I came to Israel twenty-five years ago, a decade after the founding of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center in 1978. Throughout my time in Israel, there have been more than a few American imports that I have enjoyed. I was delighted to have Skippy peanut butter available at my corner store. I was thrilled when Heinz ketchup arrived. But, somehow, I managed to survive in this country without Playboy. As a woman, a mother, and the current director of the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center, I won’t be cheering when Playboy hits the stores. The magazine’s introduction into the local market undermines the progress of the Israeli feminist movement and will inevitably exacerbate the presence of sexual assault in our society.

Like Daniel Pomerantz, Playboy Israel’s owner and CEO, I too enjoy the absence of cars on the road during Yom Kippur. And I enjoy the culture that the city of Tel Aviv offers to its residents just as much as the next person. But, unfortunately, there is more to Israel than fashion shows, gay pride parades and peaceful strolls in Jaffa to the sounds of the Muslim call to prayer. Alongside the beautiful parts, I’ve also witnessed the darker side of Israel. One out of three women in Israel has been sexually assaulted. One out of five women has been raped. One out of seven is a victim of incest. In a recent survey conducted by the municipality of Tel Aviv and the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, we found that 83 percent of Tel Aviv’s female population has reported being sexually harassed at least once in their lives. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, 35-40 percent of women have been sexually harassed at the workplace. Playboy’s blatant commoditization of women’s bodies will only make the situation worse.

Playboy’s arrival will harm the bodies and psyches of women and girls. The correlation between physical and mental damage and highly sexualized images of women has been amply demonstrated. In 2002, a study reported that between 60 and 80 percent of Israeli adolescents are dissatisfied with their weight and shape, although the vast majority of these adolescents had normal, or even low weight. Eating disorders are a global epidemic, with 1,500 new cases annually in Israel alone. Ninety percent of those cases are among women and girls. Girls as young as nine years old are exhibiting symptoms of eating disorders, including extreme dieting, fear of gaining weight and binge eating. Unrealistic portrayals of women in the media are driving women to drastic levels of discomfort with their bodies. This information has concerned the state of Israel, and the Knesset passed a law banning underweight models from appearing in the media, runway shows, and advertising. Introducing a new outlet for dramatically Photoshopped, and hyper-sexualized women, is a leap in the wrong direction.

Playboy’s infamous pictorials will not only prompt women to injure themselves, but will also promote a culture in which men are increasingly hostile to women. Diana E.H. Russell, an expert in rape and sexual abuse, found that:

Pornography appears to foster rape fantasies and desires in the men who view it… recent research suggests that pornography also plays a role in overcoming internal barriers against acting out these desires, as well as in eroding external barriers by contributing to the cultural supports for rape. …[I]t seems that pornography may contribute to the undermining of some women’s assertiveness of what sexual acts they do not wish to engage in.

According to the statistics of rape crisis centers throughout Israel, both sexual perpetrators and victims are getting younger. To have readily available and culturally accepted pornography flooding the Israeli market would only exacerbate that statistic.

The images in Playboy work to reduce women to their physicality, as hollow receptacles for male desire. Women are portrayed as willing and eager subjects for every advance, worth little more than the price of a magazine. Female autonomy and healthy sexuality are erased, replaced with a reader’s fantasies. Women are infantilized and animalized in a demeaning fashion (think “bunnies”), reinforcing male supremacy through the graphic subjugation of women. There is nothing “glamorous” about this dehumanization, which serves to reinforce a culture that disrespects and violates women. The message may be subliminally wrapped in a magazine package, but the repercussions are evident. The evidence of the negative effects of sexualized images of women on both men and women’s behavior is as clear as day. Yet our friend Pomerantz seems to think Playboy will show “the nice side of Israel.”

Had Pomerantz done his research, he would have found a fiercely critical voice from within the Playboy camp itself: Izabella St. James. St. James was a Playboy Bunny, and wrote a withering book, Bunny Tales, about the experience. Her recollections said nothing about Playboy’s “freedom and modernity,” as Pomerantz put it. Far from it. St. James was a former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner’s (at the time she was one of seven girlfriends) and lived with him in the Playboy Mansion. Bunny Tales paints a graphic picture of Hugh Hefner’s personality behind closed doors. Far from the genteel bon vivant of his public persona, the Hef they knew was a temperamental curmudgeon who gave weekly allowances, popped Viagra faithfully two nights a week so he could participate in excruciatingly awkward orgies with his troupe of girlfriends (who he encouraged to call him Daddy in the throes of fake orgasms), and enforced strict 9 PM curfews. To see Playboy as empowering, or progressive, is buying into the carefully edited spin that Hefner has created himself.

Pomerantz describes Playboy as a “forum for argument and serious thought.” If the articles are so well-written, informative and valuable to readers, why include the nude women at all? This kind of rhetoric is a smokescreen to legitimize the mass publication of objectified women. Additionally, there are many more noble and effective ways to highlight the positive sides of Israel. Why not show the world Israel’s impressive developments in the fields of medicine and technology? Are naked women really the best this country has to distract from economic inequality and tense relations with every neighboring population? At a time when boys and men around the world are slobbering over Bar Rafaeli making out with a nerd in a Super Bowl commercial, the exploitation of Israeli women is in full force. A local edition of Playboy is utterly gratuitous, superfluous, and insulting.

Personally, I’m very proud that the Sexual Assault Crisis Center made aliya 34 years ago, and as far as I’m concerned, the Ministry of Absorption should close its doors to Israel’s newest immigrant, Playboy. If Pomerantz sees Playboy’s introduction to Israel as highlighting the country’s nice side, I’m terrified to see his definition of the bad.