How Hugh Hefner & Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of Porn

I’ve never been a massive fan of Playboy Magazine. Still, I was sad to hear on the news this morning about the death of Hugh Hefner yesterday, aged 91. I’ve had a think about how Playboy Magazine had influenced areas of my life, how the Playboy brand had grown from a magazine shot in the Playboy Mansion to a global empire. My opinion of Playboy Magazine is very different now, aged 37, than when I was 16. A lot of that is thanks to Hugh Hefner. 

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of Porn

My Early Opinions Of Playboy Magazine

Through my years of sexual exploration and increasing awareness, Playboy was referenced in pop culture as the ultimate lad’s mag. It seemed the type of tits ‘n arse mag that the dads laughed about conspiratorially, eyes glazing over as they remembered with fondness the generous 70s bush within. For the teenage boys of my generation, it was the magazine being offered up by a generous school-route bush, if they were lucky.

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of PornThrough the ages of 16-20 Playboy meant nothing more to me than a symbol of the objectification of women. The enabler behind men’s leering smiles at my developing female body, and the inspiration behind lecherous comments and brazen gropes. I’d been taught from a young age that porn was evil; that early conditioning helped me lay some blame for men’s behaviour at the door of the most famous porn mag of them all – Playboy Magazine.  

Oh I knew the way men behaved around and towards me wasn’t solely due to Playboy (or porn) of course. But I viewed it as fanning the flames of men’s bad behaviour, encouraging disrespectful thoughts about women and inappropriate behaviour towards us.  

Growth Of The Playboy Brand

As the years went by, I heard Playboy mentioned in pop culture and conversations more regularly. From my point of view, Playboy Magazine went from being a late-night-TV dirty joke reference (here’s one for the dads) to being welcomed in adult society by women, too.  

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of Porn

It was when I browsed through my Studio catalogue magazine in the early 2000s that the Playboy transformation really struck me. There were pages and pages devoted to Playboy merchandise – and I don’t mean they got their boob-themed novelties out (for the lads); there were pink and sparkly gifts, designed for women. Everything from fluffy slippers, dressing gowns and PJs, to bed sets, stationery, bedside lamps… Playboy was now an established brand.  

This shook the younger-me’s adamant belief that Playboy Magazine was the evil flag waved by oppressive & objectifying men. Hugh Hefner had used his business acumen – and no doubt that of the large team surrounding him – to steer the corporation towards a universal acceptance. Forget the gender split, ‘for men’s eyes only’; Playboy wanted everyone to have fun.  

Hugh Hefner’s Sexual Revolution

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of PornI’ve seen mentions that Hugh Hefner kick started a sexual revolution, and that he stood for LGBT rights. I don’t know much about the work of Hugh Hefner in those fields at all, sorry to say.  

What I can say, from my limited knowledge of the man, is that he always seemed to be the perfect blend of intelligent and sophisticated. Yeah, his behaviour in TV appearances, interviews and documentaries, could all have been an act – but his attitude seemed genuine to me. There was an underlying kindness, and a respect for women which has been sadly lacking in some other men in the porn industry (this from personal experience as well as media coverage).

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of Porn
The Playboy Mansion

A few years ago, I saw some episodes of a documentary revealing life inside the Playboy Mansion. I watched it, not knowing whether I’d be outraged or aroused (with my background, there’s often a fine line between the two). To be perfectly honest with you, I was neither. I was impressed. Hugh Hefner was obviously a man who not only had a clear idea of where his business was headed and how to get there, but was helping women to find success in the adult industry too.  

How Hugh Hefner And Playboy Magazine Helped Change My Opinion Of PornThese women weren’t being used, abused, disrespected – the women being photographed and working within the Playboy Mansion were thrilled to be there, and more to the point, were working incredibly hard to make their own business dreams come true.

The women of Playboy had trust, admiration and respect, and were carving out their own careers. Hugh Hefner had provided that opportunity, and they were doing their best for themselves, not out of a sense of disappointing him or the industry. 

Hugh: Sorry, and Thank You

I’m still not a subscriber to Playboy Magazine, but these days it’s not because I suffer from other people’s deluded demonisation of porn, the porn industry, sex or self-pleasure. Happily – and with the help of the far-reaching education Hugh’s global empire growth has provided – I can admire Playboy Magazine for what it’s really about.  

I feel embarrassed that I believed, through others’ fears, that porn was the reason for a small amount of people’s terrible attitudes and behaviour. I’m sorry for that. Now I realise that some people will always be rude, disrespectful and appropriate – and porn has absolutely nothing to do with it. Neither does gender, come to that.

Growing the Playboy brand through several decades, changing attitudes towards it from a lecherous/disapproving gender split to becoming internationally respected, was no small feat. Hugh Hefner was indeed a pioneer of the adult industry, and I can finally understand the reverence not only for the magazine, and the Playboy Empire, but for the man himself. 

RIP Hef, thank you for showing the world a good time.

 

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