It’s been heralded by some as a victory for feminism: the announcement that Playboy will no longer be featuring pictures of fully nude women. Indeed, initially I was among them, celebrating the fact that we had managed to make the industry giant see the error of its ways. However, although this does represent a victory for women’s rights, it was not brought to fruition due to our protests, but instead was the result of yet another old-fashioned concept falling prey to the internet.
Cory Jones, Playboy’s chief content officer, has been quoted as saying: “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. It’s just passé at this juncture”. Whilst some may dismiss this statement as a way to deny satisfaction to protestors, I truly believe this failure to stay current in our online generation is the real reason for Playboy’s downfall. Traditional forms of media are feeling the sting, as the internet gradually takes over as our primary source of entertainment and information (and yes, I fully understand the irony of discussing such matters in a print newspaper). I haven’t watched any television in months; instead, I spend my spare time browsing Tumblr, Reddit and YouTube, and like it or not, the one thing the internet has on lockdown is pornography. It’s almost inescapable. Be it hardcore or soft, fetish or artsy, it’s all out there. And, as Cory Jones rightfully said, it’s only a few clicks away, leading Playboy and other lads mags to question whether they can survive.
The answer is that it can only go up from here, and with such a colossal brand identity, the company has the potential to become something better, or even (dare I say it) something good.
A smart, if slightly idealistic, move would be to evolve into an outlet for body positivity: a publication that empowers both men and women, rather than preying on their insecurities, like so many other ‘fashion and lifestyle’ outlets do. Why not try to inject some class? Admittedly, maybe I’m being a little too optimistic, and instead, Playboy will end up publishing the same dull articles, only with slightly less degrading imagery.
Either way, this small victory is something feminists should be pleased about, even if we weren’t directly responsible. It also brings the online porn industry into the spotlight, which some would argue is far worse than Playboy or any of its glossy brethren; going by a sheepishly-watched documentary and a handful of articles about what goes on behind the scenes in the industry, it appears to be a less-than-pleasant place.
I’m not against pornography as a concept; the idea that sex is still treated as such a taboo baffles me, and I have no issue with teenagers discovering their sexuality through media rather than via awkward conversations with parents or the appalling sex education in schools.
The way people are treated, and coerced into making these films, is disheartening and upsetting -but it doesn’t have to be this way. The reality of the situation is, we may be saying farewell to Playboy’s sexist shoots, but there’s much more to be done before we can have the sexually enlightened, accepting society we desire.