Will Playboy's Nude Photo Ban Make It Irrelevant?

Photo: Rex USA.
"I only read it for the articles." For decades, that's been a highbrow claim made by many a Playboy reader caught in possession of the notorious nudie mag. To be fair, the articles sandwiched between Miss October centerfolds have historically been excellent, with contributions from acclaimed writers like Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, and Roald Dahl.

Now, "I only read it for the articles" won't merely be a defense — it'll be the truth, and the only option.

Playboy CEO Scott Flanders confirmed to the New York Times that founder Hugh Hefner has agreed to stop running photos of naked women. Beginning with its March 2016 issue, the magazine will, however, continue to feature its Playmates of the Month in "provocative poses." A "sex-positive" female columnist is also being added.

It feels like a feminist victory, but Flanders told the paper that it's merely economics. With the Internet, readers no longer need to head to the newsstand to get an eyeful.

“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free," he explained. "And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

Flanders himself asked the question that's on everyone's mind: "You take nudity out, what’s left?”

Playboy's website might offer hope. The site saw a spike in traffic and a draw with younger readers when it stopped running nude photos in August. NSFW content scared many people off, but the less explicit makeover is in line with what one might expect from, say, Esquire or GQ.

The magazine is banking on its long-celebrated editorial content, including news reporting, fiction, and contributions from visual artists, to stay afloat. The pre-teen boy looking for a cheap thrill is long gone. In his place is a modern, city-dwelling man with an interest in topics beyond naked women.

“The difference between us and Vice, is that we’re going after the guy with a job," Flanders said of his new competition.

So, yes, it's the end of the era, but one we feminists are happy to wave off. Here's hoping the magazine proves that smart is a better seller than smut.

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