The Sexual Revolution probably would not have happened, had Hugh Hefner not hit on the idea of founding a men’s magazine, put a nude or semi-nude woman on the cover, and selling it: At its height, to millions of people a month. However, he gave the acceptance to debauchery that started in the 1960s with a particular style that seemed at once innocent and depraved from the point of view of the anxious, uptight 20th Century. The 'Playboy lifestyle'” was roundly condemned, first by Puritans, later by feminists, but also followed by many. The 20th Century would have been less fun and less controversial if "Playboy" had not been in it.

The 'Playboy' lifestyle had a particular approach to sex and culture

The magazine, which launched in 1953, pushed the idea that uninhibited sex whether one was married or not, could be fun, and nothing to be ashamed about. It was a very controversial idea in the Eisenhower years. The idea came to gain increasing acceptance in the 1960s and especially the 1970s so that, for a while at least, it became the new normal. However, the uninhibited approach to sex, as something normal and fun, began to take a decline when feminists decided that it was exploitive of women. "Playboy’s'' decline can be attributed to a number of things - the rise of the Internet for example. The somewhat pernicious idea that hitherto normal sexual encounters could be construed as rape (just think of the sort of things happening on college campuses), helped put better days for "Playboy" behind it.

And, yes, a lot of people read "Playboy" for the articles. From celebrity interviews (including one with then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter where he admitted to feeling lust in his heart) to serializations of upcoming novels, the magazine at its height, was worth a read even without the centerfolds and the comic strip salaciousness.

The paradox that was Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner, that dark haired man with the pipe and the pajamas, was a living paradox. On the one hand, he promoted a lifestyle consisting of uninhibited sex with as many women (so long as they were 20 something and blond in Heff’s case), that seems strangely innocent in today’s hookup culture with the use of apps like Tinder.

On the other hand, Hefner’s life was a long pursuit of intimacy that went beyond casual encounters in the grotto of his famous mansion. He was married three times and had a long string of girlfriends. He experienced plenty of debauchery in his life, but Hefner never quite got the idea of the joys of exclusivity with one, perfect person, even after age and physical decline made the former impossible.

Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91 of natural causes, an incredible achievement for someone so identified with practices that should have shortened a normal human lifespan. There will likely be no one else like him again, as he was as much a man of his times as well as someone who shaped them.

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