Playboy Is Reinventing. What About You?


If you are looking for more signs of an impending apocalypse, Playboy’s decision to stop publishing nude photos has got to be one. I know many men (and some women) say they only read Playboy for the articles (and indeed writers like Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Norman Mailer give their claims a ring of truth), but it’s their sensual photos that define its brand.

In my generation, boys looked to Playboy for their earliest education on the female form, thereby setting themselves up for future disappointment. Few women can measure up to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, or Raquel Welch. Still, for many young men of my generation, it was a rite of passage.

The generation after mine didn’t talk about Playboy, or at least my millennial sons or their friends never mentioned it. I do recall some boy talk about a Paris Hilton sex video when my kids were in late adolescence. But Playboy? Not a word. So it is curious that I find myself feeling somewhat nostalgic for a publication that I did not read and has not been on my radar since I was a teenager.

In the inaugural edition in 1953, Heffner wrote, “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex …” It sounds so Mad Men (hence the nostalgia), but the image of Heffner lounging around in his silk pyjamas, surrounded by women decades younger than his daughter, now feels dated and somewhat creepy.

Times have changed. Following a formula that served Playboy (and Heffner) well for more than 60 years is no longer sustainable in our digital age with shifting sensibilities and demographics. It’s time to reinvent, and I have to hand it to Heffner that he is up for reinvention. At 89, that takes some guts.

Too many people of Heffner’s senior generation squawk at reinvention. I’ve heard things like, “I’m too old to change”, “I can’t learn that at my age”, or “I don’t need to know how that works (referring to technology)”. Many are gob smacked when they don’t get the results they used to, doing things “the way we’ve always done it.” Sometimes they assume that it is the world that needs to change (or, actually not change), rather than them. And sadly, these views are not confined to Heffner’s demographic.

If Playboy can reinvent itself at 60, with the blessing of its (almost) nonagenarian founder, perhaps they are throwing down the gauntlet for all of us, irrespective of our age. It’s never too late to change, to consider a better way, and perhaps even lead our own mini-revolution.

Photo credit:Flickr/drinks machine

Previous: Can I Recover From My Cheating Parent?
Next: How I Finally Made The Grade–30 Years Later