Playboy vs. Maxim: Read It for the Articles?


Fair warning: some of the links in this article will lead to websites featuring nudity. Be careful on the company’s computers.

Part 2

Despite presumed similarities, Playboy and Maxim are quite different.
In the previous post on this comparison, I looked at advice columns, ad space, and celebrities, among other things. More differences than similarities were found.
These and other differences are a result of fundamental contradictions in the publications.
Playboy offers a letters section. Maxim does not publish feedback. Playboy has original short fiction. Maxim has nothing even close to literature. Playboy dedicates several pages to a Major League Baseball preview. Maxim spares little room for sports. Playboy exposes nipples and crotches. Maxim hopes that the reader’s imagination will fill in those naughty bits.
Playboy contains a significant amount of material addressing politics. They take a few chances and reveal some information and opinions that might be outside of the popular perspective.
For instance:
“Only 6 of the 1,000 workers in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad speak fluent Arabic.”
On Al Franken: “Don’t call him a liberal stooge–he’s really a conservative.” This is from an excellent opinion piece by Curtis White.
“In 1978 CEOs of major companies earned 35 times their average employee’s pay…and by 2001 it was 531 times.” –Mark Ames, author of Going Postal.
This is an abbreviated sampling of the intelligent discourse offered in Playboy. There is also an important article on the reality of sex in Iran.
Maxim does not tread into such dicey waters. They have a short article on today’s Al Qaeda, but it offers no new information. It is more of a breakdown of the current situation for those who have not been paying attention. Consider it “Global Terrorism for Dummies.”
Maxim has an article on crime scene cleanup. Unfortunately, the author spends most of his space relaying the gruesome stories of the murders themselves, rather than offering insight into the task of sprucing up a blood soaked location. Thinly disguised sensationalism.
I found little to no intelligent content in May’s issue.
But the primary attraction to these magazines is the women, and both have lots of shapely females.
There is little difference in the girls from one periodical to the other. The reader can expect a long-haired white girl in her early to mid 20s. Contrary to popular belief, D cups do not seem to be a requirement for either magazine.
Maxim has a preference for television starlets looking to establish themselves as sex symbols.
Playboy doesn’t shy away from girls with previous exposure, but they seem to prefer women with a shorter resume.
May’s Playmate of the Month came to them from an appearance on the Howard Stern show. The May issue also features girls from colleges and universities around the Southeast. This includes the institution currently sucking up my student loans, the University of Memphis. (Looking good, Leela and Olivia).
Neither magazine demonstrates a great deal of interest in women beyond their jugs, but they do make a small effort towards equal representation. Both contain a few articles written by women.
Playboy also offers a page in the back that tracks the careers of former Playmates. This might be interpreted as an effort to recognize the women as capable of success while dressed.
But neither magazine is really about pictures of scantily clad, or unclad, women. That may be the superficial assumption, but a closer inspection reveals that the girls are there primarily as eye candy to draw in the men. Most typical male readers presumably gravitate towards the photos initially. Once they have finished admiring, ogling, drooling, fantasizing, and masturbating, many men will look at the other pages.
Those other pages are what keep people coming back to Playboy, when most other pornographic periodicals have lost their customers to the Internet.
I’m not really sure what keeps people coming back to Maxim.
If one looks beyond the women, one can begin to discover the true basis for the publications.
The point of Maxim is simple consumerism. The magazine is overwhelmingly aimed at turning their readers into buyers of other’s goods. Beyond the 56 full-page ads, Maxim dedicates 21 more features to convincing their customers to purchase other products. That is 77 full pages selling something, either outright or under the guise of an article. That leaves less than half of the magazine for actual content.
There are pieces telling me what I should wear to attract women, then what gifts she will want once I have attracted her. Other pages are dedicated to all of the cool gadgets, cars, boats, sports equipment, and skin products that I will need to be a man.
These are not reviews or critiques. They are shameless plugs, telling the reader to simply buy this crap because Maxim says so. They go a step further to print lists of the brand name merchandise on which certain celebrities are squandering their wealth. The implication is that the reader should also pour his meager paycheck into these same corporations.
I know enough about being a man to know that buying more products is not going to make me more of a man. Perhaps this is why Maxim is lost on me.
I understand that Maxim is just adopting the formula proven financially successful by many women’s magazines. Perhaps someday women, as well as men, will realize that it is confidence that makes them sexy, not products.
I am disappointed that, in our efforts to equalize the genders, we are bringing men down rather than raising women up.
Playboy also caters to the marketers to some degree. They have the fashion advice, the cool new gadgets, the automobiles. But they spend significantly less space on marketing.
Playboy, at its base, is a variety magazine for the educated reader. They don’t dumb down issues to make them easier for the general population to grasp. They assume that their customers have been keeping up with what’s going on in the world.
It isn’t all heady political issues. They recognize their reader as a diverse person with several interests outside of female flesh. They attempt to satisfy these various interests with sports, fiction, social commentary, humor, and some Star Wars stuff.
But this is considered pornography, while the intellectually vacant Maxim is not.
I have no problem with pornography. In fact, I really, really like naked girls. My preference leans more towards Suicide Girls than the uniform look of the Playboy and Maxim girls, but I can still respect Playboy for being upfront about it. Maxim objectifies women as much, or possibly more, than Playboy, but it insists that it maintains a higher level of class because it shows nothing that would limit it to the over 18 crowd.
At least Playboy is honest enough to show the beauty of the entire female form.
Perhaps if we were all a little more accepting of the whole of feminine allure, we wouldn’t have to suffer the effects of dumbing influences on society.
Maxim is but just one element of a culture that sees beauty as sinful and intellectualism as threatening.

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About Benn Stebleton