With Playboy, he helped slip sex out of the confines of plain brown wrappers and into mainstream conversation.
In 1953, a time when states could legally ban contraceptives and the word “pregnant” was not allowed on “I Love Lucy,” Hefner published the first issue of Playboy, featuring naked photos of Marilyn Monroe and an editorial promise of “humor, sophistication and spice.”
The Great Depression and World War II were over and Playboy soon became forbidden fruit for teens and a bible for men with time and money, primed for the magazine’s prescribed evenings of dimmed lights, hard drinks, soft jazz, deep thoughts and deeper desires. Within a year, circulation neared 200,000. Within five years, it had topped 1 million.
Hefner, the pipe-smoking embodiment of the lifestyle he touted, died at his home of natural causes on Wednesday night, Playboy said in a statement. He was 91.
Hefner and Playboy were brand names worldwide. Asked by The New York Times in 1992 of what he was proudest, Hefner responded: “That I changed attitudes toward sex… That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex. That gives me great satisfaction.”
He had the upper lip and naso-labial folds of a man who I would have assumed had been at least sexually abused as a child, if not been outright homosexual.
That said he was an excellent example of two things. One, the ignorance of r/K’s power among even those who we are told are the ones who set the trends. Hefner believes he changed attitudes about sex, even though the decline of the Roman Empire featured the same laxening of sexual standards, absent any individual’s efforts on that part. There are no trend setters, there are only trend-riders, and occasionally trend-helpers.
That said, if you have the right psychology, and hit the waves right, you can ride the tides of r/K to great personal success. Hef was the right rabbit at the right moment in history. He probably did have an effect helping along the cultural decline, but only because the conditions were right, and a little push was both possible, and capable of advancing the slide.
Had Hef been born in 1812, he either would have had to hide, or he would have been reduced to being the sleazy guy in town who ran the brothel, whom nobody respectable would associate with openly.
You cannot fight the tides of r/K, but you can ride their waves. For those with the right psychology, and the right timing, the tide’s shift can be very profitable indeed. DO it right, and you can even help along the trends, and in time, be remembered for having some effect.
60 years ago, in the late fifties, this fact would have been very demoralizing for a K-strategist. Today, it should be cause for a personal celebration. It is the rabbits who are fighting a losing battle. All of our actions are pushing the movement to our preordained victory.