Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

No more nudes in Playboy

Playboy CEO Scott Flanders with a company perk


This week Playboy announced that from March 2016 there will no longer be any nude women depicted in the magazine.  It wasn't completely unexpected. Chief Executive Scott Flanders said in an interview back in December 2014 that a nude free Playboy was possible, although it was generally assumed that this would have to wait until founder Hugh Hefner was no longer in charge.  Flanders is very much from the slash and burn school of management and has been going through Playboy like a dose of salts, cutting all but 11 of the original 500 plus staff and replacing them with a few dozen top managers. Playboy magazine loses about $3 million a year (which is an improvement on the situation when he took over, where it was losing $12 million) and the magazine division only makes money because of the overseas edition licences. The magazine is a loss leading advertisement for the brand with an 800,000 a month circulation; down from over 5 million in the seventies. Discussions about this bombshell have ranged from: It's giving in to militant feminists to it's all about their social media friendliness.  Most commentators have suggested that because there is so much more extreme nudity freely available on the internet there is no need for it in print (a dying medium, anyway, they claim).  Playboy's Scott Flanders, seemed to support this view, saying: “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.” 


No nudes in Lady Chatterley


Now, this is an argument we have recently seen elsewhere.  The BBC's recent new adaption of Lady Chatterley's Lover contained no nudity, with writer Jed Mercurio saying: "sex scenes don't excite me because they have no emotional content."  Lead actor, Richard Madden, maintained that the depiction of nudity was pointless in the age of Google.

Now we will look at Playboy's reasoning shortly but first lets look at the very similar statements regarding the point that there is no point showing nudity in TV drama as you can see it all on the internet.  This is ill-thought out nonsense and dangerous nonsense, because it conveniently helps to shove all eroticism into the ghetto of porn where puritans, extreme feminists and religious maniacs can get it increasingly contained in an online box where nice people don't go, especially if you set up (perhaps with the help of a conniving government) enough filters on your computer and ISP.




It is patently absurd to equate all representations of nudity with porn.  There is a great deal of difference between a Lucien Clergue nude (above) and the grimy, mechanical couplings produced in ugly warehouse in the San Fernando valley.  Yet, Playboy are essentially saying 'who needs our rather modest nudes as everyone prefers porn'. Actually, they don't, and this is another reason why Playboy magazine is a shadow of its nineteen seventies self.  There are people, including many women, who like an artistic nude but are repelled by gynaecological studies of unattractive, silicone-enhanced, pierced, tattooed, shaven women.  Are we now saying that because you can look at ugly people having joyless poorly photographed sex on the internet you don't need or want pictures where some effort and creativity has gone into creating a pleasingly erotic image?


Lady Chatterley's Lover BBC (1993)


The Lady Chatterley argument is identical, which is, essentially: What is the point in having naked sex scenes on TV when you can look at more extreme material on the internet?  Well, we would argue that using the internet is a solitary activity, whereas watching TV is a social activity. Many couples enjoy watching erotic scenes on TV together.  The two are not mutually exclusive experiences. and just because porn exists doesn't mean that you shouldn't have erotic TV scenes as well.   Some people prefer erotic but less explicit representations of sex. A porn or nothing approach does not serve these people.  Interestingly, there was an uproar after Lady Chatterley was shown last month as people were complaining it wasn't erotic or explicit enough.  The real issue is that it is difficult to film successful erotic scenes.  It's like effective action sequences, you need directors who know what they are doing. But if you are filming a famously erotic book then, by not including those aspects, or diluting them, then you fail to do justice to the original material (likewise, the BBC removed the swearing which was in the original book).  This was a groundbreaking novel which changed the nature of censorship in Britain in 1960.  The BBC's version would have puzzled today's younger viewers as regards its controversial history.  However, the BBC are currently being driven by commercial concerns.  The licence fee, which all UK TV viewers have to pay to fund the state broadcaster, is under threat.  They are caught on a Morton's Fork of having to be careful they don't upset the current puritanical government and by showing they produce top quality programming but also producing TV which beats commercial stations' offerings in the ratings.  This means producing TV that can be sold to American networks, so all that nasty sex has to be taken out
.

Joely Richardson in Lady Chatterley's Lover


Interestingly, the BBC's 1993 version of Lady Chatterley, with Sean Bean and Joely Richardson was much more revealing but it attracted a lot of complaints because of this and, perhaps, the BBC were nervous about the new version as a result.  However, this was over twenty years ago and, ironically, the existence of the internet has made hard core pornography easily viewable to those who, if interested, just couldn't access it at that time, particularly in Britain.  Download speeds in those days didn't permit the viewing of video.  So today's adults are less likely to be shocked than those of twenty years ago.




Playboy's reasons for going non nude (other than providing an inevitable boost for the next six month's worth of sales) are, they argue, more to do with the huge jump in viewing figures to their Playboy website when they removed the nudes (the views quadrupled and the average age of the viewer dropped from 47 to just over 30).  They want their advertisers to be seen by as many people as possible without sites being blocked by company and university filters.  No doubt they think the same might apply to the print magazine.  If they take the nudes out they will be able to sell it in more outlets.  For example, in Britain you cannot buy Playboy, or any other men's magazines that feature nudes (women's magazines excepted, of course), at Britain's largest newsagent WH Smith (except for those in stations and airports which are owned by a different company), which has over 600 High Street branches.  Taking the nudes out could well get them back into these stores.

From this site's point of view, although we love the older pictorials from Playboy until the late eighties, since then the standard of their photography of women has plummeted. Ironically, Flanders thinks the photography has improved but he is a businessman not an artist.  This is the main reason we feature so few Playmates from recent years. So, a number of questions remain for Playboy going forward.


Typical display of girl on Playboy.com


Are they going to employ some decent photographers to produce some interesting images?  The photos of clothed models on their main site are uniformly dull or are of the selfie/Instagram type.  Pictures of women in underwear shot with bright flash and very little artistry whatsoever.  In addition, the pictures are small and don't appear to be downloadable.  Sadly, Playboy have said that they are going for the Instagram type approach.  So much for art.


No more like Emily Agnes?


Will they still have a centrefold?  Playboy claims it hasn't decided and the successful relaunch of the French magazine Lui (now a far better publication than Playboy) saw them abandoning the centrefold, although they still have plenty of naked women.  We suppose that there are precious few workplaces left where you are allowed to pin up a pin up, anyway.


Cybergirl Sapphira shows all for Playboy Plus


Will the Playmates (and models) still appear nude in Playboy Plus?  Will there be two versions of their pictorials (as they used to do for US and Japanese editions), one for the print version and one for their subscription site?  None of the articles about the Playboy website we have read this week mention their subscription site Playboy Plus.  Although there are, indeed, no nudes at Playboy.com, all the old Playmate photos and new content, such as cybergirls, are available in all their naked glory on Playboy Plus.  Over the last couple of years the women (other than the Playmates themselves) who pose for this site have been posing in a far more explicit way than girls ever did in the magazine's history.  The site isn't actually run by Playboy any more, it was outsourced to the Luxembourg based porn empire Manwin (now MindGeek).  Playboy bought back the rights (at great expense) to Playboy.com in 2014 but Playboy Plus is still controlled by MindGeek, for which they pay a $14 million a year licence fee.  Scott Flanders said that transferring the site to Manwin was a mistake and was concerned about the link between the Playboy name and the other hardcore sites in MindGeek's stable.  Equally, MindGeek have been trying to reduce their licence payment as the site isn't generating the hoped for revenue.  So, how will MindGeek feel if Playboy stop supplying them with pictures of naked Playmates?  Yes, they have plenty of cybergirls (sourced from MindGeek sites and featuring lots of Eastern European women) now spreading their legs in  a very un-Playboy like way but without the cachet of the Playboy content what future is there for what is, otherwise, a comparatively less explicit site charging a premium price.  What will Playboy do about their archive of sixty years of naked Playmate pictures in their new nude free world?

Flanders realises that the value of Playboy is the iconic brand not the magazine.  Playboy made 40% of its income from licensed clothing and products sold in China, where the magazine has never been on sale and where there is strict censorship of nudity.  The previously mentioned WH Smiths were castigated here a few years ago for selling rabbit head branded pencil cases aimed at school girls.  Will Playboy ever be able to distance itself enough from its naked past to become the all encompassing lifestyle brand it obviously wants to be?  That is the multi-million dollar question.


24 comments:

  1. Triple P, You have cited the business reasons why Playboy dumped the nudes but I think you've overlooked the possibility that 89-year-old Hugh Hefner has "lost the plot" as you might politely say in the UK. Didn't he always say that nudes were what really made Playboy special? I notice that you never see anything about his coming and goings in "The World of Playboy" section at the beginning of the magazine anymore; at least not in any recent issues that I've seen. This is a suicidal decision that will make the magazine an Esquire or Maxim imitator. And what about the frisson of the Playboy brand that they market so well? I suspect this decision will be overturned soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's similar to the decision by The Sun newspaper in the UK to stop publishing pictures of topless women.

      Playboy.com has a lot of really quite feminist articles these days, Maybe they want to make pPayboy a women's brand.

      Delete
  2. I've been buying Playboy for 25 years (been a subscriber for about the last 10 years), and as I've looked at issues of the magazine over the last few years, I've found there are fewer and fewer reasons for me to continue my subscription. This scrapping of nudity in the magazine is the very last piece of straw on the camel's back, as far as I'm concerned. I'll be cancelling my subscription to the magazine. I suspect they're only delaying the inevitable anyway. I can foresee the magazine closing within the next 10 years or so.

    As you mention, the future of Playboyplus.com is uncertain. In any case, my feelings are that Playboyplus.com is a shadow of the former Cyber Club. I could be wrong, but there seems to be a lot of Cyber Club content missing from Playboyplus.com. I cancelled my membership of the Cyber Club several years back, and just joined Playboyplus.com about a year ago. There seem to be pictorials I remember from the Cyber Club that are missing from Playboyplus.com, but as I say, I could be wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, you are right. There are many, many pictorials missing from the Cyber Club days, plus useful information such as which issues Playmates pictorials had been in. I suspect the new management has no interest in the magazine's heritage and may gradually push all nude content under the carpet.

      Delete
  3. I had no idea all this was going on with Playboy. What a shame. And regarding the Jed Mercurio comment, I have to say, sex scenes in movies can definitely be emotional; it just takes effort on part of the director and chemistry and good acting on the part of the actors to continue to tell the emotions of the story through the sexual encounter. That, in my opinion, is what often separates porn from erotica. If it's porn, it's sort of surfacy, non-emotional sex for sex's sake. When something is erotic, it tells a story, and there is at least some measure of emotion/feeling in the viewer as we watch it or read it, not only physical arousal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly right and just why it is worrying that these people are categorising all erotica as porn.

      Delete
  4. When I read the idiotic statement of Flanders that Playboy "has fought the battle and won" concerning nudity in the media my first thought was they just betrayed everything what they stood for. They didn't "won". They ran over to the enemy.

    Internet competition or not – which is an especially dumb argument as the net doesn't generate new content, it just distributes stuff from other sources -, nobody needs more of the prude crap magazines like Maxim do. This new PG13 approach just confirms the idea that nudity is wrong, nipples are offensive and pictures of nude woman equals porn. Just as the early Playboy was liberating and had a tremendous impact on our culture, this decision will do exactly the opposite. Playboy management should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

    At least some of the international editions have announced that they will continue with the nudes. Time will tell how long before they have to bow before the pressure of their licensor.



    ReplyDelete
  5. First, I have to say I agree with you 100%. Once again, puritans and pornographers are winning the war against freedom of speech, intelligence and erotica.

    The following is a comment I posted on Dani Mathers' FB page. I know Dani Mathers is not Agent Triple P's cup of tea nor mine physically, really, but I think she is sassy and charming. Dani asked what we thought about these changes. Most of the responses were in the range of "marry me" or "God, you're hot", but one thing is for sure: She may be the last Playmate of the Year to appear naked.

    ***
    Unfortunately, Instant sexting, cam, instagram and internet hardcore pornography won over erotic photography and art and intelligence. Porn addicts and prudes must be happy now that a magazine so important is cutting one of its best features. But this is also a desperate maneuver of Playboy to increase sales and being exposed in newsstands. I honestly blame all of us who don´t want to pay for our nude chicks, our music, our movies... and get access to extreme hardcore sex scenes with a click of a mouse. I was subscribed to Maxim magazine a while ago but stopped because the mag considered us men idiots, incapable of reading a science article or comparing two different audio systems next o a beautiful girl.

    Maxim and FHM are, in my opinion, targeted to single men looking to marry a trophy wife. They never cared about intelligence in both sexes.

    Playboy's next phase, in my opinion, will be an experiment, a-la Netflix. You want to see nipples? Subscribe to our magazine for a premium price. You want to have this magazine available in dentists offices and being able to read it on a Southwest airplane? Buy it on newsstands.

    Playboy has been suffering the plague of free nudes online for a while, the same way musicians have been struggling against free downloads and scam-like systems like Spotify, YouTube and Pandora. We readers know Hef and the gang would rather keep the magazine interesting with articles and philosophy (I assume sexual texts won't be affected since not too many people read anyway) while covering nipples, buttcracks and pussies. It does not matter if boobs and asses are printed or not, the most important thing is to keep readers informed and entertained regarding interesting things like healthy sexual relationships (i.e., to know what and where a clitoris is)

    Now I wonder if this will affect international versions like the superb German one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your point comparing the issue to free music is a good one. I really wonder if there problem is pursuing 18-30's. I think that her is a place in the market for a men's magazine aimed at the 40s and up (after all, older people like me prefer print magazines - I don't own a tablet because I cannot easily read text on it). This is a generation with disposable income, varied life experiences and a nostalgia for the days when they were younger...

      Delete
    2. Of course! It may sound crazy, but not everybody has a tablet, not everybody has a smartphone, and not everybody is that computer savvy. There are people who like to buy objects for their pleasure in stores: Magazines, CDs, Records, Videos, Books.

      I wonder why they are going to stop nudity in March 2016, maybe because that's the Playmate of the Year issue? Who will be the last naked playmate? I believe it will be a photoshopped European model, like several of the latest ones.

      Delete
    3. I really think that the younger generation have no concept of visual quality. How else can you explain why people want to watch films on tiny little phone and tablet screens?

      Delete
    4. Because those phones and tablets are theirs. It's a matter of egocentrism. Kids prefer to go to a show like Roger Waters' The Wall and see it completely through their tiny devices, for later to upload it in Youtube in a very poor quality. Same with erotica: As long as the girl is "camming" just to them or sexting a low res pic, and not showing their boobs to the whole world, it is OK.

      The pictures they're taking are not professional. Come on, the most popular "erotica" photographer nowadays is Terry Richardson! That gives you an idea of where picture quality is going in the mainstream.

      Delete
    5. ^^ Now you and I are friends, Mr. 3P. Greetings from California!

      Delete
  6. The is the beginning of the end for Playboy. Playboy magazine has been an American institution for over 60 years. The remaining readers and subscribers Playboy has, aren't buying the magazine just for the nude girls because, as the guy said, you're just one click away from all the porn and nudity you want on the Internet. However, the photos of the nude girls are part of what Playboy has always been about. Taking away that part won't boost sales, broaden readership, or see a flood of subscription orders from doctor's offices happy to finally add it to their waiting rooms. It will just be another thing Playboy no longer has and it will drive the final nail into Playboy magazine's coffin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they are fooling themselves if they think they can get away from their sexual past overnight in order to make themselves more widely acceptable. I recently read a book, for a paper I was writing on men's magazines, looking at Playboy from a feminist perspective and it constantly referred to Hefner as "the pornographer, Hugh Hefner", every time it mentioned him. You are not going to change these people's views of the magazine or brand they'll just say it was a brand built on six decades of exploiting women, instead. Defy them, don't give in to them!

      Delete
    2. Guccione never gave up, never sold out. He just surrender his erotic girlie mag to a bunch of graphic editors and brand specialists. But back in the good old days, he actually made their models have real sex in front of the camera. He's probably laughing at Hefner in his grave right now.

      Delete
  7. I certainly hope that the top management at Playboy Magazine reconsider their (horrible) decision to end nudity in Playboy Magazine! The whole reason for buying and "reading" Playboy, or any other type of erotica for that matter, is to become at least a bit aroused sexually, to feel ones loins begin to "turn-on". Indeed, this is the fundamental reason that teenage boys buy Playboy, and other erotic magazines, like the now defunct Penthouse. Taking out the graphic nudity, especially the un-retouched pictures of bare breasts and a Lady's splendid genitals, defeats the most basic reason for looking at erotica, at least from the perspective of a young male between the age of 16 and 36 years old. Many males of this age bracket, or even older, find it hard to get "hard" if they don't have a decent full-frontal picture of the model, or at least a rear-view pussy shot, or some picture suggesting that the Lady in question is really trying to arouse the viewer, by revealing some part of her female anatomy she wouldn't normally expose to open view. I really hope the staff at Playboy take a second look at their decision, and reevaluate why it is that most people buy and have bought Playboy magazine!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Think of men under 35...you can't get them to buy a print magazine at gun point. Do you think they're going to pick up a Maxim wannabe in a grocery store, no matter their demographics or who advertises in the magazine? No, of course not. Their web site has just been a click bait machine, like Buzzfeed; while it may serve as the lasting bulwark of the brand, the management is going to have a tough time scaling up to the point where it become self-sustaining.

    Playboy Plus has been featuring what appears to be a number of non-nude test shoots on the site for a couple of months, and they're awful (both models & photography), even including cosplay. They're taking the Instagram approach to its logical, and defeating, end. Of course, the quality of the photography has been abysmal for two decades. Also, while I hate to be the person to say that all of the models looked alike, there was just no significant difference in the models' appearance and body type for quite a while now.

    I heard a younger commentator on Bruce Buffer's podcast who said not only is he not interested in buying a print magazine, but he's also not interested in still photography, in general. He thought that most young men are primarily interested in video only, due to the availability of video on the Internet. But, he also made it clear that he saw a difference between just porn on a tube site, and the "softer" material Playboy will now no longer be offering. After Playboy is driven into the ground, and Mindgeek gives up on Playboy Plus, since that site has got to be hemorrhaging money at this point, maybe someone will come up with the idea that to attract intelligent men, of all ages, an online series, with nudity, intelligent stories, even with advertising, would be popular. Ultimately, I just received my subscription update offer in the mail, as my subscription runs out in April...just in time to let that expire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there is a place in the marketplace for an upmarket magazine, as you describe, aimed at men in their forties, fifties in sixties who have disposable income, still prefer print and need a little sexual frisson in their lives. Playboy should stop chasing students!

      Delete
    2. I agree with the stop chasing students part, but that's the group advertisers want to reach, because they think that it's still the good old days, that there are hundreds of million of young male minds to be molded (and are looking to have their minds molded) by their advertising "messages", and that young people are flush with cash to spend during the Great Depression 2.0. Exactly zero of those assertions are true. Also, print is expensive; I'm not sure that there's enough advertisers to support such a print magazine at this point, especially when one realizes that, while Playboy does have some upscale advertisers, most advertisers for the past quarter-century have been in the "vice" industries (tobacco, alcohol, etc., at least in the U.S. edition).

      As far as middle to older-aged male readers goes, despite the fact that there's an enormous number of them, I don't think that a large number of them are interested in a classy, intelligent, sexually-oriented magazine. There's tons of reasons why I think the market you described is very small. The market is made up of married men, men who have health issues that diminish sexual interest, men who have already had enough sexual experience, men who are bitter, or men who just aren't interested in sex or women anymore; the list goes on and on. That's why an Internet/video approach is necessary...to widen the appeal to multiple generations. I was encouraged, though, by the younger commentator who did recognize that not all nude material should get banished to the porn ghetto.

      Delete
    3. Some good points but then there is the successful relaunch of Lui in France which is full of upscale advertising, has many more nude pictorials than Playboy and has a largely female editorial team. I would disagree with you on the interest of older men in things sexual. You seem to be describing men in their seventies and eighties. I am 55 and my interest in sex and women has not declined one bit!

      Delete
  9. There's a lot of weird things going in the world of sex and nudity in the age of ubiquitous internet porn.

    What seems to be happening is the increasing "ghettoization" of sex and nudity solely to the realm of pornography, as if sex and nudity are by their very nature "pornographic" and have no place in anything that is remotely "mainstream" like movies or magazines, the last time I saw any significant amount of nudity in a mainstream theatrically released movie was the Friday the 13th remake and Piranha 3D, which was 2009 and 2010 respectively, movies like Basic Instinct used to be big box office hits, nowadays you'd be hard pressed to find even a single of pair of bare breasts in a non-arthouse film.

    The one exception to this is cable TV shows like Game of Thrones and Spartacus: Blood and Sand, those shows feature copious amounts of nudity, but the context in which it's presented bothers me, it's a little too close to the "violence" equation of "sex and violence", as if the sex and nudity is as barbaric as the stabbings and killings and only appropriate for savage settings like ancient Rome and a medieval fantasy world far away from the "civilized" modern world where sex is shameful and hidden to the dark corners of the internet.

    It's weirdly similar to the trend of movies in ancient settings in the 1950's which came about for the same reason, the fantasy of the "savage" past offering an escape from the puritanical, repressed modern day.

    ReplyDelete