No Nudes Is Good Nudes?
October 12, 2015 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Previous efforts to revamp Playboy, as recently as three years ago, have never quite stuck. And those who have accused it of exploiting women are unlikely to be assuaged by a modest cover-up. But, according to its own research, Playboy’s logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, along with those of Apple and Nike. This time, as the magazine seeks to compete with younger outlets like Vice, Mr. Flanders said, it sought to answer a key question: “if you take nudity out, what’s left?”
Playboy to stop printing nude photos as of the March 2016 issue. (SLNYT)

If you've used up your allotment of NYTimes pageviews, the same article is also in the Boston Globe.
posted by Shmuel510 (97 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Everybody reads it for the articles anyway.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:26 PM on October 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


This sounds revolutionary on its face, but I see it as just the same race-to-the-bottom quest to appeal to the widest audience available that ruined cable TV channels like The Sci-Fi Channel, Tech TV, and TLC. Toning down the sexy just puts Playboy on the magazine rack next to Maxim instead of behind the counter.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:27 PM on October 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


If they're doing it to make it easier to be shared on social media, why not switch over right now? Answering my own question, Playboy's editorial calendar is six months out, so they've probably already paid for and shot pictorials through that month.
posted by me3dia at 8:33 PM on October 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Toning down the sexy just puts Playboy on the magazine rack next to Maxim instead of behind the counter.

They're not trying to compete with Maxim. They're trying to compete with the internet.
posted by bradbane at 8:39 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't see it as competing with the internet, so much as ceding the "looking-at-naked-ladies" space to the internet.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:44 PM on October 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


They already removed nudity from playboy.com:
In August of last year, its website dispensed with nudity.

posted by Mitheral at 8:46 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 2055, Playboy is the last literary journal standing.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:56 PM on October 12, 2015 [45 favorites]


What shocks me is that Playboy still has a 800k circulation.

However, just like nudity in the internet age isn't exactly what it used to be, I'm not sure if they're chasing a market that just isn't there. What are they aiming for, New Yorker with a hint of Vice?
posted by lmfsilva at 8:58 PM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, the problem with Playboy was never the nude photos but the massive amounts of airbrushing that they used to do to the pictorials. They could've called it "Airbrushboy".
posted by I-baLL at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


"Hello, I would like to pay twenty american dollars so that every month for a year, you will send me a physical printed magazine with a couple dozen pictures of naked women doing nothing."
"Why yes, sir, this is certainly a request we get often enough to stay in business."

- apparently eight hundred thousand people?
posted by kafziel at 9:05 PM on October 12, 2015 [31 favorites]


A lot of classic SF (and I presume other genres) was originally printed in Playboy. Its archives must be extraordinary, but who's going to cop to genuinely reading it for the articles? I suppose that this might change things.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:09 PM on October 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


“if you take nudity out, what’s left?”

Interviews with Norman Mailer.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:14 PM on October 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


For me, the problem with Playboy was never the nude photos but the massive amounts of airbrushing that they used to do to the pictorials. They could've called it "Airbrushboy".

If they're aiming for a younger audience, having every pictoral not look like it was shot in 1990 might be a place to start.
posted by thecjm at 9:15 PM on October 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


From the Globe: "And Playboy will continue its tradition of investigative journalism, in-depth interviews and fiction."

It's been ages since I checked in with Playboy, but I thought they had all-but-entirely gutted those parts of the magazine. What's the state of their serious content these days?
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:18 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


actually makes sense. hell they can get out of the porn business altogether. they did do some cool stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:24 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it coincidental that this was announced right after Bill Cosby's deposition?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:34 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


While they did gut the actual article writing for a good many years, I've been surprised with them lately--it seems like they're starting to focus on it again, and I've been seeing links to their site pop up more often.

That said, this does not save me from the one time I was caught reading one as a teenager, where the assumption was that I wasn't reading it. Except I was. An actual short story. I think it was TC Boyle?
posted by qcubed at 9:35 PM on October 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Playboy has been moving slowly but surely back to a lifestyle brand with journalistic Bonafides for a while now so I'm not surprised. there's room for a money backed, sex-positive more literary publication as smaller websites have been growing up to fill that niche.

It's weird to think of Playboy competing with The Hairpin, but I think it's a smart move.
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 PM on October 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


The appeal of Playboy was the nudity. It always has been. All the highbrow trappings were camouflage to make it acceptable to buy and read. That's not to say they didn't publish interesting articles. But the main draw was always the nudity. Maybe they're trying to flip it and reverse it, and they're hoping the articles will be the main draw? If that's the case, I don't understand why they're keeping the risqué photos and centerfolds without the nudity. That's already covered by Maxim (and Esquire and GQ to a lesser extent). Why not get rid of it entirely? They've published a lot of interesting stuff, but by keeping the objectifying photos they're shutting out a lot of readers who might otherwise be interested in what they publish.

As for the 800,000 circulation, I think that's mainly due to habit and nostalgia. My brother is a lifelong Playboy reader. As a teenager in the late 80s/early 90s, his walls were plastered in centerfolds. For my bar mitzvah present, he bought me my own subscription (trying to mold me in his image, I guess). Anyway, I was surprised to learn that he still subscribed to Playboy. He's had that subscription for more than 25 years. It seems so archaic to me. If you want pornography, just go online. If you want interesting articles, there's plenty of other options. My theory is that his private sexual habits and interests were solidified in those years before the internet, and he can't quite let it go. Playboy is a touchstone for him. I imagine it's the same for a lot of other Playboy readers.

Regardless, this move isn't going to work them any wonders. It's a desperate move to save a sinking ship. I suppose they'll be able to limp along, but Playboy will never be relevant again. The culture has moved on, and the overt and flamboyantly sexist objectification that Playboy symbolizes is losing it's appeal.
posted by mokin at 9:42 PM on October 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Damn. Where am I gonna get my nudes now?
posted by telstar at 9:46 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The culture has moved on, and the overt and flamboyantly sexist objectification that Playboy symbolizes is losing it's appeal.

Nope. Their problem is the opposite; there's such an absurd multitude of overt and flamboyant objectification that it's hard for the (rather tame) Playboy to keep their foothold in the market. I imagine that Playboy the brand has been doing better than Playboy the magazine, and Playboy.com likely gets more pageviews for the articles than it does for the girls.
posted by Green Winnebago at 9:51 PM on October 12, 2015 [28 favorites]


I mean, I guess the appeal was the women's nudity because being caught reading it was great cover for the gay me as a teenager...

But I mean, I really did like their interviews, like the one of the West Wing cast...
posted by qcubed at 9:53 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I read a lot of Playboy when I was abstracting periodicals. It wasn't bad, particularly some good interviews, but to be honest, Hustler (not read while abstracting) had better articles, especially about politics and the drug war.

I think this move is a colossal mistake for Playboy, fwiw. As someone just said, Playboy IS "tasteful (i.e. acceptable to mainstream heteronormative america) nudity" ... that's it's whole brand!!

I mean, who's gonna say, "Oh boy, Playboy doesn't have nudity now?! I'm gonna subscribe!!" 1,000 people is a high estimate.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 PM on October 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Scott Flanders? More like NED Flanders, amirite?
posted by hwyengr at 9:58 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I suppose they'll be able to limp along

heh.
posted by futz at 9:59 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was surprised to learn the short story Guts by Chuck Palahniuk was first published in Playboy. (A warning here for those with a weak stomach).

So I guess they still had serious writers as of 2004. That said, I have never bought the magazine. I think the last magazine I bought was a New Scientist, waiting for a train in 2009.

What's a magazine? Is that like a big papery ipad that never updates?
posted by adept256 at 10:04 PM on October 12, 2015


In August of last year, its website dispensed with nudity.

Instead of just dispensing nudity.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:08 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's a magazine?
Words that stay
posted by generalist at 10:08 PM on October 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Madison Heights Syndrome, winner of the Playboy College Fiction Contest, sorta-kinda helped get me started as a writer.

I hope Playboy gets to do more of that.

---

A woman at my college posed for the "college girls" edition. I had lunch with her once. I was totally smitten. We went our separate ways, lost touch. She died of breast cancer years ago. The funeral home posted a photo of her headstone.

There's a word misspelled on it. I shit you not. A typo. On a tombstone. It bothers me on a cosmic level.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 PM on October 12, 2015 [35 favorites]


rule 34 ripple fx
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:17 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everybody reads it for the articles anyway.
10 of the Most Fascinating ‘Playboy’ Interviews [FLAVORWIRE]:
Miles Davis, 1962
Stanley Kubrick, 1968
Bette Davis, 1982 - no luck finding this.
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, 1991
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965
Steve Jobs, 1985
Vladimir Nabokov, 1964
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1981>
Timothy Leary, 1966
Ayn Rand, 1964 (bonus: the lost parts)
posted by unliteral at 10:23 PM on October 12, 2015 [35 favorites]


Eh. The problem with Playboy was never the nudity itself; it was the sexism. It was the notion that men talk to other men-- and occasionally Ayn Rand-- about intellectual subjects, and then they look at sexy women. And this hardly sounds like a shift away from that; it really is just more of a ritzy Vice or pretentious Maxim, now with the addition of a "sex-positive female." I miss On Our Backs, though.
posted by thetortoise at 10:44 PM on October 12, 2015 [27 favorites]


My dad was a long time subscriber, so after age 8 or 9 I had access to all of the issues from, like, 1964 'til I left for college in 1982. There was some quite good writing in it. And some very airbrushed nudes, too. But I read some great interviews, great fiction, spotty advice, and very funny cartoons. I cannot see how this move will work in their favor, but they have been at this forever, so presumably they know what they are doing. I genuinely wish them luck.
posted by mosk at 10:44 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, the Steve Jobs interview in 1985.

Jobs: The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.

1985. Wow.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 PM on October 12, 2015 [37 favorites]


I assumed its main porn USP was that it could afford to pay celebrities like Lindsay Lohan etc to appear in it nude. That's something the internet doesn't do.
posted by colie at 10:50 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband's uncle has a "library" with every issue of Playboy, a huge bottle of Courvoisier on the sideboard, a house in which the decor has not changed since 1977, and hasn't remarried since his mid-80s divorce. He collects "art" that mostly runs to indifferently-executed images of naked women. I have never seen him sober. That is who I think of when I think "Playboy subscriber."
posted by emjaybee at 10:50 PM on October 12, 2015 [49 favorites]


My dad was a long time subscriber
mine too - so as long as I can remember there was always a stack of the things from the 60's and 70's kicking around the cottage. Until a few years ago when my mom decided to round them up, and give them to my boyfriend. So now they are mouldering away in a box in the garage. why, mom, why? What the heck are we supposed to do with them?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:58 PM on October 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have a CD with dozens of PB interviews. They are very good.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 PM on October 12, 2015


My dad ended up selling all of his back issues about 10 or 15 years ago. As a younger person it was interesting paging through them and seeing, among other things, how styles and fashions changed. The difference between what people wore in 1964 and, say, 1969 was fascinating. And as a teen in an age before the internet - gasp! - airbrushed nudity in an old men's magazine was better than old anthropological articles in Nat. Geo. Or no nudity at all.
posted by mosk at 11:19 PM on October 12, 2015


5_13_23_42_69_666: duh
posted by 7segment at 11:40 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad ended up selling all of his back issues about 10 or 15 years ago.

I was with my friend Mark in his house in Georgia helping him move some boxes that his brother-in-law was storing with him. Basements in Georgia flood a lot and this was the second time we had to move his brother-in-law's stuff. Mark, being the generous and patient man that he was, decided right then and there that we would throw them away. "I'll tell him they were ruined by the flooding," he says and begins to open them whereupon we discovered hundreds of porno mags - Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and a lot of titles never before seen.

"I bet these are worth some money," Mark says and we come up with a plan. His wife would call around to all of the used book stores around Atlanta to find out who would buy this stuff and who would pay most for it. And thus began one of the stranger evenings of my life, driving around with Mark, going from sketchy store to sketchy store, trying to sell everything.

We knock on the door of one place and someone comes to the door, but doesn't open it. "Do you buy porno mags?" my friend asks through the door. The woman makes a sign like she doesn't hear him, so Mark says very loudly, "DO YOU BUY PORNO MAGS?" at which point everyone on the parking lot looks over at us. The door opens slightly, and the woman says "Sorry, we're just the painters."

On to the next place. It's an ordinary used book store, with a creepy back room where the nudie mags were stored and the guy is ready to do business. "I'll give you 50 cents for Playboy, Penthouse, and any other mainstream mag in very good condition and a buck for anything else." Which was the price quoted over the phone so we start carrying in a few boxes. The guy picks up a stack of magazines and begins to thumb through them, leaving a large pile of discards.

"I'll sell you the whole lot for 100 bucks," Mark says.

"No deal," says the man.

At one point Mark grabs one of the magazines that the bookstore owner had selected and holding it against his chest says "I can't sell this one for fifty cents. It means too much to me." Flipping to some random raunchy page Mark points to one of the photos (which I remember but will not describe) and says "Look at that! You don't see stuff like that just anywhere." (This was 1988 and the statement was absolutely true.)

"No deal," says the man utterly stonefaced, you can keep it. Mark throws it back on his pile in defeat.

He buys maybe ten or fifteen magazines - mostly recent issues of Playboy and Penthouse - and a few others and we leave the store, passing all of the nice customers, carrying boxes full of the discards.

And so on and so forth we went from adult bookstore to adult bookstore in every part of Atlanta until the last box was sold.

Playboy had good resale value.
posted by three blind mice at 12:17 AM on October 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


Nope. Their problem is the opposite; there's such an absurd multitude of overt and flamboyant objectification that it's hard for the (rather tame) Playboy to keep their foothold in the market.

That may be true, but the key word you left out when you paraphrased me was "sexist." Playboy has a history of being sexist, Hugh Hefner is proud of it, it's their brand. And being sexist isn't cool. The Playboy name invokes a certain type of dude who has a hard time seeing women as anything but objects. That's their problem. There's plenty of other outlets for what they offer that don't have that baggage.
posted by mokin at 12:17 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


As far as my cultural awareness goes, I assumed that the magazine wasn't even relevant to Playboy any more - Playboy had transformed into branded products and franchised "mansions" in cities for event rentals. Like how the apple logo signifies supposedly nice consumer electronics, the playboy logo signifies supposedly luxury trappings of a recreational lifestyle that is privileged, risque, and carefree.
I guess I'm not surprised the magazine is still "important" to the brand, but I am a little surprised it's still seen as foundational. That strikes me as uneasy for the company - if they can't move their brand beyond the magazine to stand on its own, its cultural capital will fade with the magazine in a largely post-magazine world.
posted by anonymisc at 12:24 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Well son, you're getting about that age, and you've started to notice women. You're making the neighbor girls uncomfortable. I talked it over with your mother and she doesn't like it, but how about a subscription to Playboy?"

"No thanks, dad. But how about a subscription to Brazzers?!?"

"Brazwha?"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:27 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I assumed its main porn USP was that it could afford to pay celebrities like Lindsay Lohan etc to appear in it nude. That's something the internet doesn't do.
posted by colie at 7:50 PM on October 12 [+] [!]


That's something the internet doesnt do for about nineteen seconds while the scans are being posted. Then it's something the internet does very well.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:01 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Neither the articles nor the nudes were anything to get excited about the last time I looked at a Playboy. There didn't actually seem to be that many nudes, though I am not from a generation to which Playboy was very relevant so I don't actually know what to expect. If they were going to cut down on the outdated porn for some fiction and some real reporting that would be cool but it does pretty much sound like they are just going to be Maxim - maybe with brow one notch higher? - which is really boring. If you're going to keep the titillating images you might as well try to do better (take that as you personally prefer) porn.
posted by atoxyl at 1:15 AM on October 13, 2015


That's something the internet doesnt do for about nineteen seconds while the scans are being posted. Then it's something the internet does very well.
Also, the Internet has few qualms about bypassing the part where you ask the celebrity for their permission and compensate them accordingly.
posted by dumbland at 1:19 AM on October 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


The internet, sadly, has few qualms about anything.

I wish Playboy well. I don't expect they will survive.
posted by Justinian at 1:30 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you're talking about the brand alongside Apple or Nike or something, it's been a total joke for decades. I mean, the old guy in the dressing gown? Like the total, total opposite of cool.
posted by colie at 2:19 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


All I can think is "So this is what victory looks like."

Because Hugh Hefner and the Playboy empire/ethos, by any conceivable definition, won. Are they now vaguely silly, mostly pathetic relics? Sure. But he's happy, and he's been happy for a long, long time, and he did exactly what he set out to do, and has had a huge impact on American (and global) society over the last half-century. Hell, if he'd died at the theoretical average of 72 in 1999, he would have gone out completely and utterly on top.
posted by Etrigan at 3:46 AM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm going to hunt down that old lady at the corner drug store who, in 1958, yelled at me and threw me out of the store for taking this off to the corner in order to look at read the nudes articles. And I'm going to look her in her old, crusty eyes and say "Are you happy now you old hag???!!!!"
posted by HuronBob at 4:03 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see it as just the same race-to-the-bottom

Racing away from the bottom, shirley?

Over in the UK, the Sun newspaper had some fun earlier this year with its detractors by pretending it was going to drop Page 3, the venerable tits-out institution it'd been running for decades, got all the publicity for that by not running it for a couple of weeks (without ever saying anything) and then started it up again.

I suppose the saying that every new technology is used for porn has its counterpoint - when a technology stops being used for porn, it's officially dead...
posted by Devonian at 4:13 AM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wherever will I go to find naked women now?
posted by jonmc at 4:59 AM on October 13, 2015


Relevant: Playboy Feminism™: how the gentleman’s porn rag co-opted the women’s movement

It would be fairly easy to make the case that this is the magazine's logical next step in the argument outlined in that link.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:24 AM on October 13, 2015


From the New York Times article about the changes:

The target audience, Mr. Flanders said, is young men who live in cities. “The difference between us and Vice,” he said, “is that we’re going after the guy with a job.”

I can feel the burn from here.

Back in the day they really did publish amazing journalism and fiction, and it would be interesting if, like Vice, they could leverage a small amount of titillating photos into a much larger array of high quality content. If Playboy was able to get back to the kind of written material it had in the 1970s, I would be a reader -- seeing old issues now is amazing in terms of the writers they published, issue after issue, and the challenging fiction they were willing to include.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:41 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Noah Berlatsky's writing for the new Playboy now? Well, he would be their perfect symbol, now that he's moved on from being comics criticism's resident unconvincing feminist.
posted by thetortoise at 5:51 AM on October 13, 2015


It'd be cool if they republished some of that old fiction and interviews along with new ones in this transition away from n00dz.
posted by echocollate at 5:54 AM on October 13, 2015


I'm going to hunt down that old lady at the corner drug store who, in 1958, yelled at me and threw me out of the store for taking this off to the corner in order to look at read the nudes articles. And I'm going to look her in her old, crusty eyes and say "Are you happy now you old hag???!!!!"

The good news is you'll almost surely be yelling at her typoed tombstone at this point.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:26 AM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wherever will I go to find naked women now?

I hear they have the Internet on computers now, jonmc!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:31 AM on October 13, 2015


It'd be cool if they republished some of that old fiction and interviews along with new ones in this transition away from n00dz.

Add new stories of Little Annie Fanny, and I'm in. Who are the modern day equivalents of Kurtzman and Elder?

We have no modern day equivalents of Kurtman and Elder?

Nevermind.

posted by Capt. Renault at 6:36 AM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


There was always such a weird uncanny valley aspect to the images of the models in Playboy that I could never really find them sexy. I'm sure that the actual models were very attractive people but the art department did their best to air-brush (and then later photoshop) all of the human detail off them.
posted by octothorpe at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The appeal of Playboy was the nudity.

Nabokov said he liked it for the jokes. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
posted by BWA at 6:41 AM on October 13, 2015


From the Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner: "Who still reads Playboy? I don't know, I guess it depends on who's shitting" - Adam Carolla
posted by dr_dank at 6:49 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


We still have Hustler at least.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 AM on October 13, 2015


They're also said to be wooing Kilgore Trout from his plum gig at Wide Open Beavers.
posted by dr_dank at 7:03 AM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fun fact: in 1979, Doonesbury ran some strips featuring Boopsie posing for Playboy (at her boyfriend B.D.'s request). Yes, airbrushing was mentioned.
posted by Gelatin at 7:12 AM on October 13, 2015


So we will actually be able to put Playboy out with the rest of the magazines at the library! That'll shock a lot of our browsing patrons. We'll probably keep putting the new copies behind the desk anyway - people will have to get used to the fact that they can't just grab-and-run and get a bunch of nudie nudes. All articles? Damn!!

We have Playboy's entire run at our library. It's professionally bound and in the sequestered stacks. Several months ago we had a group of outside contractors working on something maintenance-related in the building. I went to the sequestered stacks to get an old car repair manual, and stumbled across them sitting on their lunch coolers in a circle, flipping through our old Playboys. When I came into the room their heads snapped up and they looked as guilty as 12-year-olds caught by mom.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:13 AM on October 13, 2015 [24 favorites]


For me, the loss of Playboy screams the loss of a classic James Bond type of guy.
I could never be that guy, but I want to live in a world where I have the possibility of meeting him.
Yet again, another blow to culture, class, style, and sexism.
I know what everybody is getting for X-Mas...72 days to go...I've never been done this early.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:13 AM on October 13, 2015


So we will actually be able to put Playboy out with the rest of the magazines at the library! That'll shock a lot of our browsing patrons. We'll probably keep putting the new copies behind the desk anyway .

Brings back fond memories of working on a paper about Thomas Pynchon and finding that the only source for many of his short stories was Playboy, and possibly Esquire. There was something very fun about requesting multiple bound volumes from behind the desk.

Second only to finding a slightly mildewed stack next to someone's garbage bins when I was 12 (thanks again, kind sir, for leaving them outside the can).
posted by rtimmel at 7:24 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


porn in the woods, please pick up the white courtesy phone.
posted by dr_dank at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Call me when they're doing Sexy Kinfolk.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:08 AM on October 13, 2015


I have never come across any evidence of my dad having interest in porn, nudie mags, whatever. The closest he gets to appreciation of nubile young ladies is when fully clothed college girls canvass our neighborhood for the environment, and he thinks they're cute so he can't help giving them money.

Nevertheless, when he heard that Katarina Witt had posed nude in Playboy's December 1998 issue, he politely expressed his interest in viewing it. He didn't even know how to get a copy in a way that wouldn't be skeevy. He ended up borrowing it from the friends of my mom who had mentioned it in the first place, by which I mean that he obtained it and then gave it back about a week later as if it were, say, a cookbook.

So fast forward to a few years later, and I was at the local Friends of the Library book sale. And RIGHT THERE, next to the register manned by snooty emeritus professors and their wives, sat a copy of that issue. For 25 cents. Of course I bought it. I gave it to my dad for Christmas. I have no idea where it is now.

Of course, I perused it myself, For Science. I'm pretty sure it had some sort of airbrushed centerfold of blond twins or something, but the Katarina Witt feature was actually quite lovely. She was outdoors in the mountains, looking very natural in weight and styling (although, let's be honest, one of the shots was of her doing a naked handstand in the snow for no reason).

Anyway, the whole thing made me giggle. I love telling people about it, because it illustrates just how out of the loop we seem to be on the more prurient side of things.

For the life of me, though, I can't stop describing it as "actually, Katarina Witt had a very tasteful spread."
posted by St. Hubbins at 8:17 AM on October 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Regardless, this move isn't going to work them any wonders. It's a desperate move to save a sinking ship. I suppose they'll be able to limp along, but Playboy will never be relevant again. The culture has moved on, and the overt and flamboyantly sexist objectification that Playboy symbolizes is losing it's appeal.

I don't think it's so much lost its appeal as gone mainstream and splintered into many different channels. If guys want Playboy without actual nudity, they get Maxim or FHM. If guys want erotic material of a more, uh, extreme, nature, the entire internet awaits.

Playboy used to be "the place" for looking at pictures of nude women. Now there are infinitely many places.
posted by theorique at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, the old guy in the dressing gown? Like the total, total opposite of cool.

The hell you say!
posted by Gelatin at 9:02 AM on October 13, 2015


having every pictoral not look like it was shot in 1990 might be a place to start.

I think I've seen about four issues of Playboy in my life, but a lot of the poor-quality nudes I downloaded from BBSs in the 90s were probably scans of centerfolds. When I think of Playboy, I think of a white, french-cut bikini bottom paired with very high heels. It's not even a little bit sexy.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:46 AM on October 13, 2015


Who in the world is going to read Playboy for the articles? You can get those for free all over the internet!
posted by happyroach at 9:53 AM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


quaint [kweynt] (adj): attractively unusual or old-fashioned.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:58 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The idea was floated back in an interview in December. Given that they removed nudity from their website back in August, and quadrupled their unique visitors from 4 million to 16 million, this might be an interesting move to just be a "lifestyle brand". I guess the thinking is that you can't compete with the internet for porn, so try something else.
posted by nubs at 10:23 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the UK at least Playboy did try to become a 'lifestyle brand' a few years back with pretty disastrous results. They put cheap junk aimed at teenagers - possibly female teenagers - in Argos, which is a very downmarket shop.
posted by colie at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2015


The pink-for-girls stationery range was pulled after it started showing up at schools. I wonder what Norman Mailer thought.
posted by colie at 10:41 AM on October 13, 2015


(sheds tear)
posted by porn in the woods at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you're talking about the brand alongside Apple or Nike or something, it's been a total joke for decades.

Did you read the article?
The company now makes most of its money from licensing its ubiquitous brand and logo across the world — 40 percent of that business is in China even though the magazine is not available there — for bath products, fragrances, clothing, liquor and jewelry among other merchandise. Nudity in the magazine risks complaints from shoppers, and diminished distribution.
posted by psoas at 10:50 AM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes the perfume is still sold at Sports Direct - a place even lower down the chain than Argos in UK retailing. All I'm reflecting on is that the brand extension they've done previously has nothing to do with the literary and interview qualities of the mag. Maybe this is all a move upmarket.
posted by colie at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2015


Don't worry, the Playboy you grew up with will live on, in offensive image processing presentations.
posted by ckape at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've long thought of Esquire as Playboy without the full nudity, and it looks like Playboy's move will make it, not indistinguishable, but less distinguishable from Esquire. Both magazines seem to think I should be spending my housing budget on cars, my car budget on wardrobe, and my other car budget on wristwatches. They're not as interested in where I live—maybe they think I should live in a succession of swanky hotels and charging them to my nonexistent expense account.
posted by Flexagon at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cat Fancier magazine went the same way for the same reasons, and now it's just a husk, a pale shadow of its former glory. 216 pages of hardcore economic analysis punctuated by advertisements for flea treatments.
posted by um at 3:59 PM on October 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


One time while staying in the cabin where I grew up in upstate NY, (no internet, phone, or running water) for a few months my wife bought a bunch of 60s-80s playboys to use as photo references and collage materials for her artwork.

They made for good reading material for short stories and advice about what the best stereo equipment in 1970 was. Also great for the moment of my wife running out to the pond where I was bathing and yelling "oh my god you can see tasha yar's bush!"
posted by Ferreous at 4:20 PM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Cat Fancier stopped publishing nudes??
posted by webmutant at 4:28 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cat Fancier stopped publishing nudes??

You're now just one click away from every cat pic imaginable for free. And so it's just passè at this juncture.
posted by nubs at 7:33 PM on October 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


it's just passè at this juncture

Well, you say that...yet we're still talking about them...
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:44 PM on October 13, 2015


There was always such a weird uncanny valley aspect to the images of the models in Playboy that I could never really find them sexy. I'm sure that the actual models were very attractive people but the art department did their best to air-brush (and then later photoshop) all of the human detail off them.

I haven't seen all that many issues of Playboy, but my sense is that there was a period in the 1970s when they temporarily toned down the airbrushing and before the plastic surgery look became their big thing (so to speak).
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 PM on October 13, 2015


This will bring the Braille editions back into parity for sure.
posted by schyler523 at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2015


Entertainment for Women
For years I’ve known that my mother lived in New York City in the early 1960s and was a secretary before she married my father. Recently I was reminded that she’d worked at Playboy magazine. She said I knew this—how had I forgotten?

This was Playboy at its peak, when it was an intellectual magazine as well as a pinup, when people really did subscribe to it for the articles. But it was also when the Playboy Clubs were ridiculously popular and Nora Ephron was told that “women don’t write at Newsweek.”

I pictured my mom in a tight sweater typing away, wishing the world would change. Was this right? She agreed to an interview and the following conversation occurred by email over the course of several days.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:29 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, wow, Joe in Australia - thanks for the link, it's a really good read.

For me the anecdote that has always summed up the good AND bad aspects of Playboy is the story Ursula Le Guin tells about her sale to them. (She recounts it here, among other places.) They were an early fiction sale for her, and they paid better than ANYONE else at the time (not just pulps, but even mainstream slick magazines) - but they bylined the story "U.K. Le Guin", because women writers made their readership nervous.
posted by adrienneleigh at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2015


Fred Clark over at slactivist has used Donald Trump's reaction to this as the jumping off point for pretty terrific article on how nostalgia informs conservative punditry.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:02 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


In fairness to The Donald, what he said was not a reaction to this decision.

Slactivist bases its entire article on a quote from TPM's headline writer. TPM itself got the story from Politico, which quoted from an interview with Boston Herald Radio. (His 1990 Playboy interview comes up at 21:33; the relevant bit starts around 24:10.)

The bit Politico quotes is "Maybe I'll pass... It's not the same Playboy. In those days that was the hottest thing you can do," and that is indeed the core of what he had to say. While "the hottest thing you can do" is maybe hyperbole, the point he was making is non-controversial: Playboy's star has dimmed considerably in the past 25 years. This isn't nostalgia for an imagined past, or a reaction to the dropping of nude photos; it's just the facts. (That's why Playboy is shaking things up in the first place.)

Exactly how ironic this makes Slacktivist's argument is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:17 AM on October 21, 2015


How Playboy helped save science fiction.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2015


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