Playboy is world famous for its nudes. So closely associated is the publication with sexy depictions of women that I was shocked to discover the magazine has, across its more than 65 years, run plenty of photos of naked or near-naked men. So I decided to investigate. Whipping out my proverbial magnifying glass, I would become a privates detective, a gumshoe of guys, a dick of…dick.
What would the pages reveal? As I sifted through the nearly issues that constitute the Playboy archive, a couple of things became abundantly clear. But it is worth noting, because my impression had been that Playboy was designed to show women without any men at all—no distractions that might get in the way of the ultimate fantasy.
I would love to be wrong about this. On the back inside cover, a black-and-white photo shows a young man wearing nothing but a turban, a codpiece and a saucy smile. Fun party! On the hunt for naked men in Playboy , things seemed off to a cheeky and playful start.
Thankfully, once the s and s hit, we get back to intermittent pictorials spotlighting guys who, in keeping with the free-spirited times, take off those confining clothes, man.
These photo features often revolve around well-known actors in on-set photography from upcoming movies. The more I thought about it, the more sense this sort of male nudity seemed to make in Playboy. The magazine began as a kind of instruction manual for straight American men, so what better way to illustrate the epitome of that lifestyle than by putting naked men with naked women in sexy situations?
That this tiny uptick in male nudity comes in the early s is no surprise; porn was pumping into the mainstream, and the so-called pubic wars, in which Playboy and Penthouse published raunchier and raunchier images, were raging. By the s, it seems a kinder, gentler era of male nudity had dawned in Playboy , as opposed to the frequently intense sexuality of the s.
Dolph Lundgren is like a pale beefy mannequin, more prop than player in his pictorial with then girlfriend supermodel Grace Jones. He quickly clarified the penis-shy editorial perspective. Flipping through these annual assemblages of film stills and nip slips, I saw a number of stars and leading men naked or close to it: David Bowie, Peter Fonda, Dennis Rodman and Antonio Banderas, to name just a handful, who all appeared alongside plenty of color photography of women celebs and actresses.
From time to time male skin was also deployed to great comic effect in Playboy. See, for example, Steve Martin on the January cover, wearing only a white tux jacket and what might best be described as a diaper, which I guess is sexy to someone, somewhere. Maybe that time has finally come.