When she was a sophomore in Davenport seven years ago, Teresa Dahl-Bredine ’97 let the boys down the hall in Davenport College talk her into posing for Playboy’s Ivy League issue. She signed a contract for the pictures, which gave Dahl-Bredine a lot of money and Hugh Hefner the rights to a few photographs of a naked Yalie.
Seven years later, Dahl-Bredine is a carpenter and a screenwriter in Los Angeles and the second-place finisher in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball tournament’s online pornography cousin: the Sweetest 16, where, as the Web site claims, “the hottest coeds in the country bump chests in a titillating tourney challenge.”
Dahl-Bredine, however, had no idea she had “matriculated at Playboy.com University” this winter. She didn’t know she had made it to the contest’s final rounds, taking down models from Syracuse, the University of Maryland, and Ohio State on her way, she said. She was completely oblivious to her slim 83-vote loss to the University of Virginia and of the groundswell of support that brought her within the reaches of victory.
“It’s so funny that people are pro-Playboy on campus now,” she said. “When I was there, everyone was just like ‘Playboy sucks.'”
Way back when, in 1995, Playboy arrived at the New Haven Holiday Inn to round out the magazine’s tour of the Ivy League, conducting on-campus interviews of prospective nudes. Dahl-Bredine and a few others — including Amy Nabors ’97, Jesselyn Brown LAW ’95 and Jennifer Groszkowski ’98 who made up the Yale team that made it to Playboy.com’s final round — won a few hundred dollars and the chance to appear in glossy print, topless (and for a select few including Dahl-Bredine, bottomless as well).
At the time of her selection, she was reported by the Yale Daily News as saying, “I know men will go out and buy the magazine and masturbate while looking at my breasts, but I’m okay with that.” In a subsequent letter to the editor, Dahl-Bredine contested the quote, but the News maintained its veracity.
The parents of the then-sophomore were less than thrilled by her decision to strip down in a hotel room photo shoot, she said in a phone interview this week. So were a number of members of the Yale Women’s Center. They offered to pay Dahl-Bredine $100 more than the $500 Playboy offered her to not pose for the magazine, in an attempt to make Yale the only Ivy League school not appearing in the Ivy League edition.
“At the time, I thought that was silly and not very feminist of them,” she said. Playboy raised its offer to match the protesters’, and Dahl-Bredine went along with the shoot. She said that in retrospect, she is not sure she believes the protests were so ridiculous.
In fact, she added, in the back of the magazine in which her nude pictures ultimately appeared, Playboy ran a picture of more bare-bottomed Yalies running through campus as part of the protest. Dahl-Bredine said she was among them. They wanted solidarity in the claim that all women’s bodies are beautiful, she said, so she was there streaking through Beinecke Plaza with her backpack on.
Now that the old incendiary pictures have turned up again, this time as fodder for the oft-overlooked “naked coed” rivalry between Yale and Virginia, they have brought back latent tensions between the campus’ porn afficionados and its feminists.
Lauren Mangini ’03, the head staffer of the Women’s Center, said she does not think Dahl-Bredine should present herself as representative of Yale students. She said is annoyed by what she calls “the whole genre of magazines that feature half-naked women on the cover.”
“Of course she can do whatever she wants,” she continued. “I saw it and rolled my eyes, and said, ‘Of course Playboy’s doing a Sweet 16 thing,’ and that was it.”
And Dahl-Bredine found herself another enthusiastic following among male students, who logged on to Playboy.com frequently to try to boost her numbers.
“I didn’t even think she was that attractive,” Gabe Olsen ’05 said. “I was just more doing it for a Yale thing. We’re not known as a big party school with lots of gorgeous girls, so it was kind of funny to have Yale out there, especially when she made it to the Elite Eight. I thought, ‘Wow, this girl’s actually winning, and she’s from Yale.’
“I think I voted three times,” he said. “Three, four, I don’t remember, but definitely more than once.”