October 13, 2015


Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.

In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Mr. Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: the magazine, a leader of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.

Mr. Hefner, now 89, but still listed as editor in chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.

Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.

Perhaps the goal here is to temporarily remove nudity from Playboy to then allow the magazine to send out a press release in another year or two saying they’re back to (pardon the pun) goose sales. But if porno mags in general have indeed lost their shock value, I wonder what comes next in the ongoing Weimar-ification of American culture?

Related: “When Penthouse was in its heyday, few would have guessed that it would be outlived by, of all things, Mad magazine. Yet while Guccione’s dynasty is now an Ozymandian rubble of tits and ass, Alfred E. Neuman can still be seen leering out from magazine racks around the nation, a kind of silent rebuke to all the supposedly smart sophisticates he’s seen come and go.”

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