2016-06-30
Lindsey Vuolo
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I am not against pornography but rather in favor of the erotic attraction of modesty, and a lot of my books deal with that....On the other hand, I do write books on sexuality and everything else so I have an open mind about all this, but I do come from a specific perspective, so I hope that you will not be offended with any of the questions that I ask. If you feel that some of the questions are unfair or somewhat hostile, by all means you can say you don't want to answer them. I have no interest in portraying you badly in this interview and I will not do that, but I am coming from the perspective that I articulated. Okay?

Lindsey Vuolo: Okay.

SB: Is it correct that you're the first Jewish Playmate?

LV: As far as I know, I'm the first Jewish Playmate to admit that I was Jewish. I think there might have been Playmates that were kind of half Jewish and just never really talked about it.

SB: Clearly you didn't have to be open about everything in your life for the interview [with Playboy that accompanied the pictorial], but you felt strongly that you wanted a Jewish empowerment in the interview [when you spoke about your experiences in Israel and displayed your bat mitzvah photo], is that correct?

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

LV: Actually, when I gave the interview to Playboy, they asked me what my religious beliefs were and when I said I was Jewish they kind of went with that and asked me questions about it and that's when my trip to Israel came up and, you know, what being Jewish means to me. I thought it was an important thing because it sets me aside. I know I'm different than a lot of the other Playmates being that I am Jewish.

SB: It seems that you are somewhat of a practicing Jew, is that correct?

LV: Yes.

SB: So what does that mean?

LV: I'm not Orthodox but I'm Conservative. I am practicing a lot more now since I'm away from home [at Indiana University of Pennsylvania] and that I'm getting older. It is kind of a concern of mine that, you know, I would possibly have a family and then not be able to read a service with my family for High Holy Days. But I mean, I practice the High Holy Days. There will still be times when I'll go to Friday night services, but being at school I don't usually go as often as I should.

SB: So in other words, you go to synagogue at least three times a year--

LV: Um hmm [agreeing].

SB: And sometimes you go more often?

LV: Right. Sometimes my mom and I will spend time together and we'll go. We have a pretty good relationship with our rabbi. And I know when I get home that I'll go see him.

Nervous about talking to her rabbi
SB: How does your rabbi feel about the pictures in the centerfold?

LV: That's why I want to go see him when I come home for Thanksgiving, because I haven't spoken to him. I was home for Yom Kippur services, but we have such a large congregation that there was really no time to speak with him after services. I did talk to some of the ladies in my congregation. The rabbi was the one to tell them [about me being Playmate] because they came to me when I was outside. I was getting a drink of water. And they said to me, you know, the rabbi told us that you were in Playboy. Congratulations. I was, like, really nervous. I'm going, what does he think? Does he hate me? Is he mad at me? What are his views on it? And they were just, "Oh, he seemed really happy when he told all of us." So when I go home, I plan on speaking with him and asking him, because I do want to know what he thinks.

SB: And you're close enough to him to speak to him without inhibition about this?

LV: Yeah. I mean, I don't feel uncomfortable talking to him about it. I mean, he's really down to earth.

SB: How would you feel if he had seen the pictures before he spoke to you? If he were a reader of Playboy, would you feel that that's not something that rabbis should be doing?

LV: No, I mean, that's--for each their own. I did Playboy because I didn't think--I mean, yeah, I thought about my religion, but it was for me and I didn't feel like I was doing something wrong.

SB: If you knew the rabbi had seen the pictures, if you knew that he was a reader of Playboy, would you feel that that’s inappropriate for a rabbi or that it’s perfectly okay for a rabbi?

LV: I guess I would think it was okay. I mean, I'm involved in the magazine myself so I don't--

SB: But you're not a rabbi.

LV: No, I'm not. But it doesn't bother me that he would read it.

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

SB: What about if you heard that very religious people read Playboy? Would you feel that looking at naked women was consistent with their religious convictions?

LV:...like yourself, you're an Orthodox rabbi. Like when I think Orthodox, that's extremely religious. I would never think of an Orthodox rabbi should read Playboy. Just because they are so religious.

SB: Right. But your rabbi, who is not Orthodox, you think he might read it?

LV: Yeah, I think -- or he might pick it up just because he knows me.

SB: Right, okay. What if you heard that a priest, who is sworn to celibacy, read Playboy, how would you feel? Or to take the question to the extreme, what would you think if you heard that the Pope read Playboy? Would you be disappointed, or would think that it's not big deal?

LV: I would kind of think that it would be weird. Because I don't look at religious figures reading--

SB: So would you think there was anything wrong with it? Would you look down at him a bit? Would you judge him for reading Playboy?

LV: No, I wouldn't judge him. I don't judge people. I mean--

SB: But would you feel that it's a bit inconsistent with him being a pope and a priest?

LV: Yeah.

SB: Okay, because in other words, he's supposed to be above that, is that it?

LV: Right. Because from what I know of Christianity, it's like, you know, immoral--you're not supposed to, it's not moral to do stuff like that. Like sex before marriage and all that stuff. Stuff that I've learned about Christianity, which is not much, but I would think that would kind of be weird.

SB: Okay, well let me ask you this also: I read in an article in the Jewish Daily Forward that you have a boyfriend, correct?

LV: Had a boyfriend.

SB: Are you planning to marry a Jewish man specifically? Would you prefer that?

LV: I would prefer to marry a Jewish man. Have I dated anyone Jewish? No.

SB: Okay, but when it comes to getting serious with someone, you will try to choose a Jewish man to get serious with?

LV: If not, then I'll do what my mom did and if my husband wants to marry me, to convert. The guy would have to convert to Judaism to marry me.

SB: Okay, so your children will be raised Jewish and you want a Jewish household?

LV: Yeah.

SB: Okay, how would you feel if you get married and your husband reads Playboy. Is that perfectly okay?

LV: Um hm [assents].

SB: What if he likes looking at live women--women who are nude live? He'd like to take you as his wife to, let's say, a striptease joint? Would that be acceptable?

LV: I mean, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If he's my husband and we go together, I'd rather go together than let him go with his buddies.

SB: Right, but would you rather tell him "let's go together" or would you rather tell him, "I don't think that's where a married man should be?"

LV: Well, I don't think you should be there but if we're going to go together then--I mean, if it's something he really wants to go to--I would hope that he wouldn't because if we were married, what would he need to go see other women for? I mean, I read Playboy myself and it's not to look at the other girls, you know, who I'm friends with in here, it's to read mostly the articles.

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

SB: Yes, but do you think that's why men look at it?

LV: I think they look at it both. I mean, their first interest is, hop right open to the centerfold and then they go on. When my boyfriend and I were together, he goes, "Well, you're just stupid if you think people just read that magazine. They look at it for the pictures." I mean, when I get my Seventeen magazines, I look through the pictures and then I read the articles. I think that's just how people read magazines.

SB: Okay, but the point is that you would have no problem with your husband reading Playboy and looking at the pictures of nude women, but you would prefer that he not go to a live nude girlie joint?

LV: It wouldn't bother me if he wanted to go.

SB: But you would prefer that he not go, is that right?

LV: Yeah, I would prefer that he not.

SB: So would you also prefer that he not read Playboy?

LV: No, because it's--I mean, I know it's kind of contradictory because either way you're looking at naked women. But I mean, the stuff that you see in strip clubs is disgusting, and I don't think anything in Playboy is disgusting. I think it's very classy and very tasteful.

SB: So if it's a classy striptease joint where women just get nude without, let's say, moving around on a bar or something, that would be okay for him to go to?

LV: Sure.

SB: So it's not the fact that there are nude women that your husband is sort of leering at, it's rather the fact that it's lewd women in a sort of an unclassy place?

LV: Right.

On being the object of men's fantasies

SB: What about if you're married to man and he's making love to you and he thinks about other women, what he's really being excited about is that he saw a woman on the street that excited him or he saw Playboy and he's thinking about those pictures? Let's say right now a man would make love to his wife tonight thinking about the pictures he saw of you? Would you find that perfectly acceptable?

LV: Well, I try not to think about that. I'm sure it happens but, I mean--

SB: What if it happened to you? What if your husband, you know--I haven't seen your pictures and, to be honest, I probably won't--but let's imagine that, you know, now you're a beautiful young woman but in 20 or 30 years time you may not be as fit and beautiful so your husband has to think about the woman he saw in Playboy that night in order to get excited and to perform? Is that acceptable to you?

LV: How am I to know if he's thinking about someone else? He's not saying, "Oh honey, I have this visual picture in my head, but I'm making love to you." I think that would be a stupid comment for a husband to make to [his wife] because that makes [her] feel rather insecure. I think if my husband or even if my boyfriend, as a matter of fact, were to say that to me, you know, I'd probably get upset.

SB: If I can sum it up, what you seem to be saying is that you are opposed to men making love to their wives thinking about other women. Is that right?

LV: Yeah.

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

SB: And do you think that things like a nude centerfold spread would cause men to think about women other than their wives when they make love to their wives?

LV: I mean, that's what's in each person's head what they think about. I don't like to think about it like that.

SB: If a married man came to you at, let's say, one of your public appearances and said, by the way--and not even a married man, a single man who has a girlfriend--and he said, "Look, I saw your spread, it's unbelievable and that's what I think about when I'm making love to my wife or my girlfriend." You would feel uncomfortable with that, is that right?

LV: I would just laugh at him and be like, "You're not making love to me, you're making love to your wife or your girlfriend."

SB: So you would not want him to think of you, correct?

LV: No. And the same thing if they were enjoying the magazine to themselves. If people excite themselves looking at the pictures, that people are going to be looking at your magazine and doing that, helping themselves out, I don't want to think about it.

SB: Yeah, well, that's something I don't want to think about either. I'm speaking specifically about a relationship.

LV: Even in my past relationships, I don't think about other men.

SB: Yes, but studies show that 84% of husbands think about other women and a hell of a lot of them think about whatever--

LV: Centerfolds?

SB: Well, centerfolds or other pornography on the Internet and things like that.

Is it porno, or is it art?

SB: Do you consider Playboy pornography, by the way?

LV: No.

SB: But unlike art, it's designed solely to excite men. If it's not pornography, what would you call it?

LV: I think it's tasteful. I think it's artsy.

SB: So you wouldn't have done Hustler?

LV: No. I think just for the reputation. Look, I didn't know anything about Playboy before I posed at all. I knew nothing. I had never even really probably picked up a Playboy. Maybe once or twice. My father doesn't read Playboy. Which is probably the only reason why I did do Playboy, because I knew that my father didn't read it.

Why she said yes being to a Playmate

SB: If your father did read Playboy, would you be okay with that?

LV: I probably would have thought twice. Because I knew he didn't read Playboy, I didn't really think twice. I was like, I have this opportunity and I think it will be really great for me. And I know it's a steppingstone and that's the way my mom saw it.

SB: A steppingstone to what?

LV: To anything in the--not in pornography entertainment but just any kind of entertainment.

SB: Like for example, who would you say are famous Playmates who went on to [success]? Let's say, Playboy has been published since, I think, 1954--

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

LV: Well, I think there's only 500 Playmates.

SB: How many would you say it served as a steppingstone for to a career in film or music or somewhere in the popular culture where they were successful?

LV: Probably only about 100 of them.

SB: 100? That's hard to believe.

LV: Like I said, I really don't know the world of Playboy that well. From the girls that obviously been--Carmen Electra and all those girls, I mean, there's Joy McCarr, there's a lot of other ones that I'm meeting, you know, being involved in Playboy, who I never even know were Playmates before they got roles as actresses or doing other modeling contracts. You know, even, there are some people that I work with in Playboy who were Playmates and now they work for Playboy. I have no clue to what kind of doors this is going to open for me, but I'm not letting everything ride on it. Like I'm not going to give up my college education right now to move to L.A. and try to be famous. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen, but guess what? If it doesn't, I'll be more than happy to finish my degree, start a family and get a career, just like any other working college student here at IUP or any school, for that matter. Look, I'm not planning on [its] totally opening every door for me and to [use] my looks and my body and everything, to get, you know, a free ride. I never intended on that, nor do I ever.

SB: But do you think it's a steppingstone to your other goal of having a family?

LV: Sure.

SB: That posing for Playboy could be a steppingstone to having a happy family life?

LV: Yeah. I don't see why not. I mean, if I meet someone through Playboy.

SB: So it could be a way of meeting a future husband.

LV: Right.

SB: But would you want to marry a man who meets you--

LV: Through Playboy?

SB: Yes--would you want to marry the kind of guy who would meet you through Playboy?

LV: I don't know. I'm really learning. I'm exploring that right now. A lot of people, you know, e-mail me. I've had people send me letters, "I'm a Jewish doctor and I graduated with this degree from Yale." Or, "My son, my Jewish son, one goes to Princeton and the other goes to Stanford. And you know, they're Jewish and single." It's so funny, the e-mails and the mail that I get from Jewish men who would love to date me. "Meet me in Pittsburgh, we'll go to a game, we'll go out to dinner."

SB: Aren't you suspicious of these?

LV: Yes. I mean, I've replied to them, "Thank you very much for the offer. Thanks for taking the time to tell me how beautiful I looked in my layout, thanks for your support, you know." But you can't date someone because they like the way I look. They have no clue about who I am.

SB: Well, if you had a choice between marrying a Time Magazine reader and a Playboy reader, which would you choose?

A Playmate's Perceptions
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
On being the object of men's fantasies
Why she said yes to being a Playmate
Does nudity undermine female dignity?
"The men who write to me"
Her views on other Playmates
Comparing herself to Monica

^ Top of article ^

LV: I mean, that's like saying, well, are you going to choose Miss November or Miss October?

SB: No, I mean, if you choose between a man who, let's say, will meet you through Playboy or someone who might respect not just your body and be attracted to it but, let's say, someone who would respect more of your mind, your heart, your goodness, or your connection to your family, your devotion to tradition, what would you prefer?

LV: Obviously, not someone who is going to look only at my body and not be interested in anything else about me.

SB: So therefore, you agree with me, that posing for Playboy probably is not a great steppingstone to marriage? Because that's not what you want...

LV: I have to, you know, even that out. Some people I find just want to be my friend, especially on campus, guys that want to be my friend because I was in Playboy. And I try to talk to them and get [them] to know me. And then they're kind of like, wow, you're really cool...

"I'm not a stereotype"

SB: So in other words, you have to break the stereotype that people have of a Playboy Playmate, is that right?

LV: Yes.

SB: In other words, the stereotype is that--and correct me if I'm wrong--the stereotype is that a Playboy Playmate, a woman who is prepared to pose nude, is probably maybe a bit promiscuous, you know, a good-time party girl, and you have to show them, no, I'm a serious student, I'm not what you think. It was just posing and that's all.

LV: Right. I have to do that all the time. I'm constantly defending myself. But I think that's a good thing, because I want people to know that I'm not a stereotype. You know, don't stereotype me that I'm not intelligent or that I am promiscuous or all I do is party or, you know, I don't have any goals or aspirations of my own because, I mean, I do.

SB: I understand. Okay, let me start giving you some issues that I have already raised in my writings about pornography and why I am such an outspoken opponent of pornography. I oppose it in my books, and I've even debated Larry Flynt at a big event in Los Angeles. My first argument against pornography - oh wait! You said that don't consider Playboy pornography. Were you serious?

LV: I really don't, because I know, my sorority, they said, "You know, you have to turn in your membership because you're promoting pornography." And I said, "Well, I don't think that's right. My sorority life is not my Playboy life. That's my personal life."

SB: I understand, okay. 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--

LV: 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.

Read Part 2 of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's interview with Lindsey Vuolo


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