Playgirl: Naked No More

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It’s already been reported at Gawker, Xbiz, Media Bistro and Dlisted and it’s all true, Playgirl Magazine, at least the print version, is being laid down to rest as of January 2009 (the last issue is Jan/Feb 2009). I know, because I’ve been writing my sex advice column for them (it’s called Sex.ed) since January of 2002, and last month I submitted a column (knowing Playgirl was coming to it’s end, but not knowing exactly when) when my editor emailed me upon receipt of said column with the words, “This is your last one!!”

I’m not happy that Playgirl is folding. Not because I’m losing a job, I mean it sucks to go from writing a regular advice column to not writing it, but more because I think that Playgirl, had it listened to some much needed advice since I’ve been part of their pages, 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.

It’s like going to a strip club. Going to see a male strip club (which doesn’t really exist except for “special nights”) is always way different than going to a “regular” strip club. When it’s a male club, it’s generally more of a male revue, and one must sit through a show that allows a few semi-clad men, wearing pants that generally rip off, to prance around on a stage surrounded by screaming, drunk women who are grabbing for penis and other body parts. When you go to a club where the dancers are female, nobody is screaming, or even grabbing or touching. The customers are sitting casually, at tables, drinking important drinks and talking, whether it be amongst themselves, with a few dancers, or on their cell phone (although the music is often to loud for the latter). It never feels like a show, rather it feels like a club, one that usually serves some type of dinner and drinks, and one that happens to have semi-clad dancers that perform both on stage and in your laps (You can’t serve alcohol and be all nude in NY last time I checked).

And that brings me back to the 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.

So, yeah, I’m sad to see the one attempt we’ve got going, go away. But I’ve been behind the doors at the Playgirl offices, and I know what went on, and I know how hard it’s been to get the vision right, especially when the visionaries are not always allowed to see for themselves. The staff at Playgirl does get it, but what they were allowed to do with that knowledge never completed translated…both because their hands were always tied and because, well, the people who approve what you get don’t always understand where you’re coming from. Especially when they’re not the people who read a magazine like Playgirl.

So I mourn the loss of Playgirl because after 35 years of trying, it will try no more. No other magazine succeeded as long, or as loyally, as Playgirl did. Not even Sweet Action lasted more than five issues (they were much more hipster oriented, which isn’t a large portion of the population), and it still makes me sad to think that something that’s been around since 1973 is just going to end. No fanfare, no farewell.

Right now, there’s still a Playgirl blog, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to that come the new year. For women who like to read and talk about sex, and who don’t want to just talk about it in that “5 Ways to Make Sure He Sticks Around” sort of way, there’s nothing out there right now, unless it’s online at places like The Frisky and Daily Bedpost. I’ve recently read that Blam-Blam is trying, but I haven’t seen their print ‘zine.

It is the the end of an era. One that I’m sad to see go (as cliche as that sounds), but one that I hope, by ending, will bring a new beginning to someone, somewhere. A new idea to start something fresh, exciting and really well-done. One that covers the the things that are important to women, and yes, does include nekkid pictures of the types of people we want to see naked.

I have hope, and even a prayer, that we can have our own Scarlet.

But right now I take a minute to pay my respects to Playgirl. I for one, will miss you when you’re gone.