Major Papers


Playboy, Gender, Sexuality, Postwar Period, Culture, America


Existing Playboy scholarship overlooks the significance of magazine’s audience outside of the bachelor subculture it fathered in the 1950s. In fact, consumers fitting Playboy’s desired readership of white, financially affluent, single men formed only a small percentage of its actual subscribers. This study makes evident that students, soldiers, sailors, military servicemen, middle- and working- class men, both single and married, as well as women, made up most of its readership. To date, no historical study has been conducted of reader letters to Playboy, which reveal the magazine’s significance to this audience.

This paper argues that postwar men used Playboy as a guide to inform their own gendered and sexual expectations of women, as well as their behaviours within courtship, sexual relationships, marriage, the workplace, and on college campuses. Specifically, it analyzes letters written by students, servicemen, working class and professional men, married readers, and women, to demonstrate how the magazine impacted its broader audience’s perceptions and behaviours of gender and sexuality in 1950s America. Consequently, men who applied Playboy’s hedonistic beliefs in their professional, romantic, or sexual relationships, facilitated women’s subordination in these contexts. Letters published by the magazine in its monthly “Dear Playboy” and “The Playboy Advisor” features are essential in understanding Playboy’s actual readership, the significance of the magazine in their daily lives, and culture’s broader impact on American behaviour in the postwar period.

Primary Advisor

Dr. Peter Way

Program Reader

Dr. Christina Burr

Degree Name

Master of Arts



Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year