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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Playboy and the Demise of the Artistic Nude

You would think a gay man would have no stake in the debate of whether Playboy should have discontinued its photography of women. But as an artist who is an advocate for the beauty of the human body in every form and every gender, it matters a great deal to me.
I understand why Playboy made the decision it did. There is such a plethora of nakedness online that porn is rarely purchased anymore. From a fundamental point of view the decision makes sense. But I can't help but think they made a mistake, that rather than removing the nude body they should have turned the nude body into an art form. In some ways they were so close to this. Their sets and props and costumes (what there were of them) were very close to becoming art. But the emphasis was always on the boobs and coochie and not the beauty of the human form.

Playboy wants to become more like Maxim and other high quality magazines and their writing is high quality. But in removing the nudes they become a clone of these other magazines rather than something that stands out.

If the emphasis became human beauty as an artistic format, with focus on all forms of body art from tattoo to body paint then the standards of high quality remain, but they do not become just another men's magazine.

In allowing the internet to take over the porn industry, we further the stereotype that the human body is just about sex. I see nothing wrong with the sex. This is not coming from a prudish point of view. But I think our increasing opinion of the naked body just being about sex is wrong and it furthers the extremists that would put clothes on a scarecrow just to cover over a piece of hay that reminded them of a human penis.

Playboys decision closes one door that could be opened further and turned into something beautiful and striking and most importantly something unique in the high quality magazine market.

One of Playboys reps said a chapter had closed and that they had accomplished what they set out to do in opening the world to the human nude. That is correct, but while Larry Flint went drastically in the direction of hard core sex for Hustler and his related magazines, Playboy instead played out to the connoisseur of the human form. And that is why they have missed a great opportunity to take it a step in the next direction.

A time is coming when we need to put aside this childish prudish mentality that so many have that nudity in any form is a horror. Its not and even what society deems to be an ugly body can still be beautiful. I know an artist whose work specializes in painting portraits of obese women. She has the ability to transport these human forms into a truly remarkable and beautiful piece of art. You can see in her work that any body small or large can be beautiful. 

But between societies norms for what is considered beautiful and societies anathema against nudity, we have created our own form of ugliness hidden within ourselves. 

There is nothing saying that we can't have personal tastes for what we like or dislike. But when we allow those tastes to bias us to the point where we cannot even imagine looking at a naked body, then we are in the wrong. 

So this gay man mourns the loss of what Playboy could have become instead of what it will now end up and the obscurity that it may face in the coming years. While there is no hope they will change their minds, there is hope that another will rise to take its place and truly focus on the art of the human form and not just the sex. 


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