cooking actually occur. The only ‘real’ cooking appliance that exists within the entire kitchen is an adapted version of the iconic glass dome Frigidaire oven; however, Playboy chooses a more masculinized lid. If one watches Design for Dreaming, a 1956 movie financed by General Motors, it becomes clear why Playboy has chosen a stouter, more rectilinear oven. Frigidaire, a G.M. subsidiary, uses the oven to showcase a housewife’s ‘dream come true’ in their “Kitchen of the Future” segment. In the scene, the housewife enters the kitchen dancing in her rhinestone splattered cocktail dress. The oven responds with magic. A layered cake spontaneously appears in the oven, dressed in burnished gold frosting and donned with lit candles (Tadlock 1956). The decorated cake, the American housewife personified in gastronomical form, would be a deadly allusion for Playboy’s efforts to transform domestic space into bachelor space. Therefore, Playboy very consciously removes the hemispherical suggestion of the cake and reshapes the dome into a rectangle so that a layered cake, especially a decorated one, would never fit. The cake and
its feminine counterpart are quickly replaced by a lecherous roast beef (Figure 2). As Playboy removed necessities for female cookery, the performative aspects of culinary preparation warranted a newly conceived food space.
In the October issue of 1959, Playboy unveiled their very own “Kitchenless Kitchen” (Figure 2). The array of fully functional, modular furniture and highly complex gadgetry was a completely new configuration of the ordinary or drab kitchen. This kitchen, reduced to a single hideaway cabinet, acquired all of the style with none of the clutter: where a cook is tethered by the need to house her multitude of pots, pans, skillets, and maritally endowed oven, the free agent playboy is advised to remove all need for such excessive storage. Instead, he expands upon the endless capabilities offered by the highly specific, speedy, and specular accoutrements displayed in the magazine. But what does this mean in terms of gender and space? Explicitly stated in Playboy’s conversation to its readers, the removal of any familiarity to the traditional ladies’ kitchen becomes a deterring agent for a “troublesome” kind of woman, one who poses a threat to his sexual mobility. As stated in the article, “this handsome hunk of furniture . . . dispenses with a kitchen as such entirely; it renders the proverbial hot stove unnecessary; it has no use for the usual collection of pots, pans, skillets, oven and other customary kitchen gear” (Hefner, The Kitchenless Kitchen 1959, 53). Challenging the traditional sphere of women in the house, Playboy uses male force, fancy cabinetry, and unfamiliar food wares to instate male influence on space. Peering into the cabinets, or rather cabinet, of the Kitchenless Kitchen, one begins to understand why, or how, the removal of all traditional cookware is possible.
Modular surfaces, which provide flat, unexclusive workstations – or playstations – can be moved to create a large dining table or a smaller counter space for prep work, but never cooking. More importantly, what the modular cooking nook stores within is all hyper engineered and novel – a flow of sought-after products which spill onto the marketplace of the new consumer citizen of Playboy nation. All of the work put into food preparation is done in highly unrecognizable, women-proof machinery which always operates with the explicit instruction for the playboy to flick, touch, turn, rub, throw, or push his way to a meal. More importantly, the aesthetics and functions of a nuclear kitchen are rejected by Playboy and programmatic space is replaced with an assortment of shiny gadgets. It is clear the dissolution of the kitchen from the Playboy residence reflects the social anxieties surrounding masculinity and male sexual identity in an increasingly consumer-oriented society. Hefner believed that the “separate kitchen [should] be consigned to oblivion for good, thus banishing the banishment of the host who would [otherwise] demonstrate his culinary expertise and serve forth a feast – or a snack – for his friends” (Hefner, The Kitchenless Kitchen 1959, 108). Playboy challenges the role of the housewife by symbolically removing her identified space from the premises, leaving the playboy with the repercussions of preparing a meal in male space.
The removal of domestic culinary space as a reflection of social anxieties is further emphasized by the centralization of the bachelor pad around the bedroom. While technically located in the “quiet” zone of the apartment, Playboy transforms the sleeping space into a technological and sexual hub where the bachelor can exhibit dominance over his abode and his late-night companions. Playboy frequently contends that “a gentleman’s bed is much, much more than a place to placidly assume a supine position after a wearying day at the office,” and that it should be a “sumptuous haven in which the gentleman can take his ease . . . yet not be completely cut off from the niceties and conveniences of apartment living” (Hefner, The Playboy Bed: Designed for Luxurious Loungind and Sleeping 1959). Thus, Hefner oversaw the design of two beds (Figure 3) that both realize the fantasies of the male agoraphobe and reduce the spatial requirements of feminized programs down to toys that can be played with: sound and lighting systems are easily reached, food storage and serving areas are copiously built in, and the round mattress even rotates to match the Playboy’s preferred view. No longer is the “active” zone of the apartment the only space subject to the ever transcending heterosexual theatricality the playboy uses to seduce the playmate; rather, masculine sexual identity is divided between the two realms. Proclaimed as a “personal manifestation of the ultimate in sleeping and sybaritic accommodation,” the Playboy Bed introduces readily deployable adaptations that allow fantasy to seep into reality (Hefner, The Playboy Bed 1965, 88). Activities such as working, socializing, and even drinking and eating are allocated to the bedroom where they are accomplished on surfaces (including a level Formica surface for cocktail shakers!) that fold into, rotate out of, and pull up from the bed itself. Hefner’s rotating bed, acting as both a sexual and culinary feeding ground eliminates the segregation of spaces and presents ultimate control of one’s home from a horizontal position. In this imagined world of sexual and gustatory lust, the reduction of space to object is a reoccurring trend in the development of male-space. Although the tech industry made efforts to identify the contemporary housewife with domestic technologies following the war, Playboy dons the bachelor with extraneous tools that automate domestic tasks; elevating man’s position in the realm of technology to master rather than liege—subsequently replacing the abhorred housewife altogether.
ourmand to assert his masculinity in food space:
“These [recipes] aim to reassure the male cook that cooking can be a masculine activity. This is achieved by legitimating masculine food tastes and attacking the feminization of food, and also by emphasizing those methods of cooking that appear less domesticated: for example, cooking outdoors, adding generous amounts of alcohol, and cooking foods such as game that affirm the image of man as hunter”
(Hollows 2002, 146)
By demonstrating how cookery is separate from culinary, and how such culinary prowess can procure instant sex, the masculine playboy gourmand exaggerates his disparity from the female domestic cook whose unstylish, vernacular efforts (produced with unstylish, banal tools) only reaped familial relations in nuclear space. In contrast, the gourmand would be nothing without his gadgets. A post-consumer culture armed him with a new population of tools and machines that mediated between the service spaces like the kitchen and ritualistic spaces like the dining room. Labor-saving devices such as the Toastmaster toaster (“a lazy man’s dream”), the Nesco rotisserie-oven (“big enough to hold a 20-pound roast”), the Knapp-Monarch automated vacuum-method coffee-maker (“adjustable for strength of brew”), or the infra-red Magicook (“broils a steak in one minute”), replaced the need for a real kitchen and established a new market of self-conscious young men pining for validation of their masculinity and sexuality in the domestic realm (Hefner, The Kitchenless Kitchen 1959, 55). Companies such as G.M. now had fertile ground to grow an industry catering to the Playboy lifestyle which had immersed itself in flashy gizmos as a symbol of virility.
One may ask, with minimal training and no functioning kitchen, what kinds of foods can the playboy prepare without reflecting the tedious tasks of the abhorred housewife? The obvious answer is the cooking of meats, the ever-hearty repast that “ennobles our hearts and enriches our blood” (Mario, O Rare Roast Beef 1958, 36). Loins, cutlets, shoulders, and roasts identify with masculinity as robust foodstuffs rich in flavor, thick in cut, and performative in presentation. Meats can be cooked while the host entertains and allows the playboy to wield a knife while serving his guests. Mario acknowledges the importance of the ‘steady motion of the knife blade’ as it carves into a rare roast, using the performative aspect of serving food to justify the masculinity inherent in the process.
Mario’s strategy to present food as a social activity is pivotal in identifying how a masculine culinary process has altered food space. Articles such as The Bachelor Dinner and The Midnight Chef not only present easy recipes that will wow and impress, but visually illustrate the spatial consequences of food practice within the bachelor pad. For example, in The Bachelor Dinner, Mario discusses the ways in which both food and sex can be introduced to the stag party: “there may be a few pieces of erotica around, some movies, perhaps, or a girl or two. . . . It’s like dangling a steak before a bloodhound and then snatching it away” (Mario, The Bachelor Dinner 1956, 25). The accompanying image is an abundant mixture of sexual and gastronomic pleasures being shared in communal space (Figure 4). Garters, address books, and pornographic cards are tossed carelessly among shared dishes, alcohol, and broken glass. The disorganization and playful nature of the material presented suggests more than an article containing a few recipes; it visually counters idealized images of domestic living and begins to brand an image for masculine food space. Another article titled The Midnight Chef identifies the spatial consequences of hyper-efficient food production within the bachelor pad: when the “glow of the city’s lights is at its softest, when two hearts are at their tenderest, and, often, when kindred souls are at their hungriest”. This highly sexualized piece of writing suggests a cure to ‘post-performance mortems’ through seemingly elaborate meals prepared using canned goods and frozen foods. With sausage cakes and glossy scrambled eggs, Mario builds an environment where the playboy can serve “something distinctive without working all day”, but moreover, can serve it anywhere in his apartment (Mario, The Midnight Chef 1961, 54). The extreme efficiency of minimal preparation transforms food space and enables the late night gustatory ritual of post-coital indulgence to take place at the table, by the bar, in the bedroom. Masculine-oriented culinary practices hold influence over spatial flexibility and are
directly linked to the spatial qualities that shape gender identity in the domestic realm.
Advertising food preparation as a performative task also allowed Playboy to introduce lighter and more diverse cuisine to the Playboy diet (Figure 5). The salad – or as Mario names it, a cool entrée for summertime dining – is a dish often associated with femininity. While lighter in flavour and further from the lecherous tastes of the playboy than heartier recipes, the salad is transformed through the pages of the magazine into a meal with masculine potentials. With thought-provoking statements such as “a salad isn’t really a salad until it’s marinated”, Mario appeals to the male culinary mentality by identifying the salad as easy, pleasing, and invariably creative, while emphasizing the use of more masculine-ingredients (Mario, Time of Salads 1959). The five recipes presented – comprised of the Corned Beef Salad, Mandarin Shrimp Salad, and Seashore Salad a la Playboy – include a large array of pre-prepared meats and shellfish without expanding their variety of vegetable beyond the unassuming ‘lettuce’. Furthermore, to safeguard his masculine identity in the realm of cuisine, the proficient saladier – although he may know how to pick a pre-made dressing – is illustrated first and foremost as the provider of ingredients. While the man plays with the tools of his culinary display, the woman, his guest, is still responsible for the womanly task of tossing the salad:
“Our guy is expertly wielding the spatula over a mixed grill – chops, kidneys, bacon and such – being done to a turn on a capacious Sunbeam griddle. . . . As for the girls, they’ve whipped up a salad, set the informal service, put out the relish tray and the wine, and one of them is sampling the bubbling cheese fondue in its copper and brass electrical chafing dish.”
(Hefner, The Kitchenless Kitchen 1959, 108)
The Playboy’s assuredness in the plaything, his toys and tools, is echoed in the performative aspect of culinary preparation, while the playmate is still associated with the submissive characteristics of cuisine. Although he may be too self-conscious to toss a salad, Playboy presents him with a myriad of gizmos and recipes he can confidently perform to wow and impress. Playboy’s imagining of a new subject of consumption has not only produced a wash of glossy nude beauties to wallpaper the minds of young men across countless decades, but also set a standard for behaviours and tendencies. By regulating and engaging the spectator in objects of desire, the world designed by the magazine is elevated to the highest form of fantasy. Not only does Playboy fuel the fires of passion and lust but also of hunger – which arguably stems from the same innate appetite. Food is so closely related to women in Playboy that the takedown of the female counterpart lies most strongly in the exploration of food: a frontier which has incredible spatial, consumptive, and commercial potential. Knowing that food provides space, as it needs to be prepared and consumed in some space, the playboy has learned that, when combined with performance, food places him ahead of his competitors. The culinary expert finds himself in the limelight as a sexually competitive candidate for wooing. By using objects of desire to draw him in, women and food, Playboy entices the reader to redesign, reoccupy, remove, revamp, remodel, gut, and fill. The hopeful playboy will buy gadgets, claim space, designate masculinity, and combine a mixture of spaces that will remove the dirty work and leave only the dirty. He will take the unsightly work out of cooking and engender entertaining. He will be ready at an instant; one with the machine of modernity. The playboy is a droid of modern sex. His appendages are gadgets and he is nothing if they are removed from him. He does not have a special or tender part of his domain. Whereas the woman’s place is her kitchen, the playboy’s playground is his entire domain. He reclaims the house as his very own hyper-engineered and glamourized mechanism for machismo.
Colomina, Beatriz, Annmarie Brennan, and Jeannie Kim. Cold War Hothouses: Inventint Postwar Culture from Cockpit to Playboy. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.
Hefner, Hugh M. "Miss November: Buxom Boss." Playboy, November 1956: 43-45.
—. "Playboy's Patio-Terrace." Playboy, August 1963: 96-102.
—. "Playboy's Penthouse Apartment." Playboy, October 1956: 65-69.
—. "Playboy's Penthouse Apartment." Playboy, September 1956: 53-60.
—. "The Kitchenless Kitchen." Playboy, October 1959: 53-55, 108.
—. "The Playboy Bed." Playboy, April 1965: 88-90.
—. "The Playboy Bed: Designed for Luxurious Loungind and Sleeping." Playboy, November 1959: 66-68.
Hollows, Joanne. "The Bachelor Dinner: Masculinity, Class, and Cooking in Playboy, 1953-1961." Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 2002: 143-153.
Mario, Thomas. "Food on a Sword: Shish Kebab, Shashlik, and All Points East." Playboy, August 1956: 18-20.
—. "O Rare Roast Beef." Playboy, March 1958: 36-38.
—. "Playboy at the Salad Bowl." Playboy, July 1956: 32-33.
—. "The Bachelor Dinner." Playboy, June 1956: 24-27.
—. "The Gourmet Frankenfurter." Playboy, September 1960: 57.
—. "The Kindest Cut." Playboy, November 1961: 89-91.
—. "The Midnight Chef." Playboy, February 1961: 54-56.
—. "Time of Salads." Playboy, August 1959: 70-72.
—. "Viva Pizza!" Playboy, May 1959: 29-30.
Preciado, Beatriz. Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy's Architecture & Biopolitics. New York: Zone Books, 2014.
Sanders, Joel. Stud: Architectures of Masculinity. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
Design for Dreaming. Directed by William Beaudine. Performed by Thelma Tadlock. 1956.