Playboy’s decision to ‘drop nudes’ is nothing to celebrate


The news that Playboy will no longer be publishing images of “fully nude women” within the pages of its print magazine is not as “radical” as it might sound. This was a profit-driven decision, plain and simple. The magazine, in the age of internet pornography, has become unnecessary and irrelevant. Why would men buy magazines to look at nipples when they could just open their laptops and get gangbangs?

Last year the website went “safe-for-work” as part of their effort to rebrand and in order to access to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and the traffic they bring in. Like their recent decision about the print version of the magazine, this had nothing to do with a rejection of objectification and everything to do with a changing marketplace. I mean, essentially their choice was to go full on PornHub, or try to get more actual readers in somehow. Ravi Somaiya at T New York Times writes:

“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.'”

One of the few models working these days seems to be Vice, so it’s unsurprising Playboy execs are vying for their audience. Unlike so many other traditional news media outlets, most of whom are laying off staff and making cuts all over the place, Vice continues to expand. So Playboy will, naturally, be going after an audience similar to Vice’s, albeit “the guy with a job.”

So what does this all mean for women? Well, nothing. Playboy will continue to feature sexualized images of women in the magazine, they just won’t have nipples. (Because as we all know, the problem with pornography is nipples.) As Playboy CEO Scott Flanders says, “Sexy, beautiful women that men aspire to want to have attracted to them, that will never change in the DNA of Playboy…”

Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy clarified that “There will still be a Playmate of the Month, but the pictures will be ‘PG-13’ and less produced — more like the racier sections of Instagram.”

And in case you haven’t visited Instagram lately, it’s pretty porny, despite the fact that Instagram’s “community guidelines” ask users not to share “graphic nudity” and every so often images that show the ever-odious nipple are taken down. In fact, Instagram is kind of the perfect place for Playboy. The male gaze — internalized or not — rules, from belfies to photoshopped selfies to promotional ads for bars to Sluts Against Harper.

What also won’t change in this move is Playboy’s commitment to coopting the feminist movement for profit. In fact, without the (technical) porn and with the help of so-called “sex-positive feminism,” they’ve got even more leeway to claim they’re “pro-woman.” Jones says the magazine will have a sex columnist who will be a “sex-positive female,” to write “enthusiastically” and uncritically about male-centered sexuality.

Even team Playboy admits the degradation and Americanization of politics continues to help their cause. Somaiya writes, “[Flanders and Jones] feel that the magazine remains relevant, not least because the world has gradually adopted Mr. Hefner’s libertarian views on a variety of social issues.”

Playboy is just giving the world what it wants. Nipple-free, it plans to become just like all the other liberal, bro-centric magazines out there, all of whom also caught on to the idea that there is a neoliberal version of “feminism” that’s totally sellable, will never challenge their corporate backers, and will definitely never spout a critical word about class oppression or male dominance.

Playboy hasn’t failed — Playboy won. They are merely being forced to adapt to the world they created.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • tinfoil hattie

    Ha ha ha – I was reading this to my sons, and one of them said, “To bring in new readers, Playboy used to hide one issue in the woods every month for a West Virginia kid to find.” (I have told them the stories of wet, stuck-together nudie mags we found as kids)

    I love how they proudly claim to have “pioneered” the torture and exploitation of women. Yay, Playboy! So, SO proud of you. The women of the world thank you for being so instrumental in empowering us to be abused!

  • Emma

    I was in the gym this morning on the treadmill and saw a discussion on a morning television show on one of the huge tvs hanging from the ceiling at the front of the room. I couldn’t hear the discussion the host was having with his guest reporter but I could read the subtitles. When I started reading they were at the tail end of a conversation about some new domestic violence policies. The host Karl Stefanovik (who happens to be the face of ‘the good man who supports women and feminism’ in Australia) said, ‘now to some completely different news. Playboy has decided to do away with nude women!’ It was all I could do to prevent myself from screaming at the screen, ‘It’s not completely different news! It’s exactly the same news! They’re the same issue!’ I That is, the issue of women not being regarded or treated as full human beings.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, the guest reporter, a hip young woman said, with regards to the Playboy decision, ‘I think it’s quite sad’.

    Sad indeed.

  • I wonder if libertarian propaganda materials without soft core pornography in them would receive as must support from sex obsessed, self-proclaimed “feminists” and “leftists”. Probably not. It baffles me that many adamant opponents of the libertarian worldview (which can be summed up as “anything goes so long as you have consent”) as it applied to economics (often called “neoliberalism”),promote that same worldview with regard to sex. How do they not realise that the arguments being made are exactly the same and that it is generally wrong to dominate or harm people? And yes, harming their bodies counts, because as far as we know our minds cannot exist apart from our bodies.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Doubtful. I mean, libertarianism is popular with men for a reason…

      • radwonka

        And it’s not a coincidence if libertarianism (or anarchism or just those who support the “free market”) is a very apolitical ideology, it erases the meaning of power. And who benefits from the erasure of power as a concept? Men.

  • TeaElf

    This is an absolutely beautiful comment. Please tell me you have a blog!

    • skilletblonde

      Thank you Tea for the compliment. Thanks for overlooking the many errors. I do not have a blog. I most confess that my computer skills are not that savvy. I had been looking for a Feminist website for some time. I think I discovered Feminist Current through a YouTube channel called Feminist Buzz. I also saw Meghan on the Thom Hartmann’s YouTube channel. i am happy that this community exist. Most progressive political blogs dominated by men, are not tolerant of challenges to porn culture.