Big Changes at Playboy Magazine

The Iconic Men’s Magazine Will No Longer Publish Nude Photos

Playboy bunnies in 1963. Getty Images

For decades Playboy magazine has been known for its titillating nude photo spreads and centerfolds. However, a new era is upon us. The magazine will no longer include nude photos as of March 2016 issue.  The U.S. print edition of Playboy will be modernized to look more like men’s magazines, such as Esquire or GQ, which currently carry more PG-13-type pictures. However, Playboy’s international editions will still publish nude photos.

A New Era

In a letter to readers on Playboy.com, the magazine addressed the momentous change: “The question everyone will likely be asking is, “Why?” Playboy has been a friend to nudity, and nudity has been a friend to Playboy, for decades. The short answer is: times change.

When Hef created Playboy, he set out to champion personal freedom and sexual liberty at a time when America was painfully conservative. See: any popular movie, TV show or song from that era. Nudity played a role in the conversation about our sexual liberties, and over 62 years the country made great strides politically and culturally.

We like to think we had something to do with that.”

Playboy, like other forms of print media, has also seen a marked decrease in readership. In its heyday, Playboy had a circulation of 5.6 million in 1975.   According to the Alliance for Audited Media, its circular is a mere 800,000 now.

Last year Playboy launched a safe-for-work website that can be viewed any where without fear of pornographic images popping up, which has resulted in younger viewers and more readership overall—quadrupling from 4 million to 16 million visitors.

The ubiquity of nudity in today’s world—versus when Playboy launched in 1953—has forced the magazine to get with the times. Pay-per-view soft core porn images have a very limited audience in a world where one can view full-length hardcore films for free in a matter of a few keystrokes.

What does this mean for women?

For one, the magazine will feature a new sex columnist, one that Playboy’s chief content officer Corey Jones has said will be a “sex-positive” woman who will write enthusiastically about sex.

This particular change is not insignificant and suggests that discussions of sex in the magazine have the potential to be transgressive.

Playboy, which calls itself a cultural arbiter of beauty, taste, opinion, humor and style, will also continue its tradition of investigative journalism, in-depth interviews, and fiction. They are hoping that the de-emphasis on nudity will court big name stars and writers that were previously put off by the magazine’s racy content.

Since the magazine is no longer relying on nude photos to draw in readers, their choices for future cover girls are reflecting the shift in focus. According to the Hollywood Reporter, openly feminist pop songstress Taylor Swift is Playboy’s first choice for the inaugural non-nude edition in April 2016. It remains to be seen if Swift will agree to the cover.

Nevertheless, opponents of pornography, whether hard or soft core ​and those who believe that media outlets like Playboy exploit women are unlikely to be swayed by Playboy’s move away from nude pictures.  And, indeed, considering that the magazine’s target demographic is young men, one can imagine that the magazine’s impact will be not unlike other men’s magazines such as Maxim, GQ, or Esquire—none of which are known for woman-friendly content and entertainment.