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Me, myself, and the editorial direction of Playboy Magazine

March 5, 2017

I’ve been reading Playboy for several years now. I know it’s a popular cliché to remark that most people just read it for the articles.  There’s a certain truth to that, because I find the articles to be often superb.  The interviews are insightful, entertaining, and deep. The new short fiction stories expose me to new writers every month, which is something I look for as an author. There are terrific reviews for new films, literature, and video games. And the Advisor section has always given great tips for modern men, ranging from sex to fashion to mixed drinks to social graces.

And yes, there are the nude pin-ups. And yes, that plays a lot into why I subscribe to the magazine. The female form is a beautiful work of art, and anyone who knows me knows how much I appreciate seeing it. Playboy magazine, despite any criticisms anyone may have against them, has always shown a flair for the composition and presentation of tasteful nude photography. Naked spreads are prominent and plentiful on the internet, but nothing comes close to this magazine for beautiful pictorials.


So for the many of you who aren’t fans of this magazine, it might surprise you to know that an editorial decision was made fourteen months ago that forever changed the magazine. Hugh Hefner’s era of pajama parties and house bunnies came to an end when he successfully sold the Playboy Mansion to a private buyer this year. (As part of the condition of the sale, he actually still gets to live at the mansion for the remainder of his life. Having the world’s oldest swinger toddle around your home could make dinner parties with your upper class friends a bit awkward, I’m sure, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)   The point is, Mr. Hefner, at age 90, is hanging up his saddle and the magazine itself found itself in need of re-invention.

In January of last year, Playboy officially decided to cease publishing nude pictorials. Now, one of its selling points has been that the magazine was created in 1953 for literate, cultured men who also happen to enjoy photos of nude ladies. Among their accomplishments is the fact it has a surprising history of groundbreaking interviews with luminaries such as Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, while also featuring the work of famed writers including Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer.

But after experimenting with removing nudity from the official website to see what would happen, the average on-line reader dropped to age 30 (that coveted millennial demo) from 47, which is roughly my age.  Web traffic quadrupled from four million to 16 million. It seemed like a no-brainer, I suppose.


The current editors felt that Playboy had accomplished its original mission for making the subject of sex less….well, dirty. Now, you can nudity everywhere. Their job was done, and it was time to focus on the articles and let these other horny websites do what they do.


So ever since then, Playboy has kept things relatively clean. There’s still racy pictorials, and they’re still stunningly beautiful. But they’ve been doing it without showing a nipple, to say nothing of those other lady parts.


As it turns out, shockingly, after several months of adjusting, I find myself actually okay with this.  I thought I’d hate it, but the less revealing pictorials are still gorgeous, and the articles have remained well-written and entertaining. The stuff that I was enjoying as much as the photos are still there.  And the best part? I can finally take my copy of Playboy with me when I have lunch at Wendy’s.  Oh sure, I’ll hide the cover because I don’t feel like explaining to freaked out conservative types that it’s totally a “PG-13” magazine now, but every page is more-or-less non-offensive now. I’ve enjoyed the new, buttoned-up version of the magazine for a little over a year now, and I’m finally at peace with this new era of Playboy.


Is Playboy Magazine slipping me a few bucks to shill for their magazine? Hell, I wish. I should be so lucky to sell them some original fiction. No, I’m not trying to directly promote their magazine, nor am I trying to convert the rest of you into reading this publication I enjoy. I’m only writing all of this to illustrate the irony of my decision to find peace with Playboy’s new direction.  Two days ago, I brought the latest copy (March/April 2017) with me when I went to lunch, and flipped through the pages.


Nipple. Nipple. Nipple. Two nipples. Bare ass. Some more nipples.


Essentially, they decided that getting rid of all nudity was probably a silly decision, and going forward they will return to publishing nude pictorials. Somewhere between the full frontals of two years ago and the more tasteful images of last year. So topless photography is back, which made this entire blog entry that I started crafting a few weeks ago before this second change of editorial direction, completely and totally moot.


I wallow in irony.

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