The March 2016 edition of playboy will be radically new. For the first time since its first edition in 1953, the magazine will not have any pictures of naked women. But the curious thing is why the editors of Playboy have taken this route. Quoted in a New York Times piece called Nudes Are Old At Playboy the company’s chief executive, Scott Flanders,  tells us why:

“That battle has been fought and won,…….You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

The article continues:

“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.”

The reason for Playboy radically changing its policy on nudity is not because it is morally wrong to show nude women, but because it no longer makes economic sense. But I hoped you notice that Flanders is still seeing this as a victory. He is saying that Playboy has so pushed the boundaries that what was once shocking has now become so mainstream it is boring and no longer commercially viable.  There is a profound sense that Playboy has won and now the culture has radically shifted.

Even Feminists like Ariel Levy has noticed this cultural shift and laments it. In her insightful book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, after detailing the ubiquitous new culture of female sexuality Levy says this:

“What was almost more surprising than the change itself were the responses I got when I started interviewing the men and — often — women who edit magazines like Maxim and make programs like The Man Show and Girls Gone Wild. This new raunch culture didn’t mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We’d earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.

When I asked female viewers and readers what they got out of raunch culture, I heard similar things about empowering miniskirts and feminist strippers, and so on, but I also heard something else. They wanted to be “one of the guys”; they hoped to be experienced “like a man.” Going to strip clubs or talking about porn stars was a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they weren’t “prissy little women” or “girly-girls.” Besides, they told me, it was all in fun, all tongue-in-cheek, and for me to regard this bacchanal as problematic would be old-school and uncool.”

She continues:

“Despite the rising power of Evangelical Christianity and the political right in the United States, this trend has only grown more extreme and more pervasive in the years that have passed since I first became aware of it. A tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular. What we once regarded as a kind of sexual expression we now view as sexuality. As former adult film star Traci Lords put it to a reporter a few days before her memoir hit the best-seller list in 2003, “When I was in porn, it was like a back-alley thing. Now it’s everywhere.” Spectacles of naked ladies have moved from seedy side streets to center stage, where everyone — men and women — can watch them in broad daylight. Playboy and its ilk are being “embraced by young women in a curious way in a postfeminist world,” to borrow the words of Hugh Hefner.”

Levy and Hefner both imply and that Playboy has won, but who has been defeated? According to Levy and Hefner both feminists and moral conservatives have lost. But why does this matter?

Let me get personal for a moment. I have a daughter who is beautiful in every way imaginable. The scary thing for me as her father is that one day she will be compelled to feel that her worth as a woman and as a human will be based on a ridiculous notion of sexuality that Hefner and Playboy proliferated. I, as a parent, am working so hard to show her that, even though she is beautiful, she is more than her looks and when she blossoms into a young woman I will have to work doubly hard to help her see that she is created in the image of God and, therefore, is worthy of dignity, honour and respect even if she doesn’t fit into a distorted and impossible to attain stereotype of female sexuality. I am grieved at the news of Playboy no longer having naked women in their magazine not because I want to have naked women in the newsstands but because  it once again shows the world we live in and gives a foretaste of the world my daughter will be a teenager in. It is the world which Edith Wharton prophesied about in 1915  when she said “What a woman was criticised for doing yesterday she is ridiculed for not doing today” And that, for me as a parent, is a scary thing.


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