Article: 19871201045

Title: The Playboy Philosophy

The Playboy Philosophy
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
Reader Discussion
Twenty-five years ago this month, the first installment of "The Playboy Philosophy" appeared in the pages of Playboy. Over the next few years, in 25 installments, Hugh M. Hefner tried to define the principles and perspectives of the magazine to readers and critics alike. What the founding fathers in Philadelphia did for democracy, Hefner in Chicago did for the sexual revolution.

Twenty-five years ago this month, the first installment of "The Playboy Philosophy" appeared in the pages of Playboy. Over the next few years, in 25 installments, Hugh M. Hefner tried to define the principles and perspectives of the magazine to readers and critics alike. What the founding fathers in Philadelphia did for democracy, Hefner in Chicago did for the sexual revolution.

The "Philosophy" mirrored the conversations our culture was having about sex; it clarified the issues. Hefner questioned some of our more irrational and hurtful values.

Now we celebrate 25 years of controversy. "The Playboy Philosophy" is still many things to many people. For some, it represents the ultimate expression of permissiveness. For others, it is a clear vision of a rational society. The original text speaks eloquently. We are pleased to present selected passages from "The Playboy Philosophy." Here is Hugh M. Hefner, in his own write.

The Playboy Philosophy is predicated on my belief in the importance of the individual and his rights as a member of a free society. That's my most basic premise--the starting point from which everything else in which I believe evolves.

[We hold] the view that man's personal self-interest is natural and good, and that it can be channeled, through reason, to the benefit of the individual and his society; the belief that morality should be based upon reason; the conviction that society should exist as man's servant, not as his master; the idea that the purpose in man's life should be found in the full living of life itself and the individual pursuit of happiness.

America is presumably the land of the free and the home of the brave. But our legislators, our judges and our officers of law enforcement are allowed to enter our most private inner sanctuaries--our bedrooms--and dictate the activity that takes place there.

It is simply our purpose, at this moment, to point out the utter lack of justification in the state making unlawful these private acts performed between two consenting adults. Organized religions may preach against them if they wish--and there may well be some logic in their doing so, since extreme sexual permissiveness is not without its negative aspects--but there can be no possible justification for religion using the state to coercively control the sexual conduct of the members of a free society.

Church-state legislation has made common criminals of us all. Dr. Alfred Kinsey has estimated that if the sex laws of the United States were conscientiously enforced, over 90 percent of the adult population would be in prison.

The sexual activity that we pompously preach about and protest against in public, we enthusiastically practice in private. We lie to one another about sex; we lie to our children about sex; and many of us undoubtedly lie to ourselves about sex. But we cannot forever escape the reality that a sexually hypocritical society is an unhealthy society that produces more than its share of perversion, neurosis, psychosis, unsuccessful marriage, divorce and suicide.

A society may offer negative, suppressive, perverted concepts of sex, relating sex to sin, sickness, shame and guilt; or, hopefully, it may offer a positive, permissive, natural view, where sex is related to happiness, to beauty, to health and to feelings of pleasure and fulfillment.

But what you cannot have is a society that stresses the negative side of sex prior to marriage, with the anticipation that it can all be replaced with a positive responsiveness to sex immediately after the marital rites take place. A healthy sexual attitude isn't like a dress suit that can be hidden away in a trunk in the attic all the young years of one's life, and then brought forth when needed--cleaned, pressed and slipped into--on the wedding day. It just doesn't work like that.

Sow concepts of sin, shame and suppression in the early years of life and you will reap frustration, frigidity, impotence and unhappiness in the years thereafter.

There are a great many well-meaning members of our own society who sincerely believe that we would have a happier, healthier civilization if there were less emphasis upon sex in it. These people are ignorant of the most fundamental facts on the subject. What is clearly needed is a greater emphasis upon sex, not the opposite. Provided of course, that we really do want a healthy, heterosexual society.

Nor can we accept the argument that it is some flaw in the nature of man, some weakness or devil in the flesh, that produces our sexual yearnings and behavior; we reject as totally without foundation the premise of the prude, who would have us believe that man would be healthier and happier if he were somehow able to curb these natural desires.

I certainly think that personal sex is preferable to impersonal sex, because it includes the greatest emotional rewards; but I can see no logical justification for opposing the latter, unless it is irresponsible, exploitive, coercive or in some way hurts one of the individuals involved.

We are opposed to wholly selfish sex, but we are opposed to any human relationship that is entirely self-oriented--that takes all and gives nothing in return.

Sex is, at its best, an expression of love and adoration. But this is not to say that sex is, or should be, limited to love alone. Love and sex are certainly not synonymous, and while they may often be closely interrelated, the one is not necessarily dependent upon the other. Sex can be one of the most profound and rewarding elements in the adventure of living; if we recognize it as not necessarily limited to procreation, then we should also acknowledge openly that it is not necessarily limited to love either. Sex exists--with and without love--and in both forms it does far more good than harm. The attempts at its suppression, however, are almost universally harmful, both to the individuals involved and to society as a whole.

I do believe that sex can sometimes, quite properly, be an end in itself. And if sex can serve as a means of self-realization, this is purpose enough and justification enough for its existence. But I do not believe that sex, or any of man's behavior, can be separated from its consequences.

The religious views of a portion of society are forced upon the rest of it--through government coercion--whether they are consistent with the personal convictions of the individual or not.

If a man has a right to find God in his own way, he has a right to go to the Devil in his own way, also.

Our society's repressive and suppressive antisexualism is derived from twisted theological concepts that became firmly imbedded in Christianity during the Dark Ages, several hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ, and spread and became more severe with Calvinist Puritanism after the Reformation. In the Old World, the people suffered under totalitarian church-state controls of both Catholic and Protestant origin and many of the early colonists in America came here in search of the religious freedom denied them in Europe. Our own founding fathers, well aware of the history of religious tyranny in other countries, established with the Constitution of the United States the concept of a separate church and state as the best means of assuring that both our religion and government would remain free, thus guaranteeing the freedom of the people.

Unfortunately, the seeds of religious antisexualism were already planted in the people themselves, however; in addition, through the centuries, a certain amount of ecclesiastical law had found its way into the common law of Europe, and then into American law as well. As a result, not even the guarantees of the Constitution itself were enough to keep our religion and government apart.

Nowhere is this unholy alliance between church and state more obvious than in matters of sex. In our most personal behavior, no citizen of the United States is truly free.

Some sexual behavior is the proper concern of the state. In protecting its citizens, the state has the right to prohibit unwelcome acts of sexual violence or aggression; it also has the right to protect the individual from sexual exploitation and fraud. Before a certain age, individuals lack the maturity necessary for full participation in a free society and so it is logical to have special legislation for the protection of minors....

All other sexual activity--specifically, all private sex between consenting adults--is the personal business of the individuals involved and in a free society the state has no right to interfere.

Religious puritanism pervades every aspect of our sexual lives. We use it as a justification for suppressing freedom of thought, expression and, of course, personal behavior. By associating sex with sin, we have produced a society so guilt-ridden that it is almost impossible to view the subject objectively and we are able to rationalize the most outrageous acts against mankind in the name of God.

But what sort of God would have man deny his God-given sexual nature?

Some members of our society sincerely believe that sex has a single purpose: procreation. As such, sexual activity is logically limited to coitus within the bounds of marriage, since children benefit from the presence of both parents and a stable familial environment is best established within the bounds of wedlock. But life is more complex than that. To deny the true emotional and physical significance of sex in society is to turn our backs on all the knowledge about man that the sociological and psychological sciences have given us. In suggesting that the sole purpose of sex is the perpetuation of the species, we reduce man to the level of the lower animals.

So intimately is sex interrelated with the rest of human experience that it is impossible to conceive of a society existing, as we know it, without benefit of the primal sex urge. Most certainly, if such a society did exist, it would be a very cold, totalitarian and barbarous one. The existence of two sexes, and their attraction for one another, must be considered the major civilizing influence in our world. As much as religion has done for the development and growth of society, sex has done more.

If we want to have a healthier, happier society, we ought logically to approve of whatever art and literature treats sex in an attractive and appealing way and disapprove of that which makes sex seem ugly or shameful. We do just the opposite, of course, because the censor and the prude understand almost nothing about the subject with which they are so concerned. Thus they tend to attack the healthiest, most heterosexual expressions of the erotic, all but ignoring the sex associated with sickness and sin. We pander to the perverted, the sadomasochistic, the guilt- and fear-ridden, perpetuating the most negative side of man's sexual nature. The extent to which a society emphasizes sex isn't what matters, but the way in which it is emphasized is.

The charge of obscenity itself is sometimes used as a cover for other things to which the censor objects: Political, philosophical, social, medical, religious and racial ideas have all been damned at one time or another for being "obscene."

It was disconcerting when we first discovered that many of those who consider nudity and obscenity nearly synonymous often drag God's name into the act--this struck us, and strikes us still, as a particularly blatant bit of blasphemy. The logic that permits a person to call down God's wrath on anyone for displaying a bit of God's own handiwork does, we must admit, escape us. If the human body--far and away the most remarkable, the most complicated, the most perfect and the most beautiful creation on this earth--can become objectionable, obscene or abhorrent, when purposely posed and photographed to capture that remarkable perfection and beauty, then the world is a far more cockeyed place than we are willing to admit. That there may be some people in this world with rather cockeyed ideas on subjects of this sort--well, that's something else again.

It has long seemed quite incredible--indeed, incomprehensible--to us that detailed descriptions of murder, which we consider a crime, are acceptable in our art and literature, while detailed descriptions of sex, which is not a crime, are prohibited. It is as though our society put hate above love--favored death over life.

Only a man who carries the obscenity within him will see obscenity in a book, a painting or a photograph. If you find the obscene in a work of art or literature, or in life itself, you have manufactured the idea of obscenity yourself. And you have no one to blame but yourself for having made it obscene. If it is true that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," one must accept its logical corollary, that ugliness is, too.

Those who favor censorship are often motivated by what they believe to be the best of principles. We have Government agencies to ban harmful foods and medicines--why not do the same with "harmful" art and literature, they reason. What they fail to recognize is that a bad food or drug is a matter of indisputable fact, but a "bad" book or movie is a matter of taste or opinion, and nothing more. And in our free society, we are fundamentally opposed to the suppression of ideas with which we do not agree, or the forcing of our own ideas onto others.

The attitude that some ideas are best kept from the citizenry advances a concept of totalitarian paternalism that is contrary to the most basic ideals of our free society. It is akin to the colonialist concept that a new nation may not yet be ready to rule itself. The only way in which the people of a country can ever become mature enough for self-rule is by setting them free to practice self-rule. Similarly, the only way in which a society can mature sexually, socially and philosophically is by allowing it naturally free and unfettered sexual, social and philosophical growth. By treating our own citizens like so many overprotected children, we have produced our present, too-often-childlike, immature, hypocritical social order.

Discussing; describing or graphically depicting sex too explicitly, or with an improper moral point of view, is still prohibited throughout much of these supposedly free United States. Why? Because it may lead to like behavior. And that is the greatest fear of all: that sex may be indulged in freely, without the burden of guilt and shame placed upon it by our ignorant, superstitious, fear-ridden ancestors in the Middle Ages.

Never mind that the contemporary psychiatrist knows, and will gladly tell any who care to listen, that books, and pictures, and pamphlets and papers that deal openly and honestly with sex have little or no effect upon human behavior and whatever effect they do have is healthful, rather than injurious, to society; never mind that the science of psychiatry has revealed that it is the repression of the natural sex instinct, and the association of sex with guilt and shame, that cause the hurt to humankind--producing frigidity, impotence, masochism, sadism ... and all manner of other sexual perversions, social and psychological ills, neuroses and psychoses; never mind that all of history documents the utter impossibility of curbing the normal sex drive, of keeping the male and female free from this sin of the flesh; never mind that modern research into sex behavior has revealed that America's own Puritan attempts at sexual suppression have failed to halt or seriously hinder the "immoral" sex conduct of the majority of our adult population and resulted in nought but frustration, aberration, agony and heartache; never mind that any effort to regulate or control the private sexual morality of the adult citizens of the United States is contrary to the principle of individual freedom that is the very foundation of our democracy, and is in conflict with the most basic guarantees of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Never mind--for such arguments are based upon reason. And there is nothing reasoned or rational about our society's attitude toward sex. It is based, instead, upon an irrational conglomeration of prejudice, superstition, fear, faith, mysticism and malarkey.

The lowest forms of pornography tend to flourish in a sexually suppressive atmosphere rather than one that is open and permissive.... Censorship creates an appetite for the hidden and suppressed; pornography would lose much of its appeal in a sexually free society.

There is presently a considerable school of scientific opinion amongst authorities on human behavior suggesting not simply that pornography is harmless, but that it may actually have some value as a sublimation and release for pent-up sexual frustrations and desires.

Since the beginning of recorded history there have been individuals determined to force their own standards upon their fellow men. And time inevitably proves that the "dangerous" work of art or literature of one generation is the classic of the next--that any contemporary condemnation of the spoken or the written word appears ridiculous to succeeding generations.

For it matters little if a book is burned because it contains an unpopular political idea or an unpopular moral or religious one--the book has been burned just the same--and society is a little poorer for having lost perhaps just one small voice, one difference of opinion, one divergent thought or idea.

The founding fathers included necessary safeguards in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights specifically establishing religious freedom and the separation of church and state. To this end, they had a much earlier reference: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's" (Luke, 20:25). But for all their precautions, we do not enjoy true religious freedom in America today. In a remarkable example of double-think, we've successfully sustained our freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion.

Puritanism was still so dominant a force in America less than 50 years ago that, from 1919 to 1933, the entire nation suffered under the enforced Prohibition established by Congress with the 18th Amendment.... National Prohibition, known as the "Noble Experiment," was almost certainly the most corrupting legislation ever established in the United States; it made criminals out of honest men, and drunkards out of sober ones. It stands as a monument to the evil that can result when man attempts to establish by governmental edict what should rightfully be a matter of personal choice.

We confess to a strong personal prejudice in favor of the boy-girl variety of sex, but our belief in a free, rational and humane society demands a tolerance of those whose sexual inclinations are different from our own--so long as their activity is limited to consenting adults in private and does not involve either minors or the use of any kind of coercion.

Progress necessarily requires the exchange of outdated ideas for new and better ones. By keeping open all lines of communication in our culture, every new idea, no matter how seemingly perverse, improper or peculiar, has its opportunity to be considered, to be challenged and ultimately to be rejected by society as a whole or by some small part of it. This is the important advantage that a free society has over a totalitarian one, for in the free exchange of ideas, the best will ultimately win out. A dictatorship, with its pre-established dogma, is chained to the past; a free society may draw from past, present and the future.

Society benefits as much from the differences in men as from their similarities, and we should create a culture that not only accepts these differences, but respects and actually nurtures them.

It is important to remember that our American democracy is based not simply on the will of the majority, but on the protection of the will of the minority. And the smallest minority in society is the individual.

The Bible singles out the meek and the poor in spirit for special blessings. We'd like to add one of our own: Blessed is the rebel--without him there would be no progress.

"In our most personal behavior, no citizen of the United States is truly free."

"Only a man who carries the obscenity within him will see obscenity in a book, a painting or a photograph."

"There is nothing reasoned or rational about our society's attitude toward sex."

Hugh M. Hefner, in 1962, working on The Playboy Philosophy.