Consent and Manipulation in Olivia Munn’s Playboy Shoot
When Playboy offered Oliva Munn the chance to pose nude on the cover of the magazine, she declined. When Playboy offered Munn the chance to pose clothed on the cover of the magazine, she accepted. But once Munn got to the set, Playboy's photographer, stylist, and team of handlers staged a day-long attempt to coerce Munn into taking it all off anyway.
Munn details the event in her book Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek. After signing a comprehensive contract specifying which specific areas of Munn were on-limits and off for the photographer—side boob and underboob, yes; nipple, butt crack and vagina no—Munn describes all the ways Playboy attempted to convince her to show what she didn't want to show. Munn presents this as a lighthearted story, but it's actually a pretty frightening account of how manipulators attempt to coerce their targets into consent:
STAGE 1: Control. Prior to the shoot, Munn requests her "normal glam team—makeup artist, hair stylist and wardrobe stylist," but the Playboy photographer insisting on using his own stylist for the shoot. The photographer "was really pushing his stylist on me," Munn writes.
STAGE 2: Denial. Once Munn meets the stylist, a "tall, heavyset, bald man from Scandinavia with a very heavy accent," the attire was "nothing like we discussed." He "quite horrifyingly" offers up "a black, fishnet, one-piece bathing suit where you can see everything going on" for Munn to wear. On top, the stylist explains, "you would be wearing nothing under here and then your boobs just hang right over ze pink part." Writes Munn: "Here we are, contracts decided, conversations spanning weeks about this day, and everyone has a different agenda."
STAGE 3: Social pressure. When Munn insisted that this was a "non-nude shoot," the stylist told her that in Playboy, "you show everything!" Munn says she felt "woozy" explaining her contract and "tried to understand what the hell was happening." The stylist then told her that the photographer "says all nude today for Playboy. It's Playboy!"
STAGE 4: Appeal to her sense of trust. After Munn calls her publicist to come advocate for her on the set, the photographer offers this compromise: "Oh, yeah, you'll be nude but we'll just Photoshop everything out."
STAGE 5: "Accidental" exposure. The photographer continues to insist on poses that aren't in Munn's contract: "The photographer isn't doing much to help ease the tension. He wants me to pose nude, while strategically placing my arms and legs; my publicist of course doesn't. He wants to do a shower scene nude with strategically placed bubbles and steam on the glass; my publicist of course doesn't. It's exhausting. All the while I'm trying to pose flirty, fun, summery with about five dudes—strangers working the set—watching my every move. One of the shots has me without a top and my long, thick hair covering my breasts. The whole time I'm worried about the wind blowing, exposing a nipple, the filthy five and the photographer snapping away because that's the shot he wants." (Playboy ended up publishing shots of Munn with only her hair or limbs covering her breasts).
* STAGE 6: Downplaying her concerns. The photographer and stylist "insist they've shot more revealing stuff for Esquire and GQ."
* STAGE 6: Silencing. Munn feels "afraid to speak up and yell at everyone because it would ruin the shoot," she writes. "I'm the one who sets the tone and energy on the shoot. If I show everyone I'm upset, the shoot will spiral downward faster than it already has."
* STAGE 7: Anger. Late in the shoot, the stylist throws a fit. "I am a great stylist," he announced. "And this is not all about Olivia okay? It iz about me, too! I have my own motivations with this shoot and I'm going to get what I want out of it! Zis iz Playboy!!! She haz to be naked!"
* STAGE 8: Condescension. The stylist indignantly informs Munn's publicist that she could pick out the panties, if she thinks she knows so much.
* STAGE 8: Abandonment.The stylist storms out.
Munn finishes the shoot, writing that she had "managed to bury my feelings deep, deep inside". After the shoot, she says, "I wanted to break down crying." When she woke up the next day, she got an email from the photographer telling her they didn't get an adequate cover shot, and they needed her to come in again the following week.