Saved the best for second-to-last, guys.
Your magnificent Miss November 2001 was the lovely and talented and unremittently marvelous, in this shiksa’s opinion, Lindsey Vuolo. Ms Vuolo’s interview with Playboy touched on her recent trip to Israel, included a picture from her bat mitzvah, and set off a shitstorm of reactionary crossfire about pornography, sex, and religion in the conservative Jewish community, from which she valiantly refused to back down. Preach it, garrl!
Photographed by Arny Freytag – for some reason in this picture she looks like Raquel Welch, which is nothing to sneeze at, but she is a beauty in her own right and the resemblance is not present in the other pictures.
Lindsey’s Italian father converted to Judaism to marry her Russian mother. “I traveled to Israel as part of an exchange program and it was an amazing trip,” she says. “Being in Jerusalem was so emotional for me — I broke down and cried.” (“Lindsey,” Playboy, November 2001)
Holy shit, if that did not apparently ruffle feathers for her to be naked emotionally as well as physically by describing what being Jewish meant to her in terms of her personal identity and emotions. (You can bare your breasts, and you can bare your bajango*, but you can’t bare those with your soul and be religious!)
*thank you, Tina Fey, for the term “bajango.” I’ll get to the Playboy interview where she first dropped that term for ladyparts another day.
What happened next was, this guy Rabbi Shmuley Boteach caught wind of her appearance –especially her emphasis on her religion and what it meant to her identity– and publicly took Lindsey to task for posing for Playboy (though he had himself appeared in the magazine promoting his book, Kosher Sex).
Feminists and porn-purveyors alike took Lindsey’s side, and soon everyone from rabbis to radical social theorists was weighing in with their opinions on faith and sex. These are two topics that everyone has touch them in some personal way, so I’m not surprised that people felt personally authorized to comment on the issue. I remember noting in college classes that the discussions during lecture in which everyone was the most engaged usually involved universal human issues like religion, sex, or love. Everyone experiences these things, so everyone has an opinion!
Taking advantage of the publicity which resulted from the itty-bitty-titty holy war, Boteach enticed her to come to a recorded and Extremely Accusatory “discussion” with him of the issue of pornography and Judaism vis-a-vis what the religion’s teachings were and how pornography impacts marriage, traditional ideals of femininity, and sexuality. She had the balls to show up, and not only that, defend herself. Reading the interview, I felt ashamed. I could have never made it through to the end the way she does. I’m easily humiliated by disapproving men. Not so Ms. Vuolo. She has an admirable self-awareness and a respectful but strong spine of steel. Check some of these excerpts, which I’ve thoughtfully and even thought-provokingly interwoven with the quotes from the “interview”:
Shmuley Boteach: So tell me what you think about the following ideas, okay? Number one: Pornography or Playboy ultimately, far from being sexy and titillating, is actually boring and monotonous because the moment you see someone’s body in its entirety, the first few minutes, sure, it’s very exciting but after that nothing is left to the imagination. It loses its erotic allure. I mean, all studies show that when women go to bed with guys too early, it almost always destroys the relationship because the thrill of the chase is gone, the mystery is gone. The human body requires mystique in order to retain its attractiveness. There also has to be the involvement of the mind in order for there to be fantasy, and nudity and sexual over-explicitness actually hinders fantasy.
For example, as a marriage counselor, I always say to wives, don’t ever walk around the bedroom naked unless it’s time for sex and he has to earn the right to see your body naked because–
Lindsey Vuolo: I disagree with that.
SB: You disagree with that?
LV: Yeah. Because you know, my husband–well, I don’t have a husband but if I had a husband, and we share everything together and I’m his, I’ll run around naked for him. That’s for him, I mean, then he doesn’t need to see anyone else naked.
SB: I wish what you were saying was true but according to the Hite report the fact that 75% of husbands are unfaithful and the fact that half of marriages end in divorce shows that unfortunately men need variety when they feel they get bored. Many men who cheat on their wives claim to love their wives. They do it only because they need something new. So clearly, it is very possible to get bored of your wife’s body, no matter how much she runs around for you.
LV: Well, I think for all time men will always look at women whether it’s their wives or someone else. And I don’t think that they get bored, you know, they look–
RS: No, no, we know they look at women’s bodies. The question is, will they look at the same woman’s body. You’re Miss November. They’re not going to make you Miss December under any circumstances. The reason is the guys have seen you and they’ve just seen you. They want someone new now. Doesn’t that alone prove to you that pornography gets boring?
Playboy has used you and you’ll never be a playmate again.
LV: I posed for this for me. So if I’m degrading anyone, I’m just degrading myself. What other women do–
SB: But the biggest sins in life are where we hurt ourselves even more than other people.
LV: But I don’t feel like I’m hurting myself.
Holy fuckballs, what a passel of ice-cold punches to the gut. If you have sex or display yourself as sexual, you have used up your ace in the hole, blown your wad of feminine mystique, as it were, and will forever forth be undervalued. Um … is this so? I don’t even know! I just want to go shower and cry! Bitch magazine, help a Catholic girl with deep-seated Daddy Issues out:
Unwilling to cow to the rabbi, (who, it should be noted, promoted his own book in Playboy) Lindsey stood her ground, explaining that she had done nothing wrong. According to Lindsey, Playboy doesn’t even count as pornography because to her the word conjures up images of “penetration, urination, and things like that.” (“My Meidel is a Centerfold,” Bitch Magazine, Deborah Kolben, May 2002.)
Okay, well, at least I know other women will give me a hug and a “it’s okay, honey,” whether or not we are any of us sure about anything after the tirade about how men will grow tired of us and we must not be naked in front of even our husbands.
So. Quick word about this shoot: okay, obviously I have a majah girl-brain-crush on Lindsey Vuolo, but, strictly from an unbiased perspective, from the artistic standpoint, I strongly believe that this photoshoot stands head and shoulders above most of the others from the 2000’s.
It has a clear unity of vision: the story is, this super-super-cute, vintage-lingerie-loving, wholesome, upbeat gal works at an old-fashioned pie-and-coffee kind of diner as a pastry chef or baker of some kind, and it's after-hours.
If this does not melt your heart with its brain-asplodin’ cuteness, you are made of STONE and we have nothing to offer each other.
First she’s with you in the dinette, then she’s showing you around at home. It’s cut and dry and adorable as shit. Love it. Okay! Back to the hot button side of the story. Final thought, for clarification and prompting of to-be-determined further discussion:
Some have incorrectly claimed that Vuolo is the first Jewish Playmate. Vuolo herself has agreed it is more likely that she merely is the first openly Jewish Playmate. (the wiki)
This has been certainly a long enough entry already, all apologies, so perhaps we ought to save the important and striking issue of why a beautiful woman looking to be famous in America might consider her Judaism a liability rather than an asset and choose to downplay this important aspect of her heritage and womanhood (*cough, cough* Holly Madison) for another day.
But Don’t Think I’m Forgetting. I got a memory like Babar — but a figure like Bettie Page. Ow! Call me!