Is Playboy the New Cosmo?


Playboy Centerfolds Getting More Androgynous screamed (panted?) this Reuters story, which reports on an Austrian study of centerfolds over nearly half a century.

The researchers–who only read the mag for the pictures–found that "Playboy centerfolds' typical body mass index has further descended below corresponding population levels, whereas their typical waist-to-hip ratio now approaches corresponding population levels–that of 20-plus year-old females."

There are obvious problems with generalizing from a single source, but the researchers basic conclusion, within very broad parameters, seems absolutely true: "It appears that female bodily attractiveness cues are subject to change over time."

The same goes for men, as anyone who remembers the flabby male movie stars of yesteryear can testify. More generally, over the past 50 years or so, there has been a massive and liberating expansion in not just acceptable body types, but wider-ranging cultural identities. Anthropologist and Reason fellow traveler Grant McCracken explains a lot of the back story to all this in his online book Plenitude.

NEXT: Blight This, Mofo

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  1. I used to work there (seriously) and, well, certain tastes become institutionalized and subject to a certain amount of feedback.

    That, and it’s generally subject to the veto of one pretty old man.

    It’s hard to generalize anything from what is essentially a single sample. What is more interesting is an email I came across a couple months ago where the writer had reported auctioning off his porn colletion on ebay, and the stuff that broght the highest prices were, oddly enough, the largest women.


  2. What the study doesn’t mention is that Playboy does not show the male population’s taste in women but Hugh Hefner’s, and that the magazine is nowhere near as popular as it once was.

  3. I’m not sure exactly why this would come as a surprise to anyone. If you’ve ever been to an art museum you know that societal ideals of beauty can change over time–Botticelli’s Venus would be considered fat and frumpy by many men today.

    As for the Playmates getting thinner, that could be evidence of societal ideals changing, or it could be that advances in plastic surgery and particualrly breast implants have now allowed for skinnier women to still have large breasts. That is, the ideal might always have been skinnier women, but natural human anatomy wouldn’t allow playmates to reach the ideal until the 90’s whne breast implants became widely available.

  4. The study clearly didn’t include Hustler’s Big Busty Babes!

  5. A similar study of centerfolds a couple of years ago had different results. That study found that centerfolds bust and waist measuresments were pretty much identical, but the modern Playmates had smaller hips.

    But modern and ancient have very relative terms here. The Playmate data sheet didn’t start running until 1977, so all of the classic 50s and 60s centerfolds aren’t included.

    Another thing skews these results. How do we know the Playmates put down their correct measurements when filling out these forms?To this day, I am not convinded that Patty Farinelli had a mere 36-inch bust.

  6. I personally like a little larger woman with natural breast and no plastic surgery. Many of my friends would also agree. Playboy, in an attempt to appeal to the general market implement what their critics and photographers think the public want’s, but I don’t believe its a true overall picture.

  7. Took the day off and was just reading up some blogs and thought I would post here

  8. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/27/2004 05:08:45
    There was no immunity to cuckoo ideas on Earth.

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