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Culture

The fate of the German Playboy Bunny

The US magazine "Playboy" has announced that it'll stop printing nude photos - to a mix of incredulity and ridicule online. But the German version of the men's magazine makes its own rules.

It sounds like a joke, but the US issue of "Playboy" isn't fooling around: there will be

no more naked women

on the pages of the men's magazine come March 2016. The excuse "But I read it for the articles," used by those who are uncomfortable being "caught" with a "Playboy" mag, could soon carry more weight.

The reason for the unforeseen change: there's nudity all over the Internet, so that's not something that sets "Playboy" apart anymore, chief executive Scott Flanders told the "New York Times" for a story published Monday night. He was also quick to add, however, that there will still be provocative photos of pretty women - it's just that the "Bunnies," as the "Playboy" models are known, will wear strategically placed pieces of clothing.

In the revamping process, the magazine will also focus more on the above-mentioned articles - "its tradition of investigative journalism, in-depth interviews and fiction," the "Times" said, quoting "Playboy" editor Cory Jones.

Something definitely has to change for the magazine, which saw its circulation numbers decrease dramatically from 5.6 million in 1975 to around 800,000 at present. Many social media users are still baffled by the move, likely because in the public imagination, naked women are what make "Playboy" "Playboy."

The announcement has made waves all over the world, since "Playboy" is not just sold in the US, but in more than 20 other countries, including Brazil, Croatia and the Philippines. Since conventions on what is accepted vary when it comes to more or less explicit photos, so does the content of the men's magazine. In the Philippines for example, nude photos were never allowed in the first place.

That is not the case in Germany, where "Playboy" has been published since August 1972. In general, sexual conventions tend to be less strict here than they are in the US, while the depiction of violence is more frowned upon. German social media users' reactions to the "Playboy" announcement from across the pond have reflected this.

"These Americans and their issues with nudity, " Facebook member Rasikh commented on the page of "Playboy Germany." "They'll probably still show weapons in the US 'Playboy,' right?"

The famous 'Bild' girl

Germany's most widely read daily newspaper, the tabloid "Bild Zeitung," had a different naked girl on the front page every day for 28 years. It started in March 1984 and lasted until March 2012 - when the paper didn't cease to publish nude photos, but moved them from the front page to the inside of the paper.

According to the reactions of their readers, however, one could have thought the paper had done away with a defining trait. The article that announced the move got almost 500 comments, among them angry ones like "Get rid of Bild altogether then" and "And all of this just because some of your male journalists who don't have a say at home want to please their women by banishing the page-one-girl."

The naked truth

Maybe it is reactions like these that "Playboy Germany" leadership had in mind when they published

their reaction

to the US no-more-nudes announcement on Tuesday.

Playboy USA magazine cover. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Playboy)

Will this be too much nudity for the US "Playboy" next year?

Under the headline "No change in concept for German 'Playboy,'" the magazine's editor-in-chief Florian Boitin wrote that "the Americans' decision has no bearing on the direction and the design of the German 'Playboy.'"

In other, clearer words: German "playmates" will continue to take their clothes off, as was confirmed to DW by the Facebook administrator for "Playboy Germany." And that other German publication with the famous nude women photos isn't making any changes either.

"We are not thinking about getting rid of that," a "Bild" spokesman told DW. "Everything stays the same at 'Bild.'"

Readership declining in Germany as well

The editors of "Playboy Germany" are sticking to their guns, even though their magazine faces the same issues as the US counterpart. In Germany, too, nudity and porn is accessible on the Internet, and the magazine's circulation numbers are steadily declining as well.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, "Playboy Germany" sold 256,866 issues. By the second quarter of 2015, this number had decreased to 167,700 issues, according to German statistics portal Statista.

Whether the US "Playboy" will actually be able to reverse the downward trend and attract more readers with less nudity remains to be seen.

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