Playboy Without Naked Women

While we are preoccupied with who’s running and not running for president in 2016, Playboy, the glossy men’s magazine known for its nude centerfolds, has decided to stop publishing images of naked women on its pages.

It looks like pictures of naked bodies of women are no longer as profitable as it used to be.  As Playboy’s chief executive Scott Flanders said in an interview with the New York Times: “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

And here I am thinking that it is because the world is starting to take women seriously and are now seen as more than just their sexual body parts. It turns out it’s just business, after all.

Playboy’s circulation has reportedly dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now. Many magazines that followed it have gone out of business.

And it is not just competition from free pornography readily available on the Internet that caused people to stop buying Playboy and magazines like it. It is also the pressure from advertisers to reach a wider, younger market, which includes women.

Ah, they want to be relevant and interesting to young people who do not necessarily view women as mere sex objects. So they feature seemingly “feminist” articles, show artistic photos, provide content that is “safe for work” and rated PG-13.

They support women’s issues like reproductive health and sexual revolution. They push for women’s right to have sex like men with no strings attached; to get breast implants; to post nude selfies; to take pole-dancing classes; to like giving blowjobs. Yes, all male-centered “women’s empowerment,” of course. It’s not really about freeing women but freeing men to “use women without bourgeois constraints,” as Andrea Dworkin wrote in “Right Wing Women.”

Because despite what Playboy founder Hugh Hefner claims about him being “a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism,” his whole philosophy is clearly about making all women sex objects and making them love being such. He said so in 2007 when he wrote: “Everybody, if they’ve got their head on straight, wants to be a sexual object.”

Yes, Playboy’s ideal woman as represented by the Playmate is described by Hefner as a “young, happy, simple girl — not a difficult one.” In short, not fully human who are equals of men, but one-dimensional playthings for men’s entertainment. Someone who is fun, easygoing, and game for anything.

And that is why we see many women and girls take control of their own objectification and mistake it for “empowerment.”  We see them taking sexy photos of themselves and posting them on social media; performing stripteases, pole-dancing, and twerking; taking sex videos and making their own pornographic content. They view prostituting themselves as an empowering choice of sexually liberated women.

But is it really empowering women if it does not radically challenge gender inequality and male domination and control? Is it truly liberating if we remain under a patriarchal system?

I am all for being free to express your sexuality, owning your body, and exercising your agency. But for what and for whom? Why are you going on this diet and having that cosmetic surgery? Is it because your self worth depends on what is pleasing and desirable to men?

If nobody told you what men desired and that pleasing men is not the ultimate goal of your existence, how would you live your life?

So Playboy is no longer publishing naked pictures of women. So what? They had only been featuring certain types of women, anyway.  The kind with the “right” body proportions and fit a specific ridiculous standard of beauty.

Even if the women on Playboy’s pages will no longer be naked, they would still be objectified and used to sell something — a magazine, a product, an idea, a lifestyle. It is still for the same goals: to promote capitalism, the sex industry, and the beauty industry. It’s all about business. As usual.

First appeared on Mindanao Times, October 15, 2015