Coronavirus Silver Lining: Playboy Magazine’s Print Edition Is No More

By C. Douglas Golden

Image result for playboyIt’s difficult to say there’s some kind of silver lining to COVID-19, but you can find one if you try.

On one side, you see the usual sunbeams of humanity that occur in a crisis when peoples’ sympathetic nervous systems grind to a halt and they stop panic-buying more Charmin than they’ll ever use.

Donating blood, buying groceries for seniors, helping out small businesses — those are the kind of warm and fuzzy things that give us a little uplift as we enter another day of social isolation.

Then there are the silver linings which, to enjoy them properly, require a bit of schadenfreude. On that end, we’re pleased to report that Playboy’s print edition has officially been offed by the coronavirus.

According to CBS News, the 66-year-old magazine was going to stop publication anyway, but Playboy Enterprises CEO Ben Kohn decided to hasten the decision “as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer.”

In a Medium post published Wednesday, Kohn said that the company had “decided that our Spring 2020 Issue, which arrives on U.S. newsstands and as a digital download this week, will be our final printed publication for the year in the U.S. We will move to a digital-first publishing schedule for all of our content including the Playboy Interview, 20Q, the Playboy Advisor and of course our Playmate pictorials.”

Of course.

A plague killing off Playboy is almost like something you’d read in the Bible and not in The New York Times.

The only bleak side, really, is that you have to read Mr. Kohn write sentences like this about the magazine’s legacy: “Throughout the past sixty-six years, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to free expression and breaking taboos, leaning into discomfort, helping audiences express and understand their sexuality, and advocating for the pursuit of pleasure for all.”

This is the party line Hugh Hefner and his acolytes constantly use to explain themselves.

It’s Playboy’s ridiculous origin story: Before the magazine came along in 1953, it goes, none of us derived any pleasure from sexuality. My word, what a chore the opposite sex was. You had to woo them, and for what?

None of us were attracted to each other by any sort of biological drive.

No, nothing like that — the whole thing was a culturally mandated millstone. Once ensnared in that dastardly ritual of pairing called marriage, we went on a honeymoon to play chess, or whatever.

Then we decided we had to procreate because, hey, I guess the species needs to survive. So we asked one of our religious elders how we went about that sort of thing and he told us the whole abhorrent process.

So, feeling nauseous, we went home, closed our eyes and thought of England (or America, or whatever sovereign nation state we were in).

Then, a family arrived. Poof! Now we had a lot of dreary responsibility until the next time we had to get on with furthering the human race.

Then came swingin’ Hef in 1953. With his pipe and his bathrobe, he burst on the scene telling us: “Psst! Good news, cats. This all doesn’t have to be boring! Also, you don’t have to be dragged down by all of that cultural nonsense that’s developed over the past few millennia! Just, you know, feel free, be groovy and don’t get hung up.”

And thus did the sexual revolution begin and nothing bad ever came of it. Great times were had by all. The end.

No. That’s not how it worked.

As a people, we knew perfectly well what sex was, thank you.

We knew not only that there was a time and a place for it — and hopefully we knew that time and place was within the bounds of wedlock — we were much more than willing to make time and have a place for it.

Playboy needn’t have relayed that information to anyone.

What Playboy did, instead, was to mainstream pornography under the aegis of it being a lifestyle — a lifestyle which removed emotion and love from human sexuality and instead packaged it as nothing more than an animal reaction to indulge in.

But not just that.

If you subscribed to Playboy at the beginning, you weren’t just lusting after airbrushed women on a page while you sat idly in the same home you had before you subscribed to Playboy.

You weren’t just looking at stuff that heretofore would have been sold in dingy underground shops by men in stained raincoats. No, this was high-class, glossy entertainment interspersed with interviews, recommendations on jazz and suggestions for the perfect bachelor pad. You were hip. With it. You “read it for the articles,” tee hee.

What Playboy mainstreamed quickly morphed into the adult film industry — which could still market itself as a lifestyle thing, this one immersed in the moral (or rather, amoral) atmosphere of the 1970s.

Deep Throat,” after all, became the name of the most famous whistleblower in American history.

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