Playboy, the men’s entertainment and lifestyle magazine founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, pioneered the concept of a “men’s magazine” with provocative, nude images of beautiful women. It’s been a staple in pop culture and men’s lifestyle publications for over 60 years.
This week, Playboy decided to once again raise eyebrows, but not for the reasons one might have expected.
The magazine announced that it will no longer feature nude images of women beginning in March 2016. As can be expected, this has the Internet abuzz and “readers” of the magazine taken aback.
In an interview with the New York Times, Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders explained how the digital age affected the decision.
“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Flanders said. “And it’s just passé at this juncture.”
What that basically means is that Playboy believes the novelty they once championed has worn off; it’s no longer unique or unusual.
Perhaps they’re right.
Many Playboy traditionalists, for lack of a better term, have expressed distaste, ironically, for the publication’s decision. Arguments that Playboy was “classy” in its depiction of nude women, setting it apart from what’s seen on the Internet, have been exclaimed online.
“When Hef created Playboy, he set out to champion personal freedom and sexual liberty at a time when America was painfully conservative,” the Playboy staff wrote in a post on its website.
At the time, Playboy was unique. However, we live in an age where women empowerment is expressed and needed in more ways than ever before. What worked over 60 years ago may not be what’s best now.
Following last year’s Isla Vista killings, where a man killed six people to punish women for rejecting him and men for living a more sexually active life than him, the social media campaign #YesAllWomen spread like wildfire. The hashtag was intended to raise awareness for violence against women.
Also last year, more along the lines of Flanders’ point, a celebrity photo hack leaked hundreds of nude photos of various female celebrities on 4chan.
These incidents, and others like it, have propelled women empowerment to the forefront of social change. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Chelsea Handler bare all on Instagram to show no fear in the face of criticism, but Playboy is a different entity. It has a reputation and that reputation, for the most part, is not encouraging for women.
Playboy has been taking strides over the years to stray away from that reputation, though. The idea of “reading” Playboy was never exactly a sought after concept, but the publication is aiming to change that.
“Our journalism, art, photos and fiction have challenged norms, defied expectations and set a new tone for decades…So we say: Why stop now?,” the post goes on to read.
It sounds as if Playboy is aiming to challenge the norm again, and in their reality, nude is the norm. In other words, Playboy can be successful without the added reputation of misogynistic readership. Women can be beautiful without baring it all.