Why I Stopped Reading Playboy for the Articles
CORRECTION: This article initially mischaracterized how Esquire magazine honored Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been updated below.
Last week, Playboy announced that it was cutting costs and moving from six issues a year down to just four. The magazine’s decline is partly due to the condition of the publishing industry, as well as the fact that print is no longer the primary medium people use to view pornography.
But there’s another problem at work: Playboy, like most men’s magazines, no longer caters to most men.
For decades, the lad mag published thoughtful political and social commentary by thinkers like Gore Vidal; interviews with Ayn Rand, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon; fictional short stories by literary giants like Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer along with the first ever released segments of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451; and pioneering coverage of the murder of Teena Brandon who later became the subject of the Oscar-winning film Boys Don’t Cry.
Though it was famous for the pornography, Playboy also offered ideas, interviews, and opinions that were at the very least thought-provoking to a large number of heterosexual men. All of that is gone now.
A perfect example of the new Playboy was its “Freedom Issue,” published right before the 2016 election. The writers featured included TV host Chelsea Handler discussing abortion, Patton Oswalt on “the freedom to make mistakes,” Wiz Khalifa on police brutality and marijuana legalization, and Killer Mike on minority voting. Adding to this lineup of intellectual lightweights was a conservative who wrote about how Republicans should be listening to Paul Ryan, obviously someone who had his finger on the pulse of America.
Every issue has become an opportunity to prove how woke and relevant the magazine is. From having its first transgender playmate to celebrating activist and writer Noor Tagouri (popular for speaking in favor of wearing a hijab) to publishing mind-numbing articles like “5 Punk Rockers Explain Why the Alt-Right’s ‘Punk Rock Movement’ is Garbage,” Playboy has become an endless exercise in the usual boring virtue signaling.
Such moral posturing has driven away heterosexual men who might otherwise be interested in the publication’s erstwhile fiction and non-fiction. And sadly, Playboy isn’t the only men’s magazine that’s fallen into this trap.
Esquire, a periodical intended for cosmopolitan men, has become an instruction manual for what social justice warriors believe men should be. The exact moment that Esquire’s editorial team lost their minds was in 2016 when they named Hillary Clinton one of their “women we love this week.”
While on occasion Esquire will publish notable features like Don Winslow’s article on El Chapo’s connection to the opioid crisis and Scott Galloway’s argument for breaking up Big Tech, these tend to get lost in the avalanche of stories that cater to the social justice left. Pieces like “Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Ad is a Watershed Moment” and “Why Are So Many White Male Republicans Afraid of Weed” litter the pages and website of this “men’s magazine.” Esquire even published a bizarre hyperbole-filled rant that went viral about how Star Wars fans don’t understand that the movie series was founded on progressive values—even though George Lucas has stated that he was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and the hero’s journey.
Esquire‘s main competitor, GQ, is also in the business of peddling social justice-friendly content. Exhibit A was their attempt to revive Keith Olbermann’s career by giving him an internet show called “The Resistance” where he regularly screamed about how the Trump presidency needed to end right up until he was abruptly canceled.
Besides briefly offering Olbermann a platform, GQ has published plenty of essays that cater to progressive men, including “How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists” and “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” (which included the Bible). It also honored Colin Kaepernick as its “man of the year.”
The ground ceded by these men’s magazines is now being claimed by blogs and podcasts like the “Art of Manliness,” “The Catholic Gentleman,” and “BroBible.” But the real loss can be felt in the greater culture, as men are deprived of any mainstream voice that speaks to what they are going through. Instead, Playboy, GQ, and Esquire have gone over to the feminist-approved version of masculinity where men are just progressive women with a different anatomy.
Ryan Girdusky is a writer based out of New York. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGirdusky.