Column: Playboy’s move to remove nudes

In this Oct. 13, 2011 file photo, American magazine publisher, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner at his home (aka Playboy Mansion) in Beverly Hills, Calif. Playboy will no longer publish photos of nude women as part of a redesign of the decades-old magazine, according to a news report Monday, Oct. 12, 2015. (Kristian Dowling, File/AP)

The March 2016 issue of Playboy, published in February, will mark a new beginning for the company. After 62 years in print, the magazine announced that it will no longer publish fully nude pictures of women. This change is part of a redesign that will be unveiled in the March issue. Playboy’s Chief Executive Officer, Scott Flanders, told the New York Times that the prevalence of online pornography has made nude photographs of women now “passé.”

As an alternative, the magazine will print PG-13 pictures of women with the goal of becoming more accessible and more intimate. The revision to this iconic magazine is more than a design change to attract a wider audience. Playboy is continuing its contribution to the women’s rights movement, as it has done since its first issue in December of 1953.

In the early years of its publication, Playboy took a large role in female liberation. When the magazine first emerged, a woman’s sexuality was considered taboo. In 1953, when Marilyn Monroe became the first “Playmate of the Month” – at the time, it was called “Sweetheart of the Month” – the public attention forced some recognition that women should be permitted to be sexual beings, just as men are encouraged to be.

Playboy further participated in women’s rights and sexual liberation through the Playboy Foundation, which has fought for better sex education and reproductive rights including changes in birth control and abortion laws. Despite these great efforts, many people view Playboy as an inherently sexist institution.

Few people recognize the extent in which Playboy has helped in the women’s rights movement due to the nature of the publication. Photographing nude women can be considered objectifying women for men’s sexual pleasure. Even though the ethics of profiting from sexualizing and objectifying people are not clear, the practice has enabled women to more freely express themselves both sexually and otherwise.

The first Playboy was published at a time when the word “pregnant” was not allowed on the air and television couples slept on separate beds. When comparing the change in sexual climate between 1953 and today, the changes sparked by this magazine are undeniable.

The end to Playboy’s publication of nude photographs is another step in the women’s rights movement due to the fact that the sexual climate of 1953 does not bear any similarities to that of today. The creation of the Internet provided a platform for women to more publically and efficiently express their opinions about their rights, objectification and feminism as a whole. The prevalence of porn also has desensitized the public to the image of a naked woman.

In 1953, Marilyn Monroe posing nude was both shocking and controversial, but in a setting where porn can be accessed with a quick online search, a celebrity posing nude is significantly less poignant. Playboy’s recognition of this fact and their bold decision not to publish nudes displays their efforts to portray women in a manner that means more than online pornography. 

The lack of naked pictures of women is not the only difference Playboy’s readers will encounter. Flanders told the New York Times there will be “innovative changes” in the design approach and the editorial sections of the magazine. Cory Jones, the chief content officer, has disclosed that one of the changes will be a female sex columnist who will write enthusiastically and positively the subject. This change displays that Playboy is emphasizing the women’s voice in sex, and this time the woman does not need to lose her clothes to be heard.

For more than half a century, Playboy has aided the women’s rights movement through both their subject matter and their philanthropy, and their announcement about future modifications to the magazine reflects this sentiment. Instead of labeling the magazine as sexist or complaining about the loss of tradition, people should recognize these actions and encourage other forms of media to focus on continuing the path towards equality.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.