Last October, Playboy announced that it was going to rid itself of its most prevalent, and seemingly valuable, feature: the nudes. The reasoning at the time, as founder Hugh Hefner wrote, was that our world “bears almost no resemblance” to the one in which the magazine was born in 1953. But Forbes, who hailed the change for… changing, suggested that the business no longer favored so much skin. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s son Cooper, who came to the business as chief creative officer last year, was publicly critical of the decision, saying, at the time, “What the hell is the company doing?” and referring to the nudity as part of the magazine’s “DNA.” Two weeks ago, amid reports that the magazine was shedding subscribers, the younger Hefner issued a statement on Twitter saying that Playboy was bringing nudity back after less than a year. “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem. Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are,” he said.

The cover of the first “back to nudity” Playboy, for March / April 2017, featuring “Miss March” Elizabeth Elam, proclaims that “Naked is normal,” and most of the articles written about it swallow that bold statement whole. “In a nod to the end of its experimentation, Playboy’s new issue features a blaring headline on the cover, with a letter artfully placed over part of a topless model. ‘Naked is normal,’ it reads,” reported The New York Times. Naked is normal, if norms exist! What’s interesting about the new “normal” nudity of Playboy is that it doesn’t resemble the nakedness of Playboy of yore. Flipping through the issue, I see breasts and butts, but no vaginas; no pubes; no labia. One shot of a woman’s crotch in sheer black underwear bears the remarkable mouseprint of Photoshop: Where there should be lines or creases, there is simply blank space. The centerfold shot is of a woman holding a giant leaf over her crotch. It’s not a literal fig leaf, I don’t think, but the joke isn’t lost on me, if there’s a joke. Is there a joke? Is Playboy self-aware?

Go read it all HERE

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