In the 1970s, marketing to women took a new turn with the launch of Playgirl, featuring nude and semi-nude men, displayed the same way women had been shown in the pages of Playboy and Penthouse.
Published in June 1973 by Drake Publishers, the first issue of Playgirl featured a nude centrefold, a feature article on sexual motivations, the salacious city of Hong Kong and a four page spread on the man for June, actor Lyle Waggoner.
During the 1970s, the magazine relied on male models with a smattering of celebs for the monthly issue, including the always tanned George Hamilton, but had tested the waters with two preview issues – one featuring the twins of tv show Hee Haw Jim and John Hager and the other with race car driver Mike Hiss.
The magazine featured Real Men each month, nude snapshots of men submitted to the magazine, as well as Celeb Nudes, nude images sourced from films of well-known actors, athletes and celebrities.
But Playgirl wasn’t the first magazine to realize the women wouldn’t mind seeing more of the male physique than they were normally allowed in the media. In 1972, Cosmopolitan Magazine had caused a sensation with its use of a nude photograph of Burt Reynolds as the centrefold for its April issue.
And it wasn’t just North American women who got to benefit – with the success of publishing the English-language edition, Playgirl soon appeared in late 1970s in Germany, France and The Netherlands. Although unacknowledged in the ’70s, a lot of the readership of the salacious mag was gay men.
Did women need Playgirl? Apparently so, with more international editions and the expansion of the brand as the decades rolled on. I didn’t see the inside of an issue until I was in university – purchased as a gag gift for a friend’s birthday party on a dare. Did it dissapoint? Yes. But did I really care that much about it? No. It didn’t mean to me any advancement for women.
Although its cited as part of the feminist movement, the publication of the magazine seemed more to do with capitalizing on the increased marketing to women, which in turn became a lark and a secret indulgence for this consumer, far from the ground-breaking boundaries that were inherent to its competition in the men’s magazine aisle.