On September 28, 2017 the world lost a true champion of all things sexy. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy and a sexual pioneer who helped loosened the panties of an uptight world, is dead at 91. Everyone from strippers to gigolos to sluts to studs to aspiring erotica/romance writers are all in a state of mourning.
Playboy may not be as prominent or taboo as it used to be, especially in the era of internet porn, but it’s impossible to overstate its influence on the sexual landscape we see today. Compared to where it was and the world Hefner grew up in, what he accomplished is almost as impressive as the number of hot blondes he slept with.
My generation, the latte-loving, overly-sensitive, debt ridden millennials, will likely never appreciate Hefner. As I write this, there are probably a few young people out there just shrugging their shoulders, surprised that Hefner hadn’t died years ago. I hope they’ll take a moment to appreciate how Hefner changed the culture around them. Without him, they might think being horny is a symptom of a brain tumor.
There’s a lot I can say about Henfer, but the outpouring of celebrities and former Playboy Playmates has already said it much better than I ever could. I’ll even admit that I probably still have some old back-issues of Playboy magazine gathering dust in my closet. I might just open them up again, if only to pay tribute to the man who dared to think that sex could be a positive thing.
That, more than anything, including hot blondes and working in pajamas, should be part of Hefner’s greatest legacies. It’s a legacy that allows aspiring erotica/romance writers like me to believe that it is possible to craft hot, sexy stories that will titillate others for all the right reasons. Sex, be it an erotica novel or a nude centerfold, can be a good thing.
Considering that Hugh Hefner grew up in a conservative, Methodist family, it’s pretty remarkable/ironic that he became the visionary for a sexual revolution that went beyond the free-loving hippie movement that burned out. He lived long enough to see the rise of hippies, the decline of pubic hair and the porno mustache, and the mainstreaming of internet porn. The man saw a lot, but lived a lot too.
Between the sexy parties he threw at the famous Playboy Mansion to the careers he launched, including sexy icons like Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson, Hef lived a life that embodied an ideal. Like a superhero for the horny, he dared to make a man’s sexual fantasy a reality. Whether you’re disgusted or envious of that life, there’s no denying that Hef liked to enjoy himself.
He lived that life knowing that there would always be a certain contingent of angry, uptight prudes who see anything sexy or fun as a ghastly affront to all things good and decent. These people, be they religious conservatives or humorless politically correct asshats, will never be able to say they lived as interesting a life as Hefner. They’ll also never be able to undo the sex-positive movement that he helped inspire.
When I talk about sex-positivity, I’m not just referring to the counterpoints to those who favor the sexual morality espoused by celibate priests or certain female superheroes who embody that spirit. I’m referring to a mindset and a cultural attitude that sees sexuality as something healthy, positive, and good.
That’s something society needed back in Hef’s day where anything that didn’t match the sitcoms of the day was considered deviant. That’s something we need today when certain segments of society seem to be getting more sexually uptight. That’s something our species needs, as a whole, if only our evolutionary inclinations to survive and reproduce.
Sex and how society treats sexuality had a long, sordid history of taboos, trends, and panics that can lead to some pretty disturbing attitudes, as John Harvey Kellogg demonstrated. It will likely continue to be controversial, whether it’s overly sexy ads or advances in sex toys. What Hugh Hefner did was focus on the positives of sex, showing just how beautiful and fun they could be.
I don’t doubt that, over the course of the next few weeks, there will be people claiming that Hefner deserves no praise. They’ll blame him for advocating a hedonistic lifestyle, denigrating women, promoting toxic masculinity, and making baby Jesus cry. These people are entitled to their opinions, but not to any credibility. If they prefer to live in an unsexy world enforced by Vatican decrees, that’s their business.
That doesn’t change the fact that Hugh Hefner made the world a sexier place. He made it okay to admire the beauty of the female body. People forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the female form was looked upon with disgust. Some parts of the world still do. Some are even trying to regress us back to a periods where the sight of a sexy woman provokes outrage.
Those efforts are destined to fail in the long run because Hugh Hefner, as outrageous a lifestyle he lived, understood the power of sexuality and the inherent desire to celebrate its beauty. Our desires, lusts, and passions aren’t going away anytime soon, no matter how much the religious or politically correct asshats whine about it.
Moreover, Hefner understood how to convey those sex-positive attitudes in a way that shattered taboos and overpowered the shame that those same asshats had used for centuries. It’s telling when famous models like Kendra Wilkinson will come out and praise Hefner for giving women a chance to celebrate their beauty and become stars in their own right.
“A lot of women, so many women, thousands of women are so appreciative of Hef,” the Playboy model, 32, exclusively told Us Weekly in May 2016. “They are so happy that Hef gave them their chance and became who they are because of him.”
There will still be radical feminists and celibate religious officials who cry immorality or oppression. It doesn’t make the sentiments of those who knew and loved Hef less sincere. The man lived life to an extent that exceeds the wildest fantasies of the horniest men. For that, he deserves respect and praise. He will be missed dearly.