Bloody red clouds splatter the darkening sky. Black smoke billows from the tops of burning buildings. Escaped zoo animals prowl the streets—ramming vehicles and goring pedestrians like a cartoon apocalypse scrawled by Gahan Wilson.
The man on the radio sobs as he reports the cause. "Playboy magazine," he says, "will no longer feature photos of naked women."
(And lo, the earth split open and into the fissure fell the masturbatory memories fondly held by every male over 35. Revelation 12:666)
So why did Playboy decide to discard what Playboy is known for? Well, Internet porn of course. According to Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), Playboy has plummeted from 5.6 million circulation in 1975 to the current readership of 800,000. That's still a high number when you consider that there still exists 800,000 wankers who forego the free and vast pornocopia of the Internet in favor of paying money to one-handedly flip the pages of an expensive two-pound magazine that doesn't have any sex in it whatsoever.
Still, the news came as a surprise to some. Playboy invented mainstream nudity. It was a rite of passage for many American men (and metro-lesbians) who came of age before the digital revolution. And the fact that Playboy will be discarding the nudie pics like so many satin robes tossed at the feet of sleazy photographers is more shocking than when MTV stopped showing music videos; or when Woody Allen stopped making comedies; or when Ice-T stopped rapping about killing cops and became one on TV.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I'm going to miss it. I haven't picked up a Playboy in 25 years. It's just that the whole thing got me to thinking about what it's like for kids today who—with one little misstep on the keyboard, or an autofill program gone rogue—can go from researching the Greek goddess Aphrodite to some hermaphroditic, anal, midget, donkey-bondage, Twister orgy website in a click and a blink.
Now, I'm no prude. But that instantaneous leap from innocence to eyes-wide-what-the-fuck? cannot be good for a young soul. Not to get all, "Things were better when I was a kid" on you, but I think it was better for our emotional and sexual health. Because back then we had a long and slow pornography acceleration rate that began with the mildest erotic stimuli and gradually progressed to hermaphroditic donkey orgies on VHS.
The progression almost always began with the Dictionary Stage. This is, for most pre-pubescent boys, our first encounter with pornography. In the dictionary we looked up words like "vagina," "penis" and "intercourse," which, to our delight and surprise, were actually in there.
Next came the Sears Catalog Stage—which, well, even oversized, cotton mammary-hammocks have a certain je ne sais quoi in the right light. But eventually you want to see what lies beneath the cotton. So you moved to the next stage—National Geographic—in which you do see what lies beneath the cotton: aboriginal nipples, in all their stretched and holey glory.
But you don't care. Because they are nipples! Right there, on the cover, real and actual human nipples. The motherlode, you think. Until one day, playing hide and seek at your best friend's house, the two of you come upon a hidden box of old Playboys in the basement. Everything changes then. It's as if you find the treasure of Dread Pirate Hefner—the gold and silver shining from inside the chest, lighting your amazed and excited faces in the dim of the basement. From that point, every day after school, you and your chums sit around the chiffonier, meticulously flipping through every bejeweled page, running your flashlight along the cuts and angles of the most brilliant human diamonds upon which you have ever laid your filthy, little eyes.
After the Playboy Stage came the Penthouse Stage, which doesn't only show photographs of nude women, their spreads actually depict actual, sex acts—each montage complete with its own relevant backstory and costumery. Not to mention Penthouse Forum, in which you could read about so many fabulous, first person encounters that always begin with the author never thinking such a thing could happen to him—and then it does!
After Penthouse, came the most important level of the Pornography Consumption Acceleration Process, known as The Hustler Stage. What's that you say? "Eww! Hustler!?" And yes, eww is right. But that's the point. Because it's within the scummy pages of Hustler where you learn the limits of your depravity and, thankfully, that you are not as perverted as some people.
Finally, after it has become apparent that photos are no longer going to do the trick, you graduate to the VHS Stage, followed by real sex with real women which, well let's be honest, never quite lives up to porn.
The point is, today there is no healthy, graduation process for kids to consume pornography. They go from Googling "vagina" to finding themselves on the anal midget Twister site and completely miss that all-important early step of simply viewing the elegant poetry of a disrobed woman—who is not having anything done to her, nor doing anything to anyone—for its own sake.