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An October 13, 2015 photo shows a November 2015 issue of Playboy magazine in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Playboy Won't Feature Nude Women. This Is Not a Victory for Feminism

Oct 13, 2015
Ideas
Luscombe is an editor-at-large at TIME.

Playboy magazine announced on Oct. 13 that it would no longer run photos of naked ladies in its pages. What this means is that the world is now a slightly less welcoming place for stacked 20-year-olds with reality TV show aspirations. What it does not mean is that feminists and social conservatives have struck a blow against the porn industrial complex.

In the battle for hearts and minds, porn has won. It is now as exotic as chewing gum and just as ubiquitous on main street as gum is on sidewalks.

Yes, there was a time when Playboy was the go-to portal for naked flesh and sundry adult naughtiness. Even now the empire Hef built is still profitable, mostly due to licensing deals with international companies that wish to add a risque sheen to otherwise workaday perfumes, sunglasses or key chains. But its days as the nation's premiere supplier of filth are long over. Playboy has stopped photographing women naked for the same reason that Pittsburgh no longer builds new steel factories: their customers found what they want in abundance elsewhere.

The magazine's nude photography always veered towards the cheeky-not-while-the-principal's-watching style. That has been thoroughly co-opted by the mainstream in commercials and romantic comedies and lingerie catalogs. Photos from the Pirelli Calendar, another staple of cheesecakery, were this year featured in fashion magazine Harpers Bazaar.

Meanwhile 15-year-old-boys wouldn't bother lifting so much as a feather duster to seek out a girly mag. The kind of porn available on the Internet is so tantalizing that it makes Playboy look about as enticing as the American Journal of Public Health.

Even if Playboy were to go much more hardcore, it could not match the abundance, customization and variety of porn that is available with just a few discreet clicks on a smart phone. Any configuration of genders, body types, races and levels of willingness that can be imagined can be found.

A great deal of this online porn is free. This is made possible partly in the traditional ways—through advertising or as a loss leader—but a great deal of it is extremely cheaply produced. Most of the featured actors on Internet porn are unknown, and their names will never be known. In fact, trafficking activists and academics claim that some of the women in videos could be classified as sex slaves. One creator of porn videos will stand trial for child porn and sex abuse charges in December.

The demise of the Playboy bunny is less a sign that porn is retreating, and more—like the lowering of the tide before the arrival of the tsunami—evidence that we're in the midst of a deluge. The objectification of women and commoditization of sex is alive and well, no matter what Playboy publishes. In fact, feminists might take a moment to mourn a time when a magazine mostly enjoyed by men could launch the career of a woman like Jenny McCarthy, who rose all the way to be co-host of The View.

Something tells me Pornhub won't be producing the next daytime talk show host.


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