playgirl's men are a cut above
Published: June 18, 2004 (Issue # 978)
For The St. Petersburg Times
Six large pictures of penises in every issue.
When Russian Playgirl hits newsstands next week, its target audience may be confronted with an unfamiliar sight.
The Russian edition of the erotic magazine for women will primarily be filled with photographs of nude, circumcised American men.
"Most Russian girls have never seen a circumcised guy," Russian Playgirl's editor-in-chief Sofia Chermenskaya said. "They think it's only a religious practice."
Although common in the United States, circumcision is quite rare in Russia and practiced mainly by the Muslim and Jewish communities.
Russian Playgirl is using photos of mostly American men in its first issue because it wants to see how they go over with an Russian audience, Chermenskaya said, adding that the photos are also of high quality. Russian Playgirl got the photos from the U.S. edition of the magazine.
With its exotic anatomy and all, Russian Playgirl should help make the naked male body as ubiquitous and socially acceptable as naked female bodies, Chermenskaya said.
"There's no shame about a naked woman in Russia," she said. "They're shown everywhere, and everyone agrees it's not pornography. We thought, 'Why not try it with men?'"
The premiere Summer issue, with a circulation of 20,000, features an interview with Mitya from the pop group Hi-Fi and an article penned by Chermenskaya on the circumcision issue.
In the next issue, Chermenskaya plans to publish photos of more Russian men in addition to the ones from the U.S. edition. "There will be both so readers can compare," she said.
The quarterly magazine will sell for 120 rubles ($4) in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Chermenskaya said. She would not discuss its financial details.
Any worries about shocking Russian women with photographs of American men were far from Chermenskaya's mind in the months leading up to the launch of the magazine.
Chermenskaya and the publication's founders, whom she refused to identify, studied Russia's confusing pornography laws before registering Playgirl as an erotic entertainment magazine. As erotica, Playgirl cannot publish photographs depicting sexual intercourse and has a quota for the number of large pictures of penises in each issue: six, Chermenskaya said.
Despite the precautions, Chermenskaya is still a bit worried. "We're legal, but we're still worried because most of the people in power in Russia are men," she said.
"They might not want their wives or lovers seeing nice, big erect penises."