We woke this morning to a new reality.
Mark the date. On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, we woke to the recognition that a major shift has occurred in American culture.
Some will be elated by this news, others crushed. But do not think this the death of the first great purveyor of sexual, in fact pornographic, images.
Playboy is making this change in response to the new world in which we have been living for some time, but which few of us have been willing to recognize.
In making its announcement, Playboy suggests that this shift is the result of how sexual images are ubiquitous today. There is truth in this rationale.
Sex scenes and nudity have long been obligatory in most movies. Pop music today is obsessed with sex. Television shows get away with what they can with skimpy outfits and cleavage and incessant talk about sex.
Salacious images considered seductive have become the staple of TV ads for cosmetics and underwear, beer and hamburgers.
Fox has made sex and nudity part of the daily news. Computers and cell phones have made the projecting and distributing of sexual images an everyday act for some, even teens, even younger.
While technology has given anyone who wants them, even those who don’t, ready access to sexual images, competition as a result of technology is only part of the reason Playboy has been forced to make this change.
The real reason for this change concerns audience, and with audience comes dollars.
Playboy’s circulation, The New York Times reports, has fallen since the 1970s from more than 5.6 million to 800,000.
Playboy, it seems, has awakened to the reality that women, not men, are its best hope for changing this trend and so is shifting its focus from a male to a female audience. It’s a brave, new Victoria’s Secret world.
The magazine says it will continue to print photos of women in seductive poses. And it will offer a new columnist, a woman who will write about sex positively – of course, this means positive sex as Playboy (and perhaps Victoria’s Secret) defines it.
“The times, they are a changin’,” Bob Dylan sang in the sixties.
They sure are.
Playboy introduced the sexual image to the American middle class, although primarily male, in 1953 with its seductive nude photo of Marilyn Monroe, which Wikipedia displays in its entry on the magazine.
Playboy helped make pornography and recreational sex mainstream. The magazine, in fact, taught generations of men what to want in a woman, and this vision was advanced in particular by the film and advertising industries.
Eventually, women internalized Playboy’s vision, which successfully has been advanced and superseded by Victoria’s Secret.
Victoria’s Secret originally marketed its lingerie to men but catapulted that approach in 1983 to focus on marketing to women. By 2000 the company shifted to an approach that essentially normalizes the sexualizaton of a woman’s life.
Women clearly have responded. Victoria’s Secret earns billions.
Without Playboy, no Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret simply capitalized on Playboy’s success in sexualizing women and making recreational sex mainstream. Playboy simply wants to reap the rewards of the campaign it began in the 1950s – a campaign to completely sexualize the American woman.
Without Playboy, and now Victoria’s Secret, men and women would not have learned how to see the world and themselves through a sexual lens.
Playboy started the revolution, but Victoria’s Secret advanced it. Today, pornography is everywhere and even Christians have been snared.
A 2011 article in The Christian Post reports that 50 percent of Christian men and 20 percent of Christian women admit to being addicted to pornography. More startling than this, 60 percent of Christian women surveyed said they struggle with lust. If this is true of Christian women, imagine what it means for all American women.
A recent article in Today’s Christian Woman notes similar numbers.
A 2013 Huffington Post article scoffs at a Pew Research Center report that 8 percent of women admit to using pornography. The publication instead claims greater numbers, citing five things learned from another survey of women. Two of the reasons presented celebrate the use of porn by women. A significant number of millennials, the article notes, enjoy pornography alone.
Those who claim that the images presented by Playboy and the Victoria’s Secret are not pornographic are naïve or duplicitous. These images exist for the sole purpose of sexual arousal, arousal of the passions to make money.
Playboy will now focus on producing photos of women in seductive poses, probably a lot like those one finds in Victoria’s Secret and similar women’s outlets – because women now objectify themselves, and even the feminists are onboard.
Sex sells, and women today, the primary targets of advertisers and marketers, are buying. Every year these women get younger – one reason why Victoria’s Secret has marketed to teens and surely will continue to do so.
“Girls will be boys and boys will be girls/It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world,” Ray Davies of the Kinks sang in 1970 – words more true today.
Welcome to the new reality.