AAFES Pulls Playboy, SpongeBob From Newsstands

More than a month after a conservative group called on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order Playboy, Penthouse and other men’s magazines from the newsstands of base exchanges, the magazines are on the way out.

But it’s about the marketplace, not morality, officials said.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said the company is removing another 890 titles from newsstands, including SpongeBob Comics, the Home Buyers Guide, and even the iconic Saturday Evening Post, because of poor sales.

“Magazine sales are on a sustained downward trajectory due to the proliferation of digital delivery,” said AAFES Public Affairs Chief Army Lt. Col. Antwan Williams in a statement. “The exchange, as a government entity, is operating in a fiscally constrained environment that requires it to shrink expenses while growing sales and earnings.”   AAFES will use the newly created retail space to stock more of what people do want -- electronics.

“The decision to no longer stock the material is a business decision driven by the time, money and energy required to facilitate buying habits, combined with decreasing demand,” Williams said. AAFES has seen sales of all magazines at exchange facilities fall 18.3 percent from 2011 to 2012, officials said.

Sales of adult titles at AAFES stores have dropped 86 percent since 1998.

“According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, digital magazines continue to expand their presence in the industry,” Williams said. “Like their civilian counterparts, exchange shoppers' increased reliance on digital devices to access content virtually has resulted in a sustained decrease in demand for printed magazines.”

In June, a group called Morality in Media called on Hagel to get the magazines off military bases. The group argued that the Pentagon cannot expect to stop sexual assaults and sexual exploitation if it allowed the sale of magazines that presented women as sexual objects.

Hagel did not respond to the group’s letter.

Gail Dines, a sociology professor at Wheelock College in Boston and an internationally known anti-pornography activist, told Military.com in June she was not opposed to dumping Playboy and other such magazines from base exchanges. But she found it almost pointless because of easy access to online pornography.

Playboy and Penthouse “are the good old days,” Dines said.

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