Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thank You Hugh Hefner

What Hugh Hefner did for the Sexual Revolution was tantamount to what the Birth Control Pill did. His importance in creating modern-day sexual mores is unparalleled. Hefner’s passing is not the closing of a chapter, but an opportunity to reexamine his contributions to American society, America’s collective attitudes about sex, and his everlasting legacy.

With the first issue of Hefner’s Playboy magazine featuring Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in all of her alluring, naked glory, America was shown that sexy could be classy. As “Playmates” grew in numbers, sexiness left the Hollywood realm in many cases and grew to include the “girl next door”. A woman who you could see at the grocery store or the college campus could be ogled in the pages of Playboy magazine.

Sexy was redefined by Hefner, his editors, and the people on his team. Sexy was no longer one trait, one type. It transcended such labels and became undefinable in traditional standards.

And Puritanical Americans were hungry for sexy. They longed to fantasize about beautiful women. And women longed to want to be seen as sexy without losing respect and power. In addition, Americans enjoyed reading well-researched, fascinating articles that dealt with all topics facing them.

Unlike other “girly magazines” on the market that one might be ashamed to be caught, Playboy magazine had a higher quality and class to it than its peers.

Countless men had stacks of Playboy magazines in storage. Whether in boxes, on the bookshelves, in bathrooms, on bedside tables, or carefully “preserved under the bed”, no one wanted to discard such treasure.

And because the women were beautiful, the articles insightful, and the magazine tasteful, women were more apt to look and enjoy Playboy magazine either alone or with their partners.

Playboy Clubs that dotted the country were full, lucrative businesses that catered to the fantasy life of many in a ‘realistic’ setting. Of course, the club had its day in the sun and then, when times changed, AIDs became a part of the daily lexicon, and the morality of the country had a pendulum shift, they became relics of a past age.

Hefner’s image, legendary parties, and Playboy lifestyle was hotly envied and greatly admired by many men. Yet his respect for women – yes, respect – made his decision to put his daughter in power of his empire a logical step. A man need not be the only one to steer Playboy. Women had become equals in the business of sexual fantasy.

Even when reality television replaced scripted programming, Hefner took center stage with his three girlfriends. He had a supporting role at best, but the point was, he was still a virile, vital player in the Playboy lifestyle he’d created.

When Playboy magazine announced they’d stop featuring naked women, it probably troubled and hurt Hefner. With the Internet full of “free porn”, the magazine did what it felt was a responsible move. But, it stunk because it ended a beautiful era.

Losing Hugh Hefner at 91 isn’t a tragedy. He’d lived a long, lucrative, enviable life where he lived by his rules, not society’s.

Throughout my life I’ve seen Playboy magazines and liked them.

Yes, I did.

In fact, I used to dream about one day modeling for Playboy, but perhaps I was a bit too “girl next door” and not enough Marilyn. However, it allowed me to see myself in myriad ways.

Because, sexy isn’t one thing. Sexy isn’t just a look but an attitude, a confidence. Thanks to Playboy and Hugh Hefner, I feel sexy at “middle age” and know that I can stay sexy for decades to come because he gave me permission and showed me how.

Godspeed, Hef, and thank you. 

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