With the passing of Playboy founder and icon Hugh Hefner on September 27 at age 91, subsequent discussions about his legacy and the influence that Playboy continues to have today have been disappointingly reduced to a feminist debate about whether Hefner was a “liberator” or an “oppressor”.
In stark contrast to the myopic discussions of sex usually heard in such a restricted context, our in-studio guest Salim Mansur brings a breath of fresh air to yet another discussion considered politically incorrect: the celebration of sex between men and women.
Just as Freud pointed out, ultimately everything boils down to sex. The whole of life throughout history is ultimately about the primordial basic relationship between a male and a female. Out of that relationship comes great art, great music, great painting – and out of it also comes the dirtiest violence, misogyny, abuse, excesses. That’s life.”
Salim’s account of the development of sexual attitudes in North America draws upon a broader appreciation of sexual attitudes in other parts of the world.
Borrowing from the the Kama Sutra – Salim emphasizes that the art and practices of sexual relationships is not about procreation: “Sex is about pleasure. Sex is about expressing oneself. Sex is poetry. Sex is music. Sex is is what gods do!”
For North Americans, the debut of Playboy Magazine in 1953 challenged the repressive sexual norms of the time, unique to the North American culture.
“Playboy was not simply about the centerfold,” notes Salim. “Playboy was about the art of seduction. Moreover, Playboy was also a publication in which you read things that others were not writing about or exploring. (Hefner) brought out interviews and short stories and essays by people like Hemingway and Philip Roth.
“It is fascinating that Playboy would have published the Ayn Rand interview in 1964,” he adds. “What struck me was how well she expressed classic liberalism: there is no freedom unless it is about the individual.”
Salim credits Hugh Hefner as a pioneer who pushed boundaries – boundaries that tested the American system of government and First Amendment rights.
“We have to be willing to bring the discussion of sex and sexual issues to the public,” he advises, “so that the public can be engaged and able to come forward, instead of being prudish and puritanical.”
Having been among the first to introduce precisely such a discussion to North Americans, Hugh Hefner’s legacy and influence will continue to be felt well into the future.
His vision that became Playboy magazine has framed that discussion and appreciation of sex in one way that is certainly Just Right for freedom of speech and for individual freedom.