Playboy is an important magazine for many reasons. It was an integral part of America’s sexual revolution and became a curious place for top interviews. It also once ran a story describing a world where heterosexuality was illegal. Let’s learn more.
The Early Days
Hugh Hefner has a complicated legacy, to say the least. The Curb Your Enthusiasm guest star was a powerful voice for freedom of speech. He also allegedly mistreated dozens of women for decades, with new horror stories coming out every week. Depending on who you ask, Hefner was either an icon or a creep.
The paradox of his work is on display from Playboy’s very first issue, which famously featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Everyone knows the impact that issue had, but not everyone knows that Monroe never actually consented to its printing. She had posed for a different magazine years earlier and Hefner never paid her directly. Hefner made millions, and Monroe’s career did get a boost. Playboy is a complicated beast.
‘The Crooked Man’
Two years into Playboy’s run, Hefner decided to publish the short story “The Crooked Man” by Charles Beaumont. He would later write for the Twilight Zone, including the excellent “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” His Playboy story depicted a dystopian future where heterosexuals were oppressed by homosexuals.
The story was pro-LGBTQ+ rights, and its moral was to essentially show how criminalizing someone over their sexual preference is wrong. Hefner would later have you believe he was always a champion of gay rights. He said of the short story, “if it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong, too.”
Was He An Advocate?
The question remains, should Hefner be praised for his advocacy? His biographer, Steven Watts, later said Hefner’s view of LGBTQ people changed as the nation’s did. “Part of Hefner’s crusade was to build up American men who he thought had been pushed down in the culture, and as a result, he was concerned that American men were becoming feminized,” Watts. “He wasn’t exactly in that period a crusader for gay rights.”
Hefner would later claim he was always publishing with gay men in mind, but you can only really take what he said with a grain of salt. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Playboy did some good, but it also helped warp misogyny and entitlement in the United States. He may have been at least slightly ahead of his time on some issues, but with the good comes the bad.
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