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The Naked Truth about Playboy

Playboy, in all its nude glory, was a socially accepted magazine
By The News · 23 of February 2017 09:19:28
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, No available, photo: Flickr

It was sort of like Sports Illustrated deciding to ban coverage of athletic events from its editorial content, or Good Housekeeping doing away with recipes and homemaking advice, or Vogue excluding fashion and style tips on its pages.

Yes, when the staff at Playboy came up with the seemingly unfathomable idea last year to eliminate nudity its magazine, it was the editorial equivalent of hara-kiri.

And as a result, its circulation took a major nosedive, from a peak of 5.6 million in the 1970s to less than 700,000 last year.

But practically 12 months to the day after that incongruous commercial blunder, the magazine’s chief creative officer, Cooper Hefner, son of Playboy founder and promiscuous bon viveur icon Hugh Hefner, realized that … oops … naked bodies sell magazines and seductive sweeties were what the company was all about.

And so, the new March/April issue has a come-hither nude photograph of Dallas beauty Elizabeth Elam on the cover with the unabashed caption “Naked in Normal.”

Not that I am encouraging the objectification of women, but, let’s face it, most of Playboy’s faithful subscribers for the last half century (the publication has been around since 1953) were not buying the magazine for its political commentaries.

Granted, with the recent surge of overly explicit internet porn and a glut of tawdry tabloid rags that would make the likes of Larry Flynt blush, the relative tame images that appeared in Playboy seemed practically impeccant.

And I suppose that it was that if-you-can’t-beat-them-at-your-own-game-try-a-new-tactic philosophy that first inspired the novel politically correct nudeless editorial policy.

But in a way, it was precisely the comparatively sophomoric immaculateness of Playboy’s nude shots that made it so appealing.

Playboy, in all its nude glory, was a socially accepted magazine.

It was naughty enough to be tantalizing without leading to divorce if a wife caught her husband reading it in his study.

The pictures were suggestive and provocative, but not crude or vulgar.

“Today, we are taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are,” the younger Hefner tweeted as his company leaked images of the new cover with the latest playmate in her God-given birthday suit.

To appease younger, more progressive-minded readers, the March/April edition also includes an article by actress Scarlett Byrne in defense of public breastfeeding and a “user’s guide” to cannabis consumption.

Political correctness is all well and good, and the rapidly evolving perceptions of gender and sexuality have redefined eroticism in the digital age.

But in the end, Playboy was always an old boy’s journal that appealed to generations of men who were looking for a little titillation that would not get them labeled as a sex pervert.

So while some feminists may scoff at Playboy’s reversal of its nudity policy, the majority of its readers seem to be pleased with the return of the unclothed playmate.

And that will no doubt lead to higher sales and a healthier (naked) bottom line for its publishers.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at therese.margolis@gmaiol.com.