It’s the summer of 2006.
Nicole Caldwell has recently graduated from a prestigious journalism school and landed herself.
A fancy job at a storied Magazine on her first day.
She walks into the Magazine’s Manhattan office and she takes her first step into the professional life of a journalist.
She finds her desk, and then her boss hands.
Her, the essential guide to nailing the maggs signature.
Of they give you like a 30-page print out with like a staple in it of all synonyms for Genitalia and sex.
Pretty much right away.
It was clear that this wasn’t your standard, the cubicle to work place.
You would go into like ask somebody a question and they like the art director would have like a photo zoomed in.
So so so many times because you’re not allowed to show any pre come in the magazine, so she’s like, Like Photo, like it just editing out these little droplets like any of like the hard-and-fast rules that like you really would not be able to get away with in virtually any office culture didn’t exist at by a girl.
Playgirl magazine and had been around for more than 30 years by the time Nicole showed up and took the job as managing editor and at a place like Playgirl editing out droplets of calm was just the tip of the iceberg.
From gimlet media.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone palamon in the summer of 1973, 49 years ago, Playgirl the magazine for women printed their first images of full frontal male nudity.
Today we’ll get into how Playgirl magazine spent almost half a century in pursuit of one of life’s biggest questions.
What do women want?
Should be easy, right?
Right after the break hot men inside, Alright, I’m opening the plastic packaging.
Something very special arrived in the mail for me, a few weeks ago, it was packaged discreetly, double wrapped and opaque plastic.
Oh my, oh my, all right, this is a lot of advertising.
A lot of like health tips, a lot of like I have in my hands.
The July of 1973, copy of Playgirl, radical breakthrough and Sex Therapy.
Okay, design and living no dicks.
In sight, though, it’s a lot of since its publication.
Playgirl magazine has had one big.
Robbing selling point.
Okay, here we go.
Wow, we’ve got our Center fold.
All right, full frontal male nudity in this issue.
The centerfold is actor.
George Maharis and the 70s.
He was best known for his roles in westerns and George is here at the horse stables.
He’s posing with the horse, he’s got his like, he’s like, casually raising his arm, like, you know, he’s still has his thigh at an angle.
So you You can’t see everything, but you see just like the teeniest sliver of a penis.
I gotta say by 2022.
Standards, I found the whole thing, pretty tame.
It’s really, this is really tall.
Very Coy Playgirl.
All very Coy Forgetting, Sarah Marshall has more dick in it than this issue of Playgirl.
But when Playgirl magazine first hit stands this teeny tiny sliver.
Of cowboy penis was revolutionary?
Well, here she is.
American woman out to pick up her first copy of Playgirl magazine in Playgirls early years, press coverage was skeptical publicly, some women Express tentative excitement like this one reader, a host of NBC’s panel show, real people know that I’m has liberated as the next person.
It’s just that I’ve never bought a nudie magazine before.
And of course the Main Attraction, the Playgirl centerfold, man of the month.
And the centerfolds were a hit play girls, entire first print run 600,000 copies, sold out completely and just about a week, excuse the expression, hot magazine, it’s a hot magazine, especially this issue, they just got touches in it.
Why do you think women like this magazine maybe for the long articles, I don’t know.
Playgirl launched right in the midst of a cultural and sexual Awakening.
A historic Vibe shift if you will Roe v– Wade, had just enshrined woman’s right to an abortion.
At least for the time, being the pill was becoming widely accessible and feminism.
Second wave was crashing Over America.
All this meant, there was a new thirsty, untapped market for male nudes, this new class of sexually empowered straight.
Women one Playgirl exec.
Went on real people, to talk about the Magazine’s Mission.
We are a part of what we’ll call.
Not a part of a leader in the sexual Revolution for women.
Where the first publication that came out that said to a woman, you can buy a magazine that has a male nude and not be ashamed to buy it from the beginning, the magazine, As leadership was clear Playgirls goal was to give straight women what they wanted, all they had to do was figure out what that was Scott, daily works as a carpenter in New York City.
But today, he’s got daily December centerfold.
As far as any kind of art direction, or any of that creative Direction.
It was pretty much just me.
Dave Advance is a photographer who freelanced for Playgirl, for more than a decade starting in the mid 70s.
The team at Playgirl was trying to figure out what women wanted to see and they were regularly leaving it up to people like David who had his own Theory.
I think women aren’t really interested in and seeing the goods so much as you know, fantasizing about the the person the photos he took for the magazine reflected that idea instead of showcasing in your face full frontal.
David wanted to do something more subtle.
First, he’d recruit a model.
It wasn’t through like legitimate sources, like modeling agencies.
I think at that point it was like, who’s willing to get naked turns out walking around La, it wasn’t that hard to find people down to bare it all.
And once David found the right guy, he’d come up with a concept and set the scene for his story and we went out to the Everglades.
And we actually put up a tent and had a campfire and was like a whole, like camping story.
This guy alone out in the woods.
This camping story David’s describing as from the November, 1974 issue of the magazine.
So you see him in the lake and then you just see him smoking a cigarette, a broad-shouldered brunette with shaggy hair dappled and golden Morning, Light concentrates on wringing out a sponge as he bathes for.
One, who might enjoy catching a glimpse?
Lots of these shots are like that where he’s not really engaging with the viewer.
He’s just kind of having some allowing the person to look at him without his knowledge.
I think that sexy.
I think that that to me was what I thought that women looking at this would enjoy What David was trying to do was capture the female gaze at the time.
Mags for men were widely available.
There was Playboy Penthouse Esquire.
All brimming with pictures of women arranged, exactly as men wanted to see them play.
Girl, wanted to do the opposite and present tantalizing, male nudes to women circulation, reached a peak of about 1.5 million issues a month by the late 70s.
It seemed like a simple success story horny, women had needs, and Playgirl satisfied them.
But as subscriptions Rose Playgirl realized they actually had caught the attention of an entirely different audience.
There was never a specific conversation saying, you know, we’re gearing this towards females of a certain age or demographic.
I I never had a conversation that was already understood.
That, that was supposedly Their audience.
And why do you say supposedly?
Well, we all know who is looking at this man.
Because of the prison system subscriptions, if you miss that David just said that they knew who play girls audience was because of all the prison subscriptions, which I guess is his way of saying they had a large gay audience, maybe they had lots of women as well.
I don’t know, after the break, the enduring power of plague.
All four boys and what that means for the future of the magazine.
Welcome back before the break.
Playgirl burst onto the scene by taking a gamble on female desire and they struck gold but almost as soon as it began its quest to Define what women want, Playgirl attracted an unintended audience, I think, I think for a lot of gay men that was their first exposure to an exam.
And honestly, this is The Unofficial keeper of gay, Playgirl history, he’d prefer to stay Anonymous.
So we’re going to call him by the name.
Of his website black dog and find their mother is Playgirl.
Or you do the supermarket and buy it although it was always a little stressful and scary to do that black dog runs an online archive of Playgirl photos and regularly hears from readers, who remember their favorite spreads.
I think everybody has different fan favorites so we definitely were a bunch of really popular ones and for me, like, Christopher Atkins was a big one by Rossini.
The intention was to be tasteful.
That’s part of what I liked about it.
Has learned through keeping this archive is that Playgirl didn’t just happen to have a gay audience at a certain time.
It was a real coming-of-age staple for young gay men.
He gets emails all the time, like this one from one reader when I was a kid in the 70s, I used to go to the corner drugstore.
Stand by the magazine rack, I would grab a Playgirl shove, a Sports magazine in front of it and head to the counter and pray.
The guy did not look at me while I was checking out at home.
I would lust after the guys while wishing I was an adult so I could meet them.
You probably know a lot of them turned out to be gay.
At a time when it was, especially dangerous to be out and queer.
Playgirl helped, young gay, men explore.
I used to bring it to the register and say I was taking a human sexuality course, in college and buying a Playgirl was homework.
I wonder if anyone actually believe me.
Well, trying to figure out female desire, Playgirl had inadvertently, hit on a marketing jackpot, but even as presumably gave readers made up, a significant portion of Playgirls audience.
There is a huge amount of denial around it.
Nobody wanted to About that because that’s not what it is, a magazine for women.
That’s what it said.
They really tried not to address that at all possible.
Playgirl drew a hard Line.
This was the 80s.
The AIDS crisis compounded, existing homophobia, and Playgirl employees worked overtime to play down there, gay audience in the Press from the beginning.
Insisted our male readership can’t be gay.
Most of them are married.
This was a magazine for Suburban.
Housewives after all.
Okay, well, I guess the housewives stop pulling their weight because by 1983 Playgirl circulation, had dropped by 60% and of Playgirl held a mirror up to the freewheeling sex-positive 70s, its sales started to reflect the conservative 80s to an estimated 10,000, strong with anti-pornography, signs and prayers.
It is That is disturbing the minds of our children is neither our constitution.
Our courts are people no respect for common decency and will allow this trafficking and obscene material to continue your industries days.
Are numbered In 1986 President, Ronald Reagan ordered an investigation by the Attorney General’s office, and to the potential connection between pornography and sexual violence.
It culminated in a nearly 2,000 page document called the me’s report.
Henry Hudson, who has been leading the Attorney General’s Commission on pornography as its chairman Mr. Hudson will be presenting the final report of the commission to mr.
Meese the investigation failed to prove that porn makes people criminals, but it was still a bad.
Look for softcore titles.
Like Playgirl the federal Commission on pornography threatened to publish the names of any retailers that continue to sell erotic magazines.
So massive chains, like CVS, and 7-Eleven ripped, Playgirl and all nudies.
What followed for Playgirl was 20 long painful years of stagnation in response to the buttoned-up conservatism of the 80s.
Playgirl tried painting itself as a sophisticated.
Women’s magazine, taking out full frontal, nudity sales got worse.
They tried putting full-frontal back in, but sales stay down.
They stayed down when Bret Michaels 1993 cover promised.
Five percent more erotic pages.
They even stay down when Brian Austin Green is 1997.
Cover showcased his bare chest and a little silver chain.
And with Y2K approaching it appeared that nothing could save, Playgirl not full frontal nudity, not tasteful maturity, not frosted tips or jet skis, or 1999.
S, men of Australia, nude.
That’s when a young bright-eyed journalist walked in the door.
I saw an ad on Craigslist for Playgirl and applied as mostly a joke.
Nicole Caldwell who we met at the very beginning of the episode.
First Step foot in the Playgirl offices in. 2006 at this point, sales have been down for a long time but the team behind the magazine really appeal to her.
It was these ladies in Like late 20s early 30s with tattoos and piercings, like just very Progressive and unexpected if Nicole applied as a joke.
She quickly changed her mind about the magazine and even though play girl had been around for over three decades at this point, Nicole noticed that in terms of print Publications focused on female desire, it was still pretty unique even as a very Progressive, what I would consider sex positive woman at that time.
It was a striking moment to have such a unfiltered direct view of the male body.
Like literally you’ve got Greek statues.
You’ve got Health textbooks and like what else is there like, you know.
So once you took the job, she had Big Dreams for what?
Playgirl could be.
I liked the Playboy model.
I wanted Playgirl to be able to be a bit more serious.
I would have loved to see more diversity in the photo sets and different kinds of photographers and different.
Kinds of people, just more like hard-hitting journalism.
Instead, the magazine was printing headlines, like drop-dead gorgeous, men of mortuaries and campus honks the hottest frat.
Guys of 2008 which features more pairs of cargo pants than I think I’ve ever seen in my life.
The era I was at the magazine was Around the same time, sex in the city was happening when like feminism meant acting as shitty as men, right?
So like play a girl was also doing some of that, like, hey girls, like, let’s let’s objectify.
It was just, it was feeling very felt like a caricature of itself and their struggle to stay relevant.
Playgirl was trying to keep up with the feminism du jour while also establishing what Nicole calls a wink-wink relationship with its male audience.
It was getting like, gayer and gayer without Admitting it.
And so you were alienating the women still Nicole kept moving up.
The ladder, kept pitching ideas for what women actually wanted, but she felt like no matter how high she climbed it didn’t make a difference.
Even as editor-in-chief I was not like at the executive level making decisions.
It was all men up there.
Doing that the real power at play girl wasn’t Nicole’s.
The magazine had billed itself as entertainment for women.
And I mean that was literally their tagline, but it wasn’t run by women from the beginning.
Play girl was owned by men that was the case during the sexual Revolution.
During the Reagan Administration, even through the era of frosted tips and waxed chests.
We were an all-female staff.
We had female interns fat, you know, the art director was a woman.
I’m a woman, they associate.
Editors were all women.
And we would sit in a conference room with like bigwigs, who would tell us that like what we were suggesting for, the magazine was not what women wanted, which just like I mean backwards for every reason that you can imagine from the very start, Playgirl try to capitalize on the commercial opportunity of male nudity Without Really engaging with the full range and depth of women’s sexuality.
Their question wasn’t who are our readers and how do we cater to?
I was being tasked with like what do women want and like God, I don’t know like everything possible.
I like everything you could ever imagine and it’s different for every woman.
So like the unsolvable riddle.
I think, finally, in 2015, after more than 40 Years of chasing, the female gaze Playgirls, print run ended, everything else was saying competitive and changing and, you know, play girl was a bit of a dinosaur not keeping up with the times.
Still Nicole doesn’t feel that the Playgirl experiment was a failure.
One thing that like is extremely empowering about Playgirl and play girls, history, is that it gave women permission to look in the first place, which is something that.
Like, what a shameful, what a shameful thing that like, women have never been given that permission, giving women permission to luck much more achievable than trying to figure out what gets every straight woman in America hot.
Bothered and I think much more radical.
It’s not just about getting women to buy something.
It’s about shifting power, giving women sexual, autonomy, sexual Authority, even for as imperfect as Playgirl, wasn’t as complicated as it was.
And how limiting it could be in frustrating.
Like, you know, that like I always get chills.
Even just like talking about that like to be able to believe in that sort of a mission and to be knowing that like for every issue we put A out, there was some woman who is going to pick it up for the first time and feel like she was accessing something that she had never been allowed to access why.
Now you might be thinking all this over some oiled up dudes with their wings out.
I’m bummed that Playgirl couldn’t manage to stay in.
Print couldn’t hold onto its shelf, space alongside the Playboys, and the hustlers and the many other smutty, mags that cater to me.
Even with its problematic history at least play girl was on the Shelf at all.
Now, obviously, in the age of the internet are pornography, options are much more abundant so who knows if Playgirl in print could have survived porn, hubs popular with women tab but I do wonder if Playgirl also encouraged women to explore what they wanted regardless of whether they found that in the pages of the magazine.
If it and some part paved the way for sexy, tumblers smutty fan fiction and other erotica made for women.
By women, if and giving women permission to look, it also empowered them to pursue their horniness.
Playgirl may not have cracked what women want, but I’m pretty confident.
Women can crack that one for themselves.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was produced by Laura Newcomb.
Next week, we are the world.
We are the children, we are talking about the infamous 1985 mega-concert Live Aid.
I was in shock how little they knew about a place, like, Ethiopia people felt like it’s just that land.
For dry grass, maybe some game animals and the people are just, you know, some tribal people.
The rest of our team is producer, Sarah Craig, our associate producers are Julie Carly and Ramona Philip.
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Ackerman sound design and mixing by Hans Dale.
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Lord, our theme song is Toko, Liana by Coco Co with music supervision by Liz, Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.
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The first time you go to a Playgirl photo shoot.
You don’t know where to look.
It’s like very very overwhelming and you know you’re third year in the company.
This is like gosh, like how long is it going to take for this do to get hard?
Like, I really want to get out of here.