Since Hugh Hefner started publishing in the 1950’s Playboy Magazine has featured nude pictures of the worlds most beautiful women. The tradition is ending in March 2016 with a new updated style. There will still be pictures of beautiful women, but no longer fully nude.
In other words, Playboy is moving away from competing with Hustler and Penthouse, which has been getting more and more X-rated porn oriented, while Playboy sticks to tasteful artistic nudity, and has pushed its way into competing with Maxim, Esquire, and GQ which often get “A-list” celebrities to get nearly undressed but leave their “bits” covered.
I am not saying the move doesn’t make financial sense. They probably will get a bigger audience for their magazine, so I’m not actually against it.
What is worth talking about is the reasons behind the move and what it says about today’s society.
Blame the Internet
There are two reasons why this needed to happen, and the first is obvious. If you want to look at naked pictures there are plenty of sources online. The demand for professionally photographed, and perfectly airbrushed nude pictures has pretty much dried up due to online competition.
Playboy.com has taken down their nude picture library, with the accompanying pay-wall, and offered their article archive free, and has seen visits go up four fold.
For now, at least, that is the economic reality of the internet. (it will probably be changing soon but that is a whole different essay)
Welcome to puritanical America, where nudity = sex = evil
The other reason is “puritanical” America. Without nudity, Playboy can be sold on the iPad and Kindle, and in every grocery store magazine rack instead of behind the counter of a small number of convenience stores, thus becoming much more widely available.
Playboy is an international magazine, and in most parts of the world, it is not sold among the porn magazines. That is because, most of the planet understands there is a difference between nudity and sex. Here in America, we do not seem to understand this, somehow we have developed a unique mindset where nudity = sex.
And it is not just the prudish people who don’t get this. The reason why there are practically no public clothing optional beaches and pools in America is because too may people think that public sex is also OK in these places. (it’s not, get a room)
But it is also the prudish people, and the pervasive anti-feminist culture that believes that sexy outfits are a sign of consent. I keep having to remind people, if a naked woman says “NO”, it means “NO”!
Then there is the even more dangerous belief that sex = evil. This seems to be a belief shared only by around half of America, and it is almost exclusively the social conservative half.
The key difference between “social conservative” and “social liberal” is that social conservatives are pro violence and anti sex, and social liberals are anti violence and pro sex.
Social conservatives, tend to be pro guns, pro military, pro war, pro death penalty, pro police militarization, pro tough punishment for law breakers, etc. = pro violence.
Social Liberals tend to be pro-choice, pro gay rights, pro legalization of drugs and prostitution, pro birth control availability, pro women’s rights, etc = pro sex.
It is the social conservatives who censor sex from media, and because “nudity = sex”, nudity also gets censored as well.
Because the mainstream media has to appease the social conservatives, magazines with non-sexual artistic nudity gets sent behind the counter, and off of Facebook and Instagram, and off the app store.
Artistic nudity has always been a sign of a freer and open society. Is our society getting more open with the internet? Or more closed off due to mainstream censorship?
Cocks Not Glocks
There is a lot to say about sex vs. violence in America. A lot of it is sad and pitiful, like how social conservatives keep lifting important restrictions on guns, but put as many restrictions as they can get away with on abortions, even though both are constitutionally protected.
But I at least got some relief on this front when a group from University of Texas Austin decided to protest a law allowing open carry of guns on campus by openly carrying dildos on campus. If that is not the perfect symbol for sex vs violence, I don’t know what is. If “ammosexuals” can display their signs of manhood openly, why can’t normal people?
The Bigger Problem
I have had a few misrepresent what I am saying here (not in the comments but elsewhere) so I thought I would add some clarification.
Now that Playboy has gotten rid of the nude pictures, it CAN NOW be sold openly in grocery stores and in major app stores, etc. where it couldn’t before. Available in more places will probably mean more sales.
This is just a symbol of a bigger problem.
Society allows certain stuff as MAINSTREAM and relegates everything else to HIDDEN status. Of course the internet has made accessing the hidden stuff much easier, but mainstream is still where the bigger audience is that is willing to spend money.
What we hide and what we make mainstream is a measure of openness in society. Quoting from the Guardian piece I cited earlier:
This hatred for the body, enunciated by key Christian thinkers including St Paul, expresses itself in art as a contempt for women, a portrayal of the supposed poisonous truth behind the lie of beauty.
When you realise this is what they were rebelling against, it is impossible to keep up the unhistorical, hackneyed view that sees artists like Titian and Rubens as old sexist masters slavering voyeuristically over naked women.
Not only do medieval images exclude or demonise the nude, but late medieval portraits in northern Europe cover as much of women’s flesh as they can with tightly fitting headresses. The bodies of women are dangerous, they can bewitch you.
By contrast the loving, luscious nudes of the Italian Renaissance can be properly understood not as 500-year-old icons of the patriarchal gaze but liberating, even empowering images of women set free from religious hatred. […]
Surveying art history, it just does not seem that nude images have ever been the best way to oppress anyone. Societies that praise naked beauty tend to be democratic – the nude was invented in ancient Athens and revived by Italian republics – and forward looking.
Cultures that fear and suppress naked art are more likely to be religiously hidebound and to control and fear women.
So what do we hide today? Where do we draw the line dividing MAINSTREAM and HIDDEN?
The line is drawn at female nipples.
Hide nipples and you can be mainstream, show nipples and you are relegated to the hidden pile.
Historically, women are better off during eras where nudity is not a big deal. Unfortunately, in America today it is a big deal, otherwise prime time broadcast TV and Facebook wouldn’t be so scared of it.
And it shows in today’s society: Abortion restrictions, lack of equal pay, lack of women in the growing tech sector, crap like gamergate still going on with the goal to suppress women, rape culture, etc.
I’m not saying that allowing nipples on TV will suddenly solve all our gender issues, I’m saying that we need to move the line to change social attitudes towards women that will make gender issues easier to deal with.
Because also in the HIDDEN pile is more explicit stuff that objectifies women, sending the wrong message. Lumping positive images of female sexuality in with the negative makes it equal in societies eyes leading to the oppression of ALL female sexuality.
An open society, would have allowed Playboy level nudity to become mainstream, instead Playboy has to drop the nudity to become mainstream, that is my bigger point.