Be Our Guest

Playboy: a magazine published by a prune in pajamas who actually believes those blond twins think he’s hot. In other words, a harmless diversion for the pathetic and deluded.

That’s pretty much what I thought of the venerable porn publication until last week. Then came the Enron offer: Any woman laid off by the corrupt corporation was invited to apply for the “exciting opportunity” to pose for a pictorial.

Wear a lot, earn a little. Wear a little, earn a lot.

On Monday, Playgirl launched a similar salvo, soliciting Men of Enron hunks, and this just seemed like a great publicity stunt. Got us all giggling. A guy taking off his clothes is goofy.

But a desperate woman taking her clothes off is a much sadder, older story. In fact, it’s pretty much the oldest story of the world’s oldest profession. Which is what makes Playboy’s offer so gross.

“What kind of scavenger scum would say, `Oh, gee, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s get the women who have just lost their jobs and life savings and give them a chance to pose naked?'” rails my friend Laura. “To me, that’s picking on a group of vulnerable people who just happen to have breasts.” Among other things.

In the past, Playboy’s pictorials didn’t focus on the downtrodden. They featured college students – the Women of the Ivy League, for instance – or the women of sundry piquant professions: the Women of Wall Street, of Washington, even the Women of the IRS.

What did all these ladies have in common? Power. Those Ivy League lasses will one day run America. The women of Washington already do. And the chicks at the IRS can reduce any man to tears.

Guys got a kick out of seeing these ladies naked because it turned the tables: Intimidating women were now submissive. The man was on top.

Which is fine. That’s the nature of pornography: Men fantasizing about willing women. And if these power babes stripped for fun or pocket money or plain old naughtiness, that was their choice.

But the women of Enron are the opposite of powerful. They are out of work. Many have children to feed. Some may feel they have only one thing left to sell.

And Playboy’s buying.

“When one door closes, another one opens!” is how Gary Cole, Playboy’s photography editor, describes the Enron offer. But what door, exactly, is opening?

The door to a great new job that just happens to require nudity before an audience of horny men? Sounds more like the end of the line.

“We’re not forcing them to do anything,” insists Playboy Enterprises’ spokesman Bill Farley. True. And neither are the guys who come to starving villages, offering cash for the cutest girls.

But there’s a word for those men, just like there’s a word for the folks at Playboy: Pimp.

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for the New York Daily News