By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission .
It’s not like Hugh Hefner will have to stand in line at a food bank any time soon, but something that I thought would never happen is happening–one of his magazines is ceasing publication.
Playboy is still ticking,, but as I walked into my local corner store, I noticed the words COLLECTOR”S ISSUE and FINAL EDITION emblazoned on the plastic wrap cover of Playboy’s College Girls magazine.
I was immediately curious as to why. Was Hefner feeling guilty? Had pressure from campus feminists finally done the magazine in? Not that I was expecting them to admit to something like that, but Larry Flynt professed being a Christian for an incredibly brief period, so who knows?
So I bought a copy for blogging purposes–in case it was amazing news–and yes, the issue on the newsstands now is the final one that will be printed on paper anyways. There is a brief note that accompanies a “looking back series” of pictures. The note states that College Girls, first published in 1983, was the “most popular” of what Playboy calls its Special Editions. No reason was given for ceasing publication of its print edition.
Before people who are concerned about the influence of Playboy celebrate, however, I’d caution that the devil is in the details, as it were.
I’ve noticed something else too. Stores selling adult materials are closing and up for rent. Since I was young, they had been noticeable and had even made news. In Vancouver and other B.C. cities and towns during the early 80s, adult video stores like the Red Hot Video chain had led both feminists and Christians to protest against what they were offering. A group of radicals called the Sqwamish Five were infamous for their involvement with firebomb attacks on some Red Hot Video outlets.
You’f figure that anyone who coulod survive that would have the staying power to last forever. Well, one Red Hot Video outlet stood in Vancouver for years. It was renamed, due, perhaps, to new ownership. I rode past there on the bus the other day. Shuttered. Vacant. Up for sale.
How could you not make money doing this? Well, a 2009 New York Times piece on Playboy has what I think is the answer.
That fall, Playboy was announcing to its advertising clients that they were only going to guarantee that the magazine had 1.5 million readers, down from a figure of 2.6 million, a 38 per cent decrease.
Why the slump? “Playboy is battling declining ad revenue, a problem faced by almost every magazine. But it is also losing readers to online pornography. And mass magazines in general are having a tough time…” The story portrays Hefner as being sentimentaL, and wanting to keep Playboy the magazine, itself, as the center of what he is doing.
So, I would say that the fate of College Girls is not due to some reformist zeal. When in trouble, consolidate what you are doing to save what is essential. (Journalists–one of whom I know saw a similar drop in editions in their case to one and then zero–will tell you that is not fun to go through.) This issue of College Girls appears to have no ads too, so if newsstand sales slump…
But this points to another issue, online porn. It may even be “free”, but there are other costs.
Interestingly, the syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage talks about online porn in his column this week. Even though his beliefs are more easygoing on sexual matters than many hold–he starts his answer to the online porn question doubting that pre-teen children have ready access to it on a widespread basis and seems to approve adults using it, he sees problems with online porn.
Savage’s worldview results in his seeing different problems with online porn than some of us might see. He sees issues with underage portrayals. It paints a completely unrealistic view of sex. Online porn is often made by “angry and resentful” men whose attitude “seeps into a lot of porn.” [However, he goes on to argue, users of online porn can realize this and guard against it.]
So, although I am not a fan of College Girls and its own mindsets, replacing it with something ubiquitous and free poses problems of its own. And as “free” and “plentiful” drives out something like a magazine that can at least be placed under some controls, it creates different problems.