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Discount Pet of the Month

by Stephen Lautens


September 5, 2003

The economy is in worse shape than I thought. I read in the paper that Penthouse magazine applied for bankruptcy protection last month in the United States.

What is this world coming to that you can’t even make a buck peddling dirty pictures?

When I was a youngish man, Penthouse was the dirty magazine. Personally, I never bought a copy in my life. Call me a prude or a coward, but I can’t imagine slapping a copy down on the counter of the local store. Besides, we all knew someone whose father hid a couple of copies behind the hot water tank. In sneaking a couple of peeks I learned more about the female anatomy than years of health classes in high school. Maybe that was the problem - it left nothing to the imagination.

It seems that over the past few years Penthouse has been losing its shirt (among other garments) to less raunchy publications. I’d like to think this is because of a general trend towards greater sophistication in men. In reality, it’s more likely that the once graphically explicit Penthouse has lost its shock value due to the Internet, adult DVDs, tee-shirt slogans and raunchy prime time reality shows on TV.

These days anyone with a computer has access to entertainment that would make Caligula blush. On any given morning my junk email folder alone has more full-colour examples of unimaginable behaviour than all the people who were smitten in the entire Old Testament combined.

In short, men can now get their smut cheap and by the truckload. So what can Penthouse do to stay competitive and make its way back from bankruptcy? Here are some suggestions:

Buy sexy undies and second hand garter belts for models at Goodwill. They may only come in Extra Extra Large, but that means they’ll be that much easier to get off.

Stop hiring Pulitzer prize-winning authors to write lengthy, thoughtful articles in between photo spreads of "The Women of the Albanian Secret Police". No one reads them anyway.

Steal photos from National Geographic’s special photo essay on Tribeswomen of the Bwanga-Bwanga tribe. Airbrush in a few feather boas and thigh boots and crop out the goat (or leave the goat in, depending on the audience).

Instead of hiring twelve year olds to write their humour, they should think about hiring eight year olds. The school yard humour is about the same and eight year olds work a lot cheaper.

Actually publish real letters to Penthouse. It must cost them a fortune to make up improbable letters every month of supposed reader’s erotic escapades. None one believes these things happen to real people anyway, in spite of the disclaimer "…I never thought I’d be writing to Penthouse…" Personally, I’ve never had a car belonging to a pair of twenty year old Scandinavian twins break down in front of my house and a Jell-O wrestling match break out while waiting for CAA to arrive. Real letters may be a lot more boring, but they’re cheap.

They could probably publish the same pictures every month to save cash. Just put them on different pages. The basic female geography doesn’t change that much, so I’m betting most of their readers wouldn’t know the difference. At most you could make the pictures look different if you just made the Penthouse Pet wear a hat.

Maybe Penthouse is just doomed. After all, its hard to get readers to pay for smut when the rest of the world is just giving it away.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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