No More "Mainstream" Naked Men for Women: RIP Playgirl Magazine
Two weeks ago, The New York Times announced the demise of Playgirl as a print magazine, although the death knell sounded at the end of the summer. The Times article notes that the last three women in charge of the magazine all did their best to bring Playgirl "back to its roots, back to a time when the magazine covered issues like abortion and equal rights, interspersing sexy shots of men with work from writers like Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates." It's not that women were not interested in such a magazine; instead, the ever increasing pressure on print media (and a lack of support from the corporate owners) killed what sounds like an interesting magazine that I should have been subscribing to.
Jayme Waxman, who wrote a column for the magazine, bemoaned its loss from this broader perspective:
I think that Playgirl... could have been something beautiful. There is so much potential for a magazine that appeals to women (and men who like looking at men, and reading about women), but for some reason, in the United States we can’t seem to execute the formula of naked men + intelligent sexual conversation + interesting topics that appeal to women = happy magazine.
...Playgirl has often teetered on that fine line between cheap, sex rag and quality workmanship. Outside of Playgirl (and actually not even always inside of Playgirl) there’s not a print magazine that appeals to women the same way Maxim, Stuff or FHM ever appealed to men. I don’t understand why this is the case. There is one in the UK. It’s called Scarlet, and it gets it, while here, in the United States, where we seemingly have everything one would ever “get,” we don’t.
Incidentally, even Scarlet offers only semi-naked men, not fully nude dude. As Smart Fashionista laments the death of the magazine:
In a world of porn aimed at men, it was comforting to know that there was something aimed at us girls. So long Playgirl!
Paper Clips N' Potato Chips noted the importance of Playgirl in terms of acknowledging that women are sexual beings:
I have always admired Playgirl for doing what I think the feminist that oppose straight man pornography never did, and that was to objectify straight men for the sake of sexually satisfying straight women--and I am really sad to see that the magazine is closing. The feminist that oppose straight man pornography, to me, reinfornced the ideology that women are not sexual begins that do not want or need to be satisfied. The struggle should never have been about stopping straight man porn, it should have been about making porn for straight women.
Cosmopolitan printed a nude picture of Burt Reynolds in 1972 (See Above) and it was an immediate sensation; because it was one of those instances when someone catered to women sexually, just like Betty Freidan's book, The Feminine Mystique, catered women who went on feeling unfulfilled in their marriages and domestic lifestyle.
Speaking of that infamous Cosmo centerfold, it is really interesting to think about how much the stereotypical "ideal" male has changed over the years since Playgirl debuted. Burt is one furry man. Today, just as women are encouraged to de-hair their pubic hair, men are under as much pressure for a hair-free chest and back. But I digress...
It's been years since I giggled over surreptitious glances at Playgirl. The poses of men watering flowers with their "hoses" always struck me as a little ridiculous. In recent years, editors tried to be include more realistic poses and better indulge readers' fantasies. Although they mostly stuck to a repertoire of beefy white men, the editors answered one request for a pictorial of naked men performing household chores. Personally, I'll take the hairy Burt Reynolds over an oiled muscle man touching my laundry (somehow, I keep focusing on how I would want to put the clothing back in the machine after they were touched by anyone naked), but it is great that the magazine not only acknowledged that women want sexual stimulation, but also that we do not all share the same idea of what we find stimulating. Hopefully, another 'zine or website will come along and fill this hole. (No pun intended...)