50 Iconic Playgirl Pictorials

50 Iconic Playgirl Pictorials

We lied. If the magazine is known for “a penis on every page,” as Esquire puts it, we can’t show any of those infamous penises: they’re all locked away behind a paywall. Back in 1973, founders Douglas and Jenny Lambert had asked themselves: “would women want to look at pictures of naked men and would they pay money to do so? Jenny fervently said yes,” they recall in their 2022 memoir. “Women are just as curious and eager to sexually explore as men are. Let’s give them that opportunity.” And so Playgirl was born: a bold, feminist response to Hefner’s Playboy and a new chapter in women’s erotica. The fifty SFW pictorials we handpicked here are just a taste of how that opportunity shaped up, for better or for worse.

We begin with the Scott Dutton set (February ’78). Lensman (and art director) Norbert Jobst captures the female gaze: a blond hunk poses for a female photographer. At the same time Jobst conveys the tone of the publication, a sense of freedom and playfulness: she wears a one-piece bathing suit, Scott wears swim briefs and smiles at her. Behind their tanned bodies, a sandy beach and a blue sky. No text could better encapsulate Playgirl’s mission statement. Or better illustrate the “Playgirl approach.” So described by Dennis Forbes: “real men showcased in real spaces.” As opposed to the “anonymous nude bodies (…) often on ‘seamless paper’ backgrounds shot in studios,” so common in beefcake magazines of the day. “Why was ‘straight’ Playgirl apparently so popular with gay men?” Forbes asks. “Was it perhaps because the (non-erect) male nudes in that magazine were actually presented as individuals, complete with names and bio-sketches and were photographed in real environments, as opposed to featureless voids?” (Bare Essentials: Memoirs of Homoeroticist Fred Bisonnes)

Between Scott Dutton and the 2007 Marcus Patrick spread, almost 40 years apart, you’ll find a number of film actors (Christopher Atkins and Lorenzo Lamas and Dolph Lundgren), soap opera stars (Don Diamont, Steve Burton, Shemar Moore), athletes (Hector Camacho and Robert Griffith), singers (Keith Urban and Tyrese), supermodels (Brian Buzzini and Terrence Dineen) and -you bet- those unforgettable centerfolds (and a father/son) baring it all. No doubt cultural ideas/ideals of the male body -and of body grooming- have changed over those decades: Playgirl centerfolds became increasingly more muscular and less furry. Compare the mustached, hairy-chested hunks of the 70s and early 80s (Steve D’Auria, Peter Speach and Playgirl Man of the 80s Joseph Spondike) with bodybuilders Frank Sepe (January 1998) and John Holliday, Man of the Year for 1995. Did Playgirl simply mirror those ever-changing cultural ideas –and mirror it did better than any other magazine- or did it contribute to forging them?

Most Playgirl men make eye-contact with the viewer -you won’t find many staring into space, or brooding, or turning their back to the camera, or majestically posing like Greek statues. Most of them smile too: they aren’t idols to worship from afar, they’re “the object of a fantasy seduction,” Forbes explains, “by the person looking at the photo layout.” Where the “person looking” is the seducer (a woman? A man?) and the friendly hottie being looked at is the seducee. Whom will YOU flirt with today?