Friday, September 07, 2007

Hugh Hefner Uncut

From Details via AlterNet:

Q: For many of us who grew up in the eighties, the seventies was the party we missed.
A: The “sexual revolution” came to a rather abrupt halt in the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan and the Christian right. We live in a technologically remarkably sophisticated world, but we deal with it like superstitious savages.

Q: We live in a schizophrenic time.
A: Yes . . . We have an administration that is at least as conservative as Reagan’s. Remember that America was founded by Puritans who left England to escape religious persecution and promptly started persecuting people who didn’t agree with them. That schizophrenic attitude is as American as apple pie. That’s who we are. I’m a 10th-generation descendant of William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower, one of the original puritanical forefathers. My parents were puritan, and the creation of Playboy and my life are a response to that repression.

Click here for the rest.

Well, there's more to the end of the sexual revolution than Hef is admitting. The coming of AIDS was the watershed event that gave secular credibility to the forces of neo-puritanism, and the Reagan administration used its vast governmental resources to help out the new Christian right wing, who faithfully showed up to vote for Republicans on election day. I also think that a new cynicism born of capitalist sexual exploitation soured many Americans to the concept of sexual freedom, capitalist exploitation that was greatly aided in its early years by Hef himself.

But the old man is essentially correct. America really is in the grips of superstitious savagery, which comes all the way down from some of North America's first European settlers.

It's a shame that Playboy is now really only just another men's magazine. At one point, it was something of an intellectual beacon for the cause of sexual freedom. Hefner's "Playboy Philosophy" series of essays back in the 60s, of which I've only read a bit, was an extended, well reasoned critique of what we would today call "family values." Because the magazine was fairly mainstream at that point, many, many Americans were influenced by it in what I believe is a fairly sex-positive way. There is nothing coming even close to that now. Today's girlie magazines are all about arousal. There is simply no real philosophical counter to the forces of religious fundamentalism that is as widely known.

And that's a damned shame.