Why Are We So Obsessed With Playboy Flow? {I Wish This Was An April Fool’s Edition}.

Via Marthe Weyandt
on Apr 2, 2013
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Is it a word? It rhymes with horny; it also rhymes with corny.

Am I the only one who believes Elephant is shamelessly incorporating T and A to score viewers and drive up searches?

As an intellectual community of socially conscious, activist, forward thinking adults, we can and should cover sex, gender relations and, ahem, fine yoga bodies doing their thing, in a way that is more subversive, intellectual and groundbreaking.

As a supposedly ‘enlightened’ website, we’re taking the easy way out.

Playboy yoga demonstrations clocking in at number one for the rest of the foreseeable future?

Reassurances to women that our “ugly” vaginas are normal and gorgeous? (Thanks, by the way! I will sleep better at night. I’ll cross reconstructive surgery off my list and ponder all the other ways I, as a woman, am led to believe I am physically imperfect by retailers who seek to profit from me.)

The wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the sheer Lululemon pant scandal?

Sheesh. I would like to think we’ve evolved beyond a bunch of junior high schoolers spying in the locker room.

Steubenville got me thinking about hypocrisy. Our culture objectifies women (and, to a lesser extent, men) from a very early age. We are valued for how we look and what we represent rather than who we are. This is old news. There are important articles—fascinating articles—about women’s empowerment and sexual assault—on here.

While these articles receive attention, I’m sad to say, they do not linger on the ratings board for too long.

Sara Underwood’s nude Playboy video is the undisputed leader in page views and will be for the rest of eternity. (At least until somebody develops cute kitten yoga.)

The general thrust of the positive comments:

‘What a hawwwttt young woman!’

‘You can see the asana so much more clearly without clothing!’

All negative comments, distilled to the purest essence:

“WTF is this doing on here?”

I side with the ‘WTFers’ (as you may wager from the title of this post.) At the very least, can elephant become an equal-opportunity objectifier?

Apart from a PG-13 pic of Adam Levine, the male eye candy is woefully inadequate; there are no lengthy videos of buff men au naturale. Also, how about an article entitled “Your Ugly Penis is Normal and Gorgeous”?

Ha. I’m joking here; that would be pornographic.

We live in a free country with free speech (and hallelujah for that.) With great freedom comes great responsibility, said every superhero ever, and every legitimate yoga guru, too, and probably your mother and your first grade teacher.

From a conscious community standpoint, there is a dark side to being in cahoots with Hugh Hefner; its like eating Fruit Loops for every meal and expecting to practice yoga like the eponymous Sara Underwood.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Elephant has many talented writers whose quality contributions (in areas like wellness, love, green, conscious consumerism and family and education) do not receive the nearly the interest or recognition they deserve on the popularity leader board.

The Svengali-like allure of boobs and butts leaves the other stuff in the dirt.

Let’s have a Conscious Consumers Manifesto!

Got a few minutes to linger in front of the computer? Give the nude flow a break! Give some other worthy soul a chance!

Let loose the anchor; venture into uncharted waters!

Perhaps some light reading on spirituality or adventure may be just what you’re looking for.

You may learn something that will change your life.



Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise





About Marthe Weyandt

Marthe Weyandt is a Pittsburgh-based yoga instructor and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling and spending time in the great outdoors. She is currently learning to play guitar, albeit badly and at frequencies only dogs can hear. She believes in the power of the word, creatively and lovingly rendered, to create positive change in the world. She has a Bachelor’s in English and Religion from Dickinson College and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University. She spent two years as an English instructor with the United States Peace Corps in Madagascar. Check out some of her other work here.


33 Responses to “Why Are We So Obsessed With Playboy Flow? {I Wish This Was An April Fool’s Edition}.”

  1. Karen Kwiatkowski says:

    I was thinking the same thing and am glad you put it into such eloquent words.

  2. kmacku says:

    Some of us writers have self-issued challenges to see if we can beat "the Playboy Article" in at least the "Popular Lately" sidebar.

    …I, personally, have yet to succeed.

    Unfortunately, we have no control over what people click on, and from what I've been told, most every word in the title of that article has come up as the leaders of searches when associated with elephant journal. We do what we can—promote articles on Facebook, Twitter and so on, sometimes twice or three times. But that sidebar is programmed automatically; that's how it can fluctuate so much. It reads numbers, clicks, views, and builds itself accordingly. The best we can do is keep sharing quality articles and try to fight back against it.

    Before I became a writer/editing apprentice here, the only article I ever knew of ej's was Julie Peters' "Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea." It's still one of my favorite articles, and one that I still refer friends to from time to time. So far as I can tell, the Playboy Flow (God, that just *sounds* nasty when you put it like that) is just a kind of, shall we say, elephant in the room. Yeah, it's there. Yeah, people are gonna click it. Yeah, they're gonna get trolled or be forced to subscribe (either one amuses me) because they can only see one article a day for free. But the rest of us don't really talk about it anymore (except to make cheeky bets to see if we can get more views).

  3. Thanks, Marthe. I completely agree. While I'm happy that we have more readers on the site, it is disheartening to see that so many are keeping the Playboy and Vagina articles afloat. I'd like to think that readers want better than that.

  4. Carol Horton says:

    There's an easy solution – make an editorial decision to take down the Playboy post. Then other writers won't have to measure themselves against such a problematic standard, and those who want that sort of content can go elsewhere. Simple.

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Completely agree with your concern…however, I think we if we were able to take an "average value" of the articles written on EJ that average would rate rather low in content and originality. Kate is right about, "readers want better than that". What attracts me to EJ is the idea that one might find the "pulse" of our "enlightened" citizens here and which direction they would like to see society as a whole go. But I do not think that the writers here are anywhere near the societal norm nor would I say that this "enlightened" venue for articles is capable of changing the societal norm. I like Kate's honest articles because she has not enthroned herself as a spokesperson for any given spiritual discipline. But I feel we are kidding ourselves if we think that there are articles here which actually are noteworthy. Mostly we are reading someone's love affair with their own selves or we are witnessing the writer "process" their own shit. But mostly we are reading the same thing over and over again. Where is Ramesh when you need him?

  6. Joshua says:

    Dear kmacku. How about a compromise? A re-invention? Don't get rid of the sidebar? Get creative with the sidebar. Pull a Barnes and Noble. Where are the staff favorites? Highlight a few staffers the way they do with "recommendations." If I was a staff writer I wouldn't be ashamed to have "Playboy" at the top of my list. One important note on Playboy, if you've seen Hugh's latest bio-doc, Playboy. Rebel. Activist the first issue's editorial note stated, "If you're somebody's sister, wife or mother-in-law and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to your Ladies Home Companion." Ouch. 1953. The disclaimer should read the same for elephant. "If you clicked here by mistake…"

    I'd like to see a sidebar with Marthe's favorites, top picks, most read, etc. How about "Popular New Writers this Month," "Popular Writers this Month," and "Popular of All-Time." Playboy will always make that list. Stop being lazy with the analytics. If it is on one list, it shouldn't be on another list. The lack of diversity is disappointing.

    I don't click on the "Vagina" or that dudes "Prostrate". I don't go into gay strip clubs. Ladies if you don't want to see that "nude" yoga body, don't click, don't pick it up, all apologies, go back and click on what brought you here, you're empowered female mind, body and spirit. It's your power, don't give it away through lazy clicking.

    Thank you Marthe for starting the conversation. I hope we get some new sidebars soon.

  7. Thaddeus1 says:

    I second Carol's motion.

    Got to be the change you want to see. Lead from the front. You have the power. And other appropriate cliches.

  8. Marthe Weyandt says:

    Thank you for your comments, Joshua! I agree that the same stories, featured over and over in the sidebars, can get old, especially for subscribers who frequently visit the site and who may not have the time to daily scour each section for new material.

    I would love to see some diversity in the sidebars on the left. Quit recycling the same material!

    I love the Barnes and Noble idea — perhaps each editor can choose several favorite stories weekly. It would give readers the chance to get to know the editorial staff in a new context. I would initiate a 'Quality' sidebar — who is writing quality, subtantial stuff about real stuff going on in the world? (Not that musings about Lululemon or platitudes on pretty backgrounds are not groundbreaking, but…) I would only have one popularity sidebar, maybe "Popular Now". I would archive popular items, but under a subheading at the top. Maybe some sort of "Reader's Choice" or "Most Shared" (because sharing may be a greater sign of interest than page clicks? I dunno.)

  9. Marthe Weyandt says:

    I definitely agree!

  10. Robyn says:

    Want to add my voice to the wholeheartedly agree crowd. Every time I see that listed at the top, it makes me wonder why I even come back to this site. It seems like there was some decision to increase the T&A factor at some point and…voila…here we are. Everything about that video and its presence here feels wrong.

  11. Maya Georg says:

    Please, please, please take that crap down! It demeans women, the practice, and the community!

  12. Thaddeus1 says:

    I dunno Marthe…seems like it might just be easier to ignore you, until you are float away into the obscurity of non-presence on these here pages, than to actually address the issue.

  13. Leslie says:

    I agree. That's enough of that ridiculous nude yoga. Nobody does nude yoga anyway! It is another way to sexualize and objectify women. It is the most insanely stupid thing I have read on EJ.

  14. beblissedmassage says:

    Yes, Marthe! Awesome thank you so much for speaking up about the elephant in the room! It feels that this site wishes to entangle us deeper into maya. Very sad as there is so much goodness and inspiration expressed here. I really question Elephant Journal intentions, motivation and integrity.

  15. kmacku says:

    Well, let me elaborate, I'm not a paid elephant journal employee. I'm just a writer from time to time and I volunteer on the editing team, so I don't get to make those kinds of decisions (or even have any impact on them). I deal with individual articles as they come across my desk, not the overall look of the site. Appealing to me isn't going to get anything done, my apologies. 🙂

    I'll restate, though, that the left hand sidebar's content isn't dictated by humans (so far as I can tell); it calculates clicks and views in an absolutely cold, robotic fashion. So to question "elephant's message" is a little presumptuous. Again, elephant cannot control what visitors to the site want to see. If the Playboy article gets views, it's because people (humans) stumble here from Facebook or wherever and get curious. I know I'll plead guilty to clicking an article simply because it has "sexy" in the title somewhere.

    Remember, most visitors to the site probably aren't subscribers. They're one-timers who had a friend link them to an article that meant something to them. I've personally seen like the first 5 minutes of the video, found it boring (and her alignment wasn't even really that good), and went about my merry. But if that's what people want to see, let them eat cake, I say. EJ's not my personal news source; it's a community. I'll keep writing and sharing, and hope that their curiosity eventually leads them to something more worth their while.

    …Kind of like how I feel about hot yoga.

  16. Marthe Weyandt says:

    Take the video down.

    I'm all for free speech. I'm all for taking responsibility for what type of media we consume. Different strokes for different folks, right? One person likes the relationship articles. Somebody else prefers smoothie recipes. The third prefers top ten lists. So what?

    The problem? Sex sells. And a little too well. (Just ask Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt.) We need to draw in readers based on quality of writing or bring aboard other advertisers.

    Nude Playboy videos send the wrong message for a supposedly 'mindful' website. And not just nude videos, but nude, airbrushed full-makeup videos. You know all that love yourself, respect yourself, have fulfilling relationships, embrace 'your sexy' in all shapes and sizes and origins stuff that is addressed to women on here? It seems hypocritical when Sara Underwood is held as a subconscious ideal.

    If EJ wants to be a boys' club, fine. But, all jocularity aside, we need some nude guys' yoga, too — to balance it out.

  17. Barry says:

    EJ has been obsessed with t & a from the beginning exact;y to drive traffic. The integrity of this site have been questioned before. Really little writing of quality exists here because most of the better writer left awhile ago. This is just a vanity site. The repetition of the posts are tedious and the censorship is shameful. But besides that, this site seems to be make a pretty penny on the unpaid labor of others.

  18. I think that would be an excellent point to raise to Waylon.

  19. Joshua: our staff is quite small! We have three editors, and if you'll look under Feaured Columnists, those are the authors we have featured for the week. The Popular sidebar is automated, but we've discussed various other possibilities, and I love your suggestions. Thanks!

  20. Thank you, Padma! I always appreciate what you add to the discussions, even when we don't agree.

  21. Marthe Weyandt says:

    I do, too, Kate! How do you think we might most effectively bring up the issue to Waylon? Also, thanks for taking the time to contribute to the discussion!

  22. Ooh I like that! We have started the Quality section (which we editors choose) and the Featured Columnist section (where we choose consistent writers to be featured for a week. The Quality or Ed. Picks side bar versus an automated Popular based on recent views is a wonderful idea!

  23. I think posting it to the readers and writer's group and tagging him would be helpful. It would be great to get a discussion going on this from all of our community.

  24. Thaddeus1 says:

    I couldn't agree with you more Marthe. Although, I don't support the nude guys as a solution. Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

  25. Padma Kadag says:

    I laughed at the mild reference, whether intended or not, to Waylon and Svengali!

  26. Rob says:

    I need to comment on this article in more detail I hope I get around to it.
    Basically NO… BODY focused things being valued higher that MENTAL things IS NOT a problem any more
    than MENTAL things being focused on or valued more than BODY things. 🙂

  27. Ole Dharma says:

    Is it surprising at all that the nude yoga should get more clicks than any other articles? The untrained human mind is riddled with Kleshas (emotional defilements) . that is the normal human and that is why Dukha( Suffering) is one of the TRUTHS. Given that, such Nude Yoga types are just like throwing meat in front of an hungry dog.Is it surprising than that more dogs click the meat rather than some vegan dish no matter how healthy nutritional it may be for the dog????

  28. Marthe Weyandt says:

    Just out of curiosity, who is Ramesh? 🙂

  29. LynnBonelli says:

    Totally reminds me of the Portlandia skit when the newspaper was bought by a blog. George Wendt's character generated the most "hits" ever on the internet with a post which simply said "Charlize Theron NSFW". I've wondered if my next submission should be titled something similar…even if the topic has nothing to do with title. I side with the group that thinks that just because a video or article is about "yoga" doesn't necessarily mean it is appropriate for this site or in alignment with it's "mission statement" so to speak. I understand the need to generate traffic and subscribers and I truly have no issue with nudity or Playboy…I guess I'm just tired of seeing the side bar and subconsciously equating EJ with Playboy.

  30. I believe he means Ramesh Bjones, one of our columnists.

  31. Marthe Weyandt says:

    Hi Lynn–
    I love Portlandia! And this is so true…put a "NSFW" in the title and watch the page views explode! It makes me unsettled that the Playboy vid continues to dominate the top of EJ's charts. It truly is inappropriate vis-a-vis the 'mission statement'.

  32. Mel says:

    Thank you, THANK YOU! EXACTLY!! I do enjoy the occasional risque article (thinking of Freya's), but so much is just gross objectification. I come here b/c I want something more substantial.

  33. Marthe Weyandt says:

    You're welcome, Mel. Certainly there is a place for the occasional risque article — but, I agree, this is just gross objectification!