PlayBoy… Full Female Nudity Over

Weigh in… Playboy centerfold just doesn’t have the same sexual zing?

I was mildly surprised when I read today that Playboy has decided it will no longer feature full female nudity in its pages.

I mean, I haven’t seen the magazine in years, but I think it’s probably fair to say that Playboy, and its relatively tame photos, have touched the psyche of any American kid who came up in the age of Hefner, that is to say the second half of the 20th century.

Almost everyone I know has a Playboy story or two. Perhaps they once found their father’s stash. Perhaps their mother once found their stash. For an American teenager at one time, sneaking a Playboy was almost a rite of passage. I have a couple of stories myself.

Around 1972, my parents bought a beachside cabin in Baja, between Rosarito and Ensenada. It was a shack, really, and the sole bedroom was barely big enough to contain a bed. The previous owner, a Navy man, I believe, named Chester C. Crush (memorable name, plus his initials were carved into the doors), had papered the ceiling of the teensy bedroom with Playboy centerfolds.

My mother was totally grossed out.

She chopped up a bunch of Sunset magazines, and glued photos of landscapes and gardens over the rampant ceiling boobage. As a joke, though, she left one pair of breasts uncovered. I would lie on the bed with my friends and ask, “Do you see anything unusual on the ceiling?”

Many years later, I was asked by the Detroit Free Press magazine to write a story about a young Michigan woman who had been selected to pose as Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. I’d worked at the Detroit Free Press as a fashion editor and columnist for several years, and when I took a job at the L.A. Times in 1990, the Free Press asked me if I could squeeze in a freelance assignment.

What feminist wouldn’t want to write about the antediluvian custom of photographing naked women for the pleasure of horny dudes? I leaped at the chance.

Frankly, I did not have a huge objection to pictures of nekkid ladies, although I have never bought the idea that women who choose to pose nude, or dance nude, are exercising true agency over their own sexual lives. They are allowing themselves to be exploited for cash. That’s not my definition of empowerment. But hey, as long as there is no coercion involved, I can live with that.

At the time, I was told by Playboy spokespeople that I was the first reporter ever to be invited to cover an actual playmate shoot. Was that true? Really, I have no idea. But of course, that made the assignment even more enticing.