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Playboy magazine, nudity and Pope Alexander VI.

Playboy magazine announced three weeks ago that its US edition will no longer contain nude pictures of women-a move that may have caught its closest rival, Penthouse, by surprise. The new editorial policy, according to the news, has the formal blessing of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

Playboy was the first adult male entertainment magazine that got away despite strict censorship laws against full nudity in several Christian countries. Even in the Philippines, the girlie magazine appeared for a few years before it folded up.

The magazine was launched 62 years ago with a centerfold of Marilyn Monroe. What forced Playboy to shut off its main attraction of featuring completely naked, well-endowed women is the Internet.

These days, according to the news item, you can see on your phone far more explicit photos than anything Hugh Hefner probably imagined when he launched the magazine.

The economic reason for the sudden change? The magazine's circulation has plunged from 5.6 million in 1975 to 800,000 today.

Intellectuals

For a long time, though, Playboy succeeded in playing down charges of salacious and pornographic content by featuring highly intelligent and thought-provoking articles by intellectuals and literary authors like John Updike, Jack Kerouac and others.

It also featured in-depth interviews with scientists, presidents, and other famous personalities, like psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and President Ferdinand Marcos. I remember reading those two interviews in the magazine a long time ago.

But the decision to do away with featuring completely naked women is something that had to happen. It had lost its shock value long ago. What will happen to the magazine next is anybody's guess.

Actually, to some people, showing women naked is not something to be embarrassed or shy about. I know an American Jesuit priest who used to teach at a graduate school of business in Makati who offered Playboy magazine-instead of the Bible-for guests to read while waiting for him in the office.

A Filipino country manager of a large international chemical company subscribed to both Playboy and Penthouse magazines and allowed his family and his children to read them freely.

An attractive married woman in Paranaque told me she would walk around naked in their house, and her children got so used to it that it didn't bother them at all.

In the French Riviera in Southern France, in Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio de Janeiro, and in Bali, Indonesia, almost completely naked men and women can be seen sunbathing, playing volleyball or just strolling along, unmindful of their nakedness.

The more one forbids the showing of naked bodies of men and women, the more people become curious of them. Sex is the most powerful force that drives people. Well, all right, call it love, if you will.

In India, there's a temple in Khajuraho district which depicts on stone statues all possible positions of sexual intercourse between men and women. A temple is supposed to be a place of prayer and religious worship. Why are these sexually explicit statues there? Because it is part of the human experience, which cannot be ignored or legislated against. Non-Christian religions are more tolerant and accepting of natural sexual practices.

'Kama Sutra'

Again, in India, a center of a very ancient culture, there is a book called the Kama Sutra, which contains illustrations of every possible position of sexual congress. It also contains advise on how to seduce women and give them the highest pleasure possible. The Kama Sutra's author, Vatsyayana, was a member of a religious caste in India.

The allegedly provocative and indecent twerking dance of the Playgirls at a Liberal Party proclamation, which coincided with the birthday of Laguna 4th District Rep. Benjie Agarao, was nothing compared to what 15th-century Pope Alexander VI watched at a party given in his honor. The Roman Catholic Pontiff was reported to have watched completely naked women dance with the guests at a party held in the Papal Palace of Cesare Borgia on Oct. 30, 1501, to which 50 prostitutes were invited.

This was how Andrew McCall described this event in his fascinating book The Medieval Underworld (published by Barnes and Noble Books in 1979):

At this party, which was given in honor of Cesare's father, Pope Alexander VI, the courtesans danced with the servants and others who were present. At first they wore their dresses, then they stripped themselves completely naked.

The meal over, the lighted candles, which were on the table, were set on the floor, and chestnuts were scattered for the naked courtesans to pick up, crawling about their hands and knees between the candlesticks. The Pope, the Duke and his sister, Lucrezia, all watched.

Finally, a collection of silk cloaks, hose, brooches and other things were displayed and were promised to those who had connection (or copulated) with the greatest number of prostitutes. This was done in public.

I think only the Catholic Church in the Philippines and the censors board have been left behind in the sexual revolution. They think we are still living in the Victorian Era-or are they just playing blind to the stark reality around them?

Playboy magazine was not the first to display and enjoy the beauty of the naked female body and of sexual behavior, after all.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 3, 2015
Words:872
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