Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Hugh Hefner, William Buckley and Roger Ebert

“Hugh Hefner has been good for us’” is the title of a recent article by Roger Ebert on Hugh Hefner.  Obviously, Ebert likes Hefner; he considers Hefner’s Playboy Philosophy to be a major contributing force to sexual liberation in the 60s.  Anchoring Ebert’s analysis is a series of videos on which Hefner is interviewed.  Unquestionably, the most valuable of these videos is from William Buckley’s FIRING LINE  in which Buckley interrogates Hefner on just about all aspects of Hefner’s philosophy.  The kind of interchanges dealing with sexuality between Buckley and Hefner has been a rarity on American television.  Buckley does his best to defend the traditional view that pre-marital sexuality is immoral and unacceptable and that Hefner is in essence perverting/undermining the dominant and only acceptable sexual ethos in America.

From the dankprofessor’s perspective the series of  the five video segments of the Buckley/Hefner interchange provides the viewer with the anti-sexuality background of  our contemporary ethos.  Of course, in the 60s the acceptability of student prof sexual relationships was nil; they were effectively closeted in the context of their being no discussion of the matter and no bureaucratic apparatus designed to repress such relationships and to persecute those who were party to these relationships.  Now that has all changed.  The very survival of universities has been held to be at risk if such relationships flourish; such was similar to the fear that homosexuality if not criminalized would function to destroy society.  Such was also similar to the dynamic of fear that led to the passage of the Mann Act in the United States and the hysteria to save our young women from pre-marital sex and being seduced into prostitution.

Ebert puts the contribution of  Hefner and Playboy in therse terms:

Hefner and Playboy have been around so long that not everyone remembers what America used to be like. It was sexually repressed and socially restrictive. College students were expelled for having sex out of wedlock. Homosexuality and miscegenation were illegal. Freedom of choice was denied. McCarthyism still cast a pall over the freedom of speech. Many people joined in the fight against that unhealthy society. Hefner was one of them, and a case can can be made that Playboy had a greater influence on our society in its first half-century than any other magazine.

Take the time and view the the Buckley/Hefner interchange.  The dankprofessor guarantees you won’t regret doing so.

November 2, 2010 - Posted by | consensual relationships, Hugh Hefner, Roger Ebert, sex, sexual politics, William Buckley


  1. Great perspective!
    Hugh Hefner certainly was a leading voice in the softening of taboos, concerning human sexuality. As a teenager, I did not support Mr. Heffner, due to my Catholic Grade School background. So what did I do, to satisfy my male curiosity? I went to the library, took Gray’s Anatomy off the shelf, and turned to what was either page 914, or 918. I would study the detailed diagram of a woman’s best part, learning words like “vulva”, “labia”, and “hymen”. A growing boy (or girl) will do what they have to, in order to learn about the opposite sex! I did this on several occasions, beginning at age 14.

    Comment by Donald Visconti | November 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. I just viewed the Firing Line Episode, rather belatedly. I thought that Mr. Hefner gave a good account of his philosophy, though I would have supported Mr. Buckley, at the time. Ironically, EVEN THEN, I frowned on Mr. Hefner’s “prohibiting” the bunnies from seeing the patrons of the Playboy Clubs, after working hours. As I do today, I felt that this was an infringement on the female employees’ Civil Rights. After all, these gals were all of legal age, so Mr. Hefner had no business dictating who they should be “allowed” to see, after working hours! Happily, Mr. Hefner finally saw the light, and removed this restriction, I think, in 1974. To comment on Mr. Hefner’s defense that these girls had to be “protected”, they all, as adults, should have been aware of possible “difficult situations”, which could develop. Yet, if the girls were willing to let it go to the level of intimacy, that would have been their business! If they did not, and the horny men couldn’t take “no” for an answer, then the Civil Authorities might have had to have been called. Overall, it was not something that an employer had, or still has the right to control, aside from warning the bunnies of potential pitfalls.
    Of course, the same attitude should apply today, concerning employers and college administrators, in their dealings with their employees.

    Comment by Donald Visconti | December 6, 2010 | Reply

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