Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Andrew King


The problem addressed by this study was twofold: what rhetorical strategies does a pornographic text actually employ? and what impact does that message have on its mate readers' sexual ideology? The first year's issues of Playboy comprise the specific text to be analyzed because Playboy is still the most popular men's magazine in the world and because various critics indicated that it was the prototype for current pornographic texts. Furthermore, this pornographic text has always been a public artifact as opposed to the surreptitious or illegal forms of pornography, which made it an apt choice for a rhetorical study. Three research questions are posed in this study: (1) What are Playboy's sources, (2) What are its rhetorical strategies, and (3) What are its goals and appeal. The first question was answered by using a combination of studies examining Playboy's history and the magazine culture of the 1950s. The second question was answered by using a modified version of Walter Fisher's Narrative Paradigm to examine the 502 pages of Playboy from October 1953 to September 1954 for narrative probability and fidelity. The third question was answered by comparing Playboy's message to the relational rhetoric of its competitors, and the socially influential Kinsey reports on sexual behavior. This study concluded that Playboy presented a coherent and consistent version of male sexuality throughout its first year. It also concluded that the primary goal of most male endeavors in Playboy was sexual conquest. This textual emphasis on sexual conquest created a hierarchy of masculinity wherein male readers were encouraged to evaluate male status via the number of women a male possessed.