We could debate all day whether this photograph of a topless woman cupping her breast is simply photorealism of cancer self-examination or the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter with the sole intention of boosting newsstand sales. Reader’s Digest is still the best-selling magazine in the U.S., with circulation above 10 million; when such a conservative pub takes its top off, you know magazine publishers are feeling pressure.
The real story of course is how sexual stimulation is the ultimate fallback in grabbing human attention, no matter how much we think we’ve evolved. Humans are still mammals awash in hormones. The Family Safe Media watchdog group estimates there are 68 million daily searches for pornography online, accounting for 25% of all search engine requests. Provocative nudity has been used to sell products since at least 1871. There’s nothing new here; just ask the 1930s’ Rockford Varnish Company. Good luck, Reader’s Digest, getting that circulation up.