Well there it is, the cover that has everyone talking. Playboy released this magazine featuring Maria Florencia Onori. It hit the stands a day before Mexico's traditional Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a celebration of an apparition of the Virgin in the town. Playboy has since apologized claiming that the image was not meant to resemble that of the virgin Mary.
I wonder if playboy has swampland in Florida for sale, because clearly this is a line of bullshit. Of course they meant people to refer to the virgin Mary. It got everyone talking and that was the point.
I of course have my own unique take on this. The bibles two most famous Marys are in strict contrast to one another. You have Mary the mother of Jesus, supposedly pure and sainted to the end and Mary Magdalene the reformed whore. I find it extremely interesting that what is most discussed about these women is their sexual behaviour. Mary is blessed not only because she is mother of Jesus, but because she retains her virginity; she is the polar opposite of the licentious Magdalene. Considering that the Judeo Christianity is the foundation of western countries, is it really surprising that to this day much of a womans value is tied to what she chooses to do with her vagina?
What if after the birth of Jesus, Mary did not remain a virgin? What if Jesus had brothers? How does this change our understanding of Mary? The idea that she was a flesh and blood woman with carnal desires should not be disturbing, or even considered sacrilegious. Mary in this image is not divorced from her humanity, she is real and concrete.
Conceptualizing Mary in this way is not only theologically liberating, it frees women to embrace their sexuality. The idea that one need remain pure to be a being worthy of worship cedes control of the body to others. As evolved as we claim to be much of female sexuality is highly disciplined and firmly under the control of men. Woman as seductress, or evil temptress can be traced directly back to the biblical imaginings.
If we were to free Mary from the straight jacket of virginity would we not at the same time free all women from the same rigid standards? What if we were to have a sexuality that acted freely in its own service akin to the biblical men. Two husbands perhaps, matrilineal descent...a separation of value from private action. A true liberation of the binding religious moors created by men to benefit men.
A sexual Mary stands for a womanhood that is neither shamed, nor defiled. A woman that understands that seeking physical pleasure is not a reduction of her being, but embracing all aspects of her femininity; a liberated womanhood. Ultimately a sexual Mary is shocking only to those who seek to continue to view women through a religious patriarchal lens.
When women are sexual we are whores and less than, and when a man is sexual it is part of the natural construction of masculinity. Women are to engage in sex unwillingly, a burden in the cause of perpetuation of the species. Men are to embrace sexuality as an essential part of an evolved masculinity. Men are often encouraged to engage in sex as a ritual of maturation; whereas a mature femininity is measured by our ability to nurture. None of these attributes are due to nature, they are the result of nurture. We perpetuate the division using religious text to claim that if not natural it is the path to God.
This image of Mary poses the question what if the path to God is embracing our physical beings and embracing the pleasure that she/he has created our bodies to experience. Even within married circles where sex is a sanctioned act it is often whispered about as though it were a vile dirty act. Sex need not be something we feel ashamed of, whether for the purposes of reproduction, or pleasure; it is part of the human experience.
Divinity as we have constructed it need not be attached to the corporeal beings which we inhabit. Though this was clearly an attempt on the part of playboy to shock, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect upon why this image inspired the reaction that did. What does it say about the role of women and are we better served by the concept of Mary as a whole being?