The Sexist

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.

  • Deely Stan

    When She Says..."NO"...

    I've not seen a copy of Playboy since they published a photoshoot of
    Nancy Sinatra in 1995, but I hope they didn't give Ms. Sinatra as much grief
    as they did Ms. Munn. It seems all parties involved went into the 'project' with unrealistic
    expectations, wanting to expand their audiences. Ms. Munn gets wider exposure, Playboy gets to
    sell more dead trees, and drive geek eyes to their gaudy, bloated, overpriced websites.
    Suddenly it was the battle of wills between the over fifty year old institution-organization-
    industry,(Playboy will insist that they are not 'porn'... they are "literature and photo-culture"),
    vs. the young semi-buisnesswise woman half their age, by herself, yet! Bad choice by her to go
    into that lion's den alone. What, she couldn't phone a friend. or recruit her publist, or agent?
    Never the less I'm proud of her. She got the exposure, Playboy didn't get any nipple, or much else!
    She won, she didn't cave in or compromise, despite all the
    coersion, pressure, and being outnumbered at least five to one, by a bunch of oafs, or worse!
    Contract indeed... I'm sure we all know by now what contracts, usually wielded
    by men in suits, are worth! These guys live by bad faith. And these clowns had the nerve to call her back for a 'do over'!
    Any one remember that great song from the Eighties, "Men Without Shame"?

    Of course, we just hear Ms. Munn's side of the story, I'm sure Playboy says "No Comment"...
    but one can see Playboys "comment" every month, if one cares, or dares to, witness the seemingly
    endless line of attractive women whom appear in the print or web versions of their product, just
    imagine the coersion they are subjected to, as they come away from what began as a simple photoshoot session with the
    bad breast augmentation job and the bleached blonde hair that a bunch of oafs insisted was a great idea,
    or, "the way we do it here".

    In this internet-interconnected, Facebook, Twitter age, almost any thing, especially photos of women wearing
    anything other than, or less than, "Sunday Go to Church" attire, can and will become fodder for, as Dean Wormer said
    "your permanent record, which will follow you for ever". Whoops, there went that promotion, or
    that security clearance, or that loan, or that insurance you applied for. Unless they are looking
    for a career in "the Industry", or a career at Hooters, a few brief flings with Playboy hardly seems worth it.
    This chapter in Ms. Munn's book should be required reading for any women considering dealing unclothed.
    with Playboy.

  • CelebArrogance

    I would like to know how accurate her story is. I would not be surprised if she embellished the experience at Playboy so she would have a juicy tidbit for her book.

    And believe me, the "rising star" Olivia Munn will be doing Playboy again in 5 - 10 years when her career stalls because she is not talented. This time she will reveal all of the "goods".... and more then likely will have had numerous breast augmentations by that time.