The iconic mag will be nudie no more.
There’s nothing wrong with leaving a little to the imagination.
I just don’t think it’s a good idea for the pages of Playboy. After all, what’s a skin magazine without the skin?
The magazine recently announced that, after 62 years, it would no longer be featuring naked women. They’ll be scantily clad, of course, and tucked in with high- quality magazine writing.
But it’s letting the Internet take care of society’s baser, barer needs, as it has for a while now — for better or worse, and for free, to boot.
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“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders told The New York Times last week. “And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
The redesign will be unveiled next March, in the hopes that the new approach will reverse the magazine’s $3 million annual losses.
Playboy’s website has already put its clothes on, and results were quick, and encouraging: The average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30, and its Web traffic quadrupled, from 4 million to 16 million unique users a month, according to the Times story. That’s likely because it’s no longer blocked at work and school computers.
It all sounds promising to Stacy Marie Fuson, a Tacoma native who was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in February 1999, and went on to be the St. Pauli Girl spokesmodel in 2005.
“I think it’s going to be bigger now,” Fuson said of Playboy’s profile. “If you make the site non-nude, and it’s beautiful women in bikinis and lingerie, it’s better than stuff on the Internet.
“It’s beautiful, and will increase their audience.”
It’s a nice thought, preserving one’s dignity while the sexual marketplace expands and devolves, but I don’t think Playboy is going to make it. Without nudity, it’s just another so-called “lad-mag” like Maxim and FHM. Even Vanity Fair features barely dressed starlets alongside its narrative journalism.
It was Playboy that always upped the ante and got them to strip down. Without that wink and a smile, well, the magazine will be like any other.
However you feel about nudity, or how women are seen or want to be seen, this is a moment.
Playboy was part of the start of the sexual revolution, and became an established brand that integrated sexuality with other aspects of culture, that put between two covers the fiction of authors like Joyce Carol Oates and encounters with U.S. presidents.
There is always the centerfold that fell open like an unlatched door, revealing that month’s Playmate, and her take on the iconic Playboy Questionaire (Turn ons, turn offs, guilty pleasure) which comedian Amy Schumer had some fun with a few months back.
Sometimes, the centerfold was a familiar face for whom stripping down and posing was giving the people what they wanted — but on their terms. Elle Macpherson. Farrah Fawcett. Cindy Crawford, who posed three times.
Others turned to Playboy as the place to undo whatever damage they did while dressed. Shannen Doherty. Lindsay Lohan.
All of them shared space with well-reported, longform pieces about politics; a review of, say, scotches; short stories by an up-and-coming (sorry) writer and an interview with an icon like Bob Dylan.
That content seemed edgier and sexier for sharing space with pictures of naked women, and the pictures, in turn, were legitimized by the articles.
The Internet may cut to the chase of whatever turns you on, but then what?
Fuson has seen what’s available on the Internet — including her own Playboy spread, stolen from the magazine’s site.
“Cease-and-desist letters are sent out all the time,” she told me. “It’s very disappointing. If I knew what the Internet was going to be, I might not have posed.”
With the change, she said, that may not happen as much — and more people will have access to Playboy content.
“This is going to set us apart from what you see online,” Fuson assured me. “They said, ‘We’re going to do something different. Let’s keep our standards high and keep our circulation.’
“Now that society is out of control, they are going to take it down a notch. If anybody can do semi-nudity well, it’s going to be Playboy.”
But the naked truth? Without the bare breast and bottoms, it’s barely Playboy.