I've been a part of the marijuana movement since I started working for High Times in 1989. Though High Times is predominately run by a number of women at the top, the magazine is a boy's club, edited primarily by men. High Times caters to a predominately male readership. That's why the magazine has featured photo spreads of Playmates, Penthouse Pets and porn stars. It's a men's magazine first, and the editors and bosses know how to play to their crowd.
While I worked at High Times (I left in 2007), several editors pursued these photo shoots, steering the magazine perilously in the porn direction. It all started with Jenna Jameson in 2001 for a "Pot & Sex" issue. The porn star was on top of her world at the time and the issue flew off newsstands.
High Times is no different than most publishing companies. When something works, the bosses say, "Do that again." So the chase was on to find more Jennas. From that point, there was run of cheesecake covers -- from Stoner Girls Next Door to Jenna (again) to more recent Miss High Times winners to yet another porn star, Tera Patrick. Do stoners really want porn with their pot?
I fought the good battle there and lost. When I was co-editor from 2004-2006, the dreaded sex issue came up. On one side of the editorial board, it was decided to pursue Jenna. On the other side, a few staffers contacted Penthouse. I stood in the middle. When push came to shove, I chose the Jenna cover.
I'm not a prude, I just don't think it's appropriate to fill up a pot magazine with images strictly for male readers, essentially turning off the female base. The few women on the staff would occasionally suggest that a sexy guy should be on the cover. Never happened. I'd regularly hear from women in the movement who'd distanced themselves from the magazine because of the racy content.
Another issue has long been the use of scantily-clad women in advertisements. Take look at most marijuana mags and websites and you'll inevitably be confronted by objectionable ads, like the legalbuds.com banners or the BC Bud Depot two-page spreads. These are tacky trade-magazine ads that diminish the overall quality of any publication that accepts them. But they also pay the bills,
Now that I'm a website publisher, I encounter the same issues High Times faces, just on a smaller scale. We've built CelebStoner as a counter to High Times and Skunk -- a sexist-free environment where readers don't have to be worried about being offended by salacious ads and editorial content. We've rejected numerous ad banners that were deemed offensive. High Times doesn't turn any advertiser away.
Elsewhere on the web, you'll find plenty of "buds & babes" sites, such as 420girls.com, Girls4ganja.com, ganjaporn.com, hailmaryjane.com and so on, featuring women smoking pot with little or no clothes on. Clearly, these are men's sites. Just like with porn, if women allow themselves to be photographed nude for the purpose of male and (and certainly in some case) female arousal, that's their choice. Let's assume no one is being forced to do anything. The same goes for bud babes. Still, these sites demean women who otherwise would not be featured if they didn't play the part of sexy sirens.
Been to a cannabis trade show lately? The floors are crawling with barely-clothed women pitching products. People shrug and say that's what happens at trade shows, but why does that have to be the case at our shows? Are we not different and better? At KushCon II in December, the NORML Woman's Alliance (NWA) made a stink about the woman in question and a dress code was hastily ordered (and of course not followed).
These issues sparked the forming of the NWA last year. Women in the movement are tired of being harassed, bullied, taken for granted and advantage of, not considered for leadership positions, and objectified. The NWA got together for a tasteful photo shoot to show how they want to be seen -- as elegant, powerful woman, not cheesecake girls flaunting their assets.
When I heard the MPP was returning to the Playboy Mansion for another one of their big fundraisers, I called for a boycott. At first, people wondered why. I reminded them that the organization's co-founder and executive director Rob Kampia was suspended last year for having sex with a drunk female subordinate employee after work and other charges of sexual harassment. Many of the MPP's most prominent employees quit in the wake of the scandal. In my opinion, Kampia should have been fired and replaced by a woman. Instead, he was reinstated after a three-month benching.
The MPP skipped the Playboy event in 2010 for obvious reasons, but apparently now it's okay to head back to the Mansion. People sure have short memories.
This promises to be Kampia's coming-out party. But it would be like giving a recently-stopped cigarette smoker a case of Camels. For someone who's described himself as "hypersexualized" and went through many sessions of therapy, the Playboy Mansion is the last place he and his organization should be raising money.
I'm hoping that the cannabis community will support this event only if the MPP relocates it to another venue. If not -- and if people show up in droves at the Playboy Mansion on July 7 -- then we have a bigger problem than I ever imagined.
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