Life is too Short to be Living Someone Else’s Dream
When I started this blog, many years ago now, I struggled with the name. I knew I had two goals: First, I wanted to talk about sex positive feminism in a way that would be accessible to someone who had no academic knowledge of feminist theory. Second, I wanted to provide fact based information about sex to young men and women in a friendly and relatable way.
It wasn’t until I was watching the documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel (please go and watch this right now!) that I found the right name.
Playboy was founded on the notion that nice girls like sex too. – Hugh Hefner
Those twelve words struck me like a freight train. I had my title.
Within its pages, Playboy presented an aspirational lifestyle, just as Instagram models do on our phones today. The playmates/centerfolds were not just pretty girls, they were also selected for their intellect and ambition. Although the main draw was always the models and the centerfolds, men did indeed read Playboy for the articles: how to mix a great cocktail, what new music to look out for, and how to dress like a cosmopolitan man. But the articles weren’t all fluff, and with Hefner at the helm, Playboy was truly radical for its time.
I could wax eloquent about how groundbreaking Playboy was for the sexual aspect, but I’d like to draw your attention to the second descriptor in that documentary title: Activist.
Playboy came about at a time of strife in the United States. We were in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, and Jim Crow was alive and well. Hefner rejected racism outright, and he put his money where his mouth was.
He hired Alex Haley (later famous for writing Roots) to head the infamous Playboy Interview section in 1962, after publishing a conversation between Haley and jazz great Miles Davis, where Davis spoke about his thoughts on racism. Haley’s interviews for Playboy were legend – including George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party; Muhammad Ali; the longest interview Rev. Martin Luther King Jr ever gave; and the interviews that would eventually become Haley’s first book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Hefner also hosted the first integrated variety show, Playboy’s Penthouse, which featured black and white performers as well as “guests” in the audience, and continued to do so with Playboy After Dark. He bought out the owners of Playboy Clubs in the American south who refused to honor Playboy Club keys from black members. He honored the beauty of black women in his centerfolds as early as 1965 – well before any other mainstream publication. He published the last public writings of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And that is merely what this remarkable man did to advance the Civil Rights movement: He offered a platform and elevated black voices in a time when white America was doing its utmost to silence the experience of black Americans. He also fought for abortion and reproductive rights, for the decriminalization of marijuana, and so very many battles about the First Amendment.
Given that his ultimate public image was that of a womanizer, mostly due to his practice of non-monogamy, history may not remember that he was so much more, but I will.
Part of the reason behind my indefinite hiatus from Nice Girls was out of fear – I stopped writing when the people in my circle were being targeted by internet hate mobs. I think that losing one of my (let’s admit it, incredibly flawed) heroes may have been the catalyst I needed to start writing here on a regular basis again.
Travel well, sir. We’ll take the fight from here.
Posted on September 28, 2017, in Feminism, Personal Stories, Sex Positive and tagged celebrities, current-events, hugh hefner, opinion, playboy, Sex, society, women. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.