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Jul 24, 2007

Comments

1.

Ren,

You can also say that sex drove internet commerce in the early days and now it is all Amazon, Gap and iTunes. SL is on the same trajectory path as far as I can see.

Also there should not be anything wrong with Playboy trying to class up SL. A lot of the sex you refer to is so over the top and hardcore, which you would never associate with Playboy anyway. Playboy is about being and feeling sexy. It has a glamorous as well as fun side to it. I am not sure you can say the same thing about those flying penises (although they are funny).

M

2.

One thing first: SL is not all about sex. There is a lot of sex in it but it is not ALL about sex.
And Playboy, in or outside SL, it says it is about sex. But, it is just partly about it. I always remember the line from that movie I cannot recall name of, about a Hustler guy, when he holds an issue of Playboy and reading what is inside: cars, stereos, everything but sex.
Playboy's approach to sex is teasing. And pose balls that keeps you at least a foot from the other avatar is just that: teasing. It is just another, quite legitimate, approach to sex. You can like it or not. But this speaks about us and the state of the world these days. Unhidden porn and nasty poseballs are everywhere. In SL, on the internet, on the streets. Our tolerance to stimulii grew.

3.

Interesting post Ren... Although I somewhat agree with the previous comments. Playboy mediates sex, puts it a bit further away from the individual and SL in a way does the same thing, albeit in a different medium. Either way, despite the fact you see a bunch of nudity in both, sex is put at a safe distance. After all, it is not the real thing, so the society is safely kept away. But I enjoyed your playful post...

4.

<>

That's at least one positive spin I hadn't thought about. It is interesting that corporations in general are finding out that Second Life isn't the retail happy environment they thought it would be--and that Playboy's fate is no different.

Still, as I mentioned in a post over at Heroine Sheik, I really think that Playboy Island is first and foremost a missed opportunity. They're trying to plop their current medium (print images, etc) down into a brand new environment. Why not adapt? Their could be bunnies hanging out in the space (paid players), or actually sexy spots for actual cybersex, etc.

5.

Humorous look at this, but Playboy isn't about sex at all. It's barely about nudity. The image is more "hedonism" than anything else.

My take is that people go through a "Playboy" phase about three years after their "Mad Magazine" phase, and then typically part ways with Hef and the girls.

The image really doesn't work with "sexy spots for actual cybersex" and if they'd gone that direction, they'd (rightly) be criticized for completely abandoning their brand to the sleazy world of Second Life. It'd be like if Hooters opened a virtual topless restaurant.

There are no pictures of people having sex in the magazine. Frankly, there's not even much discussion of sex in the magazine. It's just heavily retouched, softly-lit, mainly topless photos, odes to overconsumption, and interviews where both the writer and the subject think they're much more interesting than they really are.

It looks to me like the island, while incredibly boring, actually matches up with the image pretty well.

And you're kidding about the condoms, right?

6.

Bonnie Ruberg wrote:

Why not adapt? Their could be bunnies hanging out in the space (paid players), or actually sexy spots for actual cybersex, etc.

Well, there are a couple reasons I'd imagine.

It's fairly well established in virtual worlds that it's not economical to pay someone to entertain a few people at a time. We use community volunteers to fill that roll in Iron Realms but if we had to pay people we'd have to stop doing it. The Matrix Online made an incredibly lame attempt at it that fell flat on its face.

As for sexy spots for cybersex, how does that fit with Playboy's brand? As many other people have pointed out, Playboy is not about the kind of raunchiness that dominates the SL sex scene, and maintaining the consistency of their brand is no doubt worth far far more than anything they could possibly gain by encouraging some Goreans do whatever the heck they do in and around the Playboy brand.
--matt

--matt

7.

@Bonnie
I think this is a missed opportunity for Playboy but only to a very limited degree.

As usual my post was actually quite serious but wrapped up in a bit of smut :)

At the heart of the matter is the idea of brand and how a set of values relates to the medium in which they are placed. This is why many brand extensions don’t work. Because some values just do not translate into other cultural contexts, and difference of context can come simply by moving into a different market segment or product line.

To me this is what is happening with Playboy. Playboy’s values complex as others have pointed out. It is a lifestyle brand at one level and a simple icon at another. It’s about a glossy, largely US view, of the idealized female – something in which sexuality is a very complex and ultimately non-threatening (to the male) thing. To the degree that it is about sex, it is indirect.

This works in the cultural context of things like print magazines (though sales, whilst high in relation to it’s competitors, I believe are declining consistently). But in the context of Second Life, where we can shine a very bright light on all kinds of sexuality, the timidity of Playboy’s treatment of pales and is seen to pale.

Yes they could have pose balls and escorts, but that would actually not be the playboy way. As a punter you don’t actually get to sleep with bunnies, invite your friends round, and take pictures, all for a few $’s, in SL that’s exactly the sort of thing you can do.

I can see why Playboy, like so many other brands want to move into SL. At least at the planning stage there must have been a good cheap promo slot – certainly I saw enough of the banner ads, and as SL tends to a conservative norm Playboy island might seem a big racy, so long long term this might work.

But for now, as I say, things like taking Lindens and doing in-world delivery of paid for content would have worked and probably should have been done so they do not jar quite so much, but beyond that I don’t see many options for the other than waiting for everything else to get that much less interesting.

8.

@Benjamin Duranske (avatar 'Benjamin Noble') says:

> And you're kidding about the condoms, right?

Sir – giant floating condoms are no laughing matter.

Seriously, yes I was serious, if there is a brand that would work in SL it’s one that promotes safe sex.

9.

Isn't writing about virtual Playboy without including screenshots a bit like reading actual Playboy without looking at the centerfold?

OK, here-- Tateru found some bunnies when she visited:

http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/06/taterus-monday-.html

10.

Hamlet > Isn't writing about virtual Playboy without including screenshots a bit like reading actual Playboy without looking at the centerfold?

Any image from SL would be (c) Playboy Inc. and I'm not sure of fair use rules in the UK where I'm based. So I'm being cautious. Also even thought I'm using the name a lot I'm not sure I want to advertise them, which adding images might do.

11.

Playboy served its role back in the 1960s. It helped to undermine the Puritanical strains which dominated American culture. Though America may seem very repressed to our friends in Europe, we have come a long way since the 1960s. Playboy has played a significant role in *our* sexual revolution, as have the Mitchell Brothers, Larry Flynt, Dr. Ruth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Carol Queen, Susie Bright, NERVE, and Dan Savage.

The most interesting thing about sexuality in Second Life, IMHO, is the way that members of marginalized groups can start to come out of the closet and meet each other in "physically" embodied ways that were not possible with e-mail and USENET. One such group is the BiCafe (http://bicafe.com/main2.asp?tag=BCC105619135885), but there are similar groups scattered throughout SL.

Great post, Ren!

12.

There is ALWAYS a way to make your brand work in a new medium. Yeah, OK... maybe signs above urinals wouldn't be a great idea for hairspray, but still... SL has so many broad (ahem) applications, that most major RL brands could figure out sumfin...

Playboy's brand is about, I think, fantasy and power. Now, it's not XXX rated in the sex department for fantasies and power trips, no. But fantasy and power aren't always that literal. And the real hard-core sex in SL is often incredibly literal and over-the-top.

Hugh Hefner is the 20th century Peter Pan. The ever-bachelor, living with an army of Princesses. That's what Playboy customers want; to be the rich, be-robed sugar daddy to a hundred perfect, blonde bimbos.

Wouldn't it be interesting if SL Playboy tried to maintain at least a 5-to-1 ratio of male to female avatars? If you show up and there's not enough gals, you have to change; into free skins/shapes provided by the management. That's an interesting fantasy environment empowered by the platform. In real life, you get stopped at the door if you're an ugly, middle-aged dude and they're at quota on those. In SL... well, we need more gals. So, be a gal!

Hell, what about a continuous party at the mansion/grotto where roles are assigned? Talk about the possibilities of roleplay. Tonight, here's your box of clothes/shapes, and you are a rock star. Your buddy is a talk-show host. Your other buddy is Donald Trump. RL stars could license their images for use in the mansion.

Fantasy is (can be...) deeper than a literal, animated version of stuff you don't do in RL.

[Another thing I'd do in SL, if I were Playboy, is give away Playboy house designs, furnishings, clothes, etc. instead of selling them. Since Playboy is about fantasy, as is SL, put your brand on the locals. How about Playboy branded items that allow dancers in other clubs to do really different, interesting, patented "Playboy Girl" moves?]

13.

Interesting article & comments so far. I think I would have to visit the SL Playboy sim sometime to form my opinion about it.

Anyway, talking about 'safe sex':

Stop AIDS: safe sex
;-)

14.

@Anonymous bisexual... : I'd agree w/your assessment of Playboy and its role in American culture being on the decline. I'm curious, really, to see just how it's currently faring as a brand and how it's trying to stay relevant.

A couple of years ago the console game Playboy: The Mansion came out (a sim where you were Hef and charged w/building an empire), which did pretty poorly in the sales department. Maybe Playboy's time as a cultural force is indeed over. The "bunny clubs" that it sounds like the SL version is trying to mimic definitely are. So in actuality, the Playboy simulacrum of sex has been superseded by a better simulacra. :) (or maybe I just wanted to throw in some Baudrillard)

15.

Playboy was always the magazine that if you found in you son's room (or daughter if your the tolerant sort) found , you wouldnt be *too* worried. Its pretty much tame titilation, and its probably alot less risque than many rock filmclips anyway.

None of this imports feminist critiques mind you. My *mother* certainly had an issue with my playboy stack when I was 15. But it wasn't the titilation that bothered her, it was a concern that I'd internalise some unhealthy attitudes to women.

Eh. I think I turned out ok.

Point being is that playboy really is pretty tame.

16.

Actually on deeper thought, I'd like to ask the women folk something.

I've known a couple of young women who have been right into playboy and soft girlie-porn AND have been somewhat hetrosexual as well.

Whats with that? I'm kind of in dumb guy mode on that topic.

17.

I tend to agree with Ren in his primary thesis, that SL Playboy is one of the more wholesome approaches to sexuality that I've come across in SL.

I run portraiture business in SL, and was hired by the SL Playboy club's manager to do a publicity catalog for the bunnies, so I had the opportunity to interact with each of them a bit over a the first part of July. That is a story in itself.

Anyway, I was chatting with one of the bunnies about how this was a strange and wonderful way to fulfill a fantasy I had when I was perhaps 16 years old: to be a Playboy photographer. I commented that I thought I had the best job in SL, to which she replied, "I don't know, I get paid to sit around, look sexy, and flirt a lot."

That kind of relaxed, easygoing, and low-pressure attitude towards sexuality is, I think, one of a number of reasons SL is so popular with women. And as a man who loves women, I have to say that I find it a pure delight to interact with them in an environment they are comfortable in.

With regards to the Playboy island being empty a lot, I tend to think that it's limited success is more due to a poorly thought out marketing strategy than due to being too chaste for SL, but that's a topic for another post; let me know if anyone is interested in hearing me pontificate :-)

Oh, and yes you can see the catalog; it's on display in my gallery, though I am not selling it. Contact me inworld if you like.

18.

Re: sex ed... you say it, they build it.

http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/index.php?id=2260

"The University of Plymouth, in Britain, has established a region in the virtual world Second Life to educate students about contraception and sexual health. The site’s digital characters, called avatars, can even grab free condoms from a dispensing machine."

There's a video at the link above.

19.

The Playboy company makes most of its revenue through the production and distribution of hardcore pornography, see e.g.:

http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/news/business/story.html?id=f8c5904a-e45c-4f32-8869-53edbd44869a

It has deployed its bunny logo trademark on products like household goods and children's toys (particularly pink things obviously aimed at young girls) to facilitate the social normalization of pornography. Comments about how tame and wholesome Playboy is demonstrate that this strategy is working.

20.

Ann makes a good point (though the link is broken). In this story, Christie Hefner says of the acquisition of Jenna Jameson's hardcore production company:

"Jenna Jameson has clearly crossed over from being an adult star to being a mainstream star. I think the whole culture has crossed over."

I don't think, however, that Playboy is trying to facilitate the social normalization of porn. I think they're playing catch-up ball in a world where Paris Hilton's star-power only went up when a hardcore (albeit inadvertent?) video of her went public.

It's one thing for the media (and us, its audience) to forgive a star for being in Playboy as a young, unknown model, with pics that don't come out until after her name's already made. It's another thing for a current celebrity to get caught on film doing, well... everything... and then to go on to get another season of "Simple Life" on MTV.

Porn *is* normalized. It may not be discussed as openly as football or knitting as a pastime, but Playboy is, I think, trying to leverage whatever brand they still have into a much more lucrative and modern genre than their old soft-core, bunny-rific days.

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