I recently watched the documentary, “The World of Hugh Hefner” along with the first episode of the Amazon biopic series that dramatizes his life; not because I’m a fan, (I’m decidedly not), but I was curious to understand the motivation behind the man who created the Playboy brand and pioneered world wide accessibility to porn. The Amazon docu-drama series and the documentary viewed together, create a more complete portrait of the iconic, misogynistic sex mogul. I recommend watching, “The World of Hugh Hefner” more because it has actual footage of Hugh, his extravagant mansion and the infamous “bunnies” in action.
Hugh Hefner grew up during a time of sexual conservatism and blatant gender inequality in North America. Sex was reserved for after marriage, probably to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Since pre-martial sex was against religious doctrine, it was most probably first experienced during the wedding night or honeymoon. If a couple realized they were sexually incompatible, they had to live with that frustration since divorce was also another religious and societal taboo.
Sexuality between married couples was depicted in mainstream movies and sitcoms in a naively unrealistic way. The marital bedroom in movies had separate twin beds, perhaps to indicate that sexual relations were for procreation purposes only? Countless films that starred Doris Day, (who was always searching for a husband, usually Rock Hudson, to complete her existence), taught women to be good girls, (despite the fact that they were women).
Sexual repression was religiously indoctrinated but there were outlets for rebels on the fringe of society. Esquire, a popular men’s magazine during Hefner’s coming of age years, showcased an illustrated, scantily clad, soft porn “pin up girl”. Hefner eventually landed his dream job as a writer for Esquire but quit after he realized the tone of the magazine had changed. There weren’t anymore pin up girls so he decided to create his own men’s magazine which he named, “Stag Party” which featured a female centerfold. The centerfold was an actual photograph not an illustrated drawing and the first model of the magazine was Marilyn Monroe.
Hefner opened the gated doors of pornography, brought what was considered lewd and criminal into the mainstream as sexual revolution but who did this new liberation serve? The fully clothed playboy men in smoking jackets or the female glorified waitresses in bathing suits, tilted bunny ears, and huge puffy white cotton tail? If it was a sexual revolution why were the men still the lords of the mansion?