Yes, Playboy is getting rid of its nude centerfolds–and also the rest of the naked ladies that used to make it pubescent boys' favorite sneak-read from the copies stashed in Dad's garage.
And no, it's not because we as a society have grown more tasteful and modest (although wouldn't that be nice?)–since 66 percent of men and 40 percent of women admit to clicking onto porn websites at least once a month.
And it's certainly not for this reason (offered by the Atltantic's Alexander Lazaryan about a similar makeover in February at Playboy rival Maxim):
Men actually began to think more deeply about what it meant to be men. Part of that was due to a decreased social tolerance for sexual aggression, combined with a growing recognition for how popular culture fosters the very same. Social tropes like the metrosexual – remember that? – were a tacit approval of homosexual style and a rejection of the beefcake machismo proffered by Maxim and its ilk. Meanwhile, sites like The Good Men Project, founded in 2009, have offered a rejoinder to Maxim, with men now writing about male issues beyond whether Bar Rafaeli is hotter than Irina Shayk.
Ha ha! The Good Men Project! The "enlightened masculinity" site where wussy guys beat their breasts over their supposed misogyny and most of the readers are said to be women.
What really seems to be the reason, as the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal points out,
Its airbrushed and soft-focus sexuality, no longer cutting edge, simply isn't cutting it.
Playboy's models are getting clothes because the magazine is no longer hot.
Created from Esquire defector Hugh Hefner's vision of how to advance the men's magazine genre to reflect a changing society, once-revolutionary and once-dominant Playboy must circle back in hopes of challenging Esquire and other publications divvying up the lifestyle realm.
Think Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue-level raciness. Probably not suitable for high school libraries, but not necessarily consigned to a back shelf and opaque plastic bag at 7-Eleven either.
As Rosenthal says, Playboy actually always was a lifestyle magazine. As founder Hugh Hefner declared in Playboy's inaugural issue in 1953, he was gearing his new magazine toward a debonair sophisticate/aesthete whose idea of a perfect evening was "putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz [and] sex."
Those busty cornfed ladies in the centerfolds who had to be hidden behind drugstore counters eventually just got in the way. As Rosenthal writes:
Playboy has always offered lifestyle, literature, fashion and news content, and then some. It is part and parcel to the fantasy Hefner has always sold and still hopes to embody, even at age 89, that of being the coolest, sharpest, most irresistible cat in any room.
The socially redeeming material often was so overshadowed that the phrase "I only buy Playboy for the articles" has always been good for a smile, even when contributors included people named Kerouac, Nabokov, Capote, Atwood, Mailer, Vonnegut, Heller, Bradbury, Clarke, McLuhan, Ginsberg, Styron and Updike.
Yet if you stumbled across a reference to Playboy at all lately, it likely was for the articles. No joke. The media ecosystem of 2015 prizes proprietary original content. What's common is taken for granted and often for free, and sex and nudity are everywhere.
What's telling is you're still more likely to hear talk about what Jimmy Carter said about having lust in his heart in his November 1976 Playboy interview than Dick Cheney calling Barack Obama the worst president in his lifetime in his interview in last April's issue.
So now we actually will be reading Playboy for "the articles" (or so we hope). Makes me wish all best for Playboy, now a shadow of its former self (5.6 million circulation in 1975, 800,000 today), to come out of the shadows once more.