Participants of the Third Religious Roundtable

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The Playboy Philosophy was a section in Playboy edited by Hefner in which he lays out his principles, therefore, the guiding principles of the magazine. Published in 1965, the third religious roundable was apart of a short series within the Playboy Philosophy. This roundtable is significant, because Hefner specifically discusses the Sexual Revolution with religious leaders Father Norman J. O'Connor, Reverend Richard Gary, and Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum. Within the round table, Hefner acknowledges that one of the reasons Playboy has been so successful is because of the puritan concepts in American society that the magazine seeks to conquer. Hefner explains that Playboy was, and is, the voice needed to further the mounting desire for sexual liberation. He adds, "Just consider the image of sex that was being projected through most of the mass media in the period immediately prior to Playboy, a little over a decade ago. It was asexual, at best -  and much of it was downright antisexual."

In response to Rabbi Tanenbaum, Hefner explains that sin is a religious construct and that he believes sex should not be limited to marriage. Yet he also adds that marriage is for raising a family, since kids need love and stable security, but argues sex serves purposes other than reproduction: physical and emotional pleasure. He further elaborates that it aids in the development of human communication and expression. The discussion continues, covering topics such as love and morality. Hefner ultimately values individual freedom and complete sexual liberation, as long as it is responsible, in regard to the Sexual Revolution. While the Philosophy promotes sexual liberation for single, heterosexual men, Hefner cannot ignore the other half of the population that is being pursued by his playboys.


1965 Advertisement for Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown and the movie based on it

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Within the round table, Hefner extends his principles to women. He argues that popular women’s magazines are terrible, because they treat sex as a sickness. He points out that Playboy has attracted a female readership who appreciates reading about sex in a positive light. Hefner included women in his concept of liberation. Playboy would not be successful if Hefner advocated the sexual liberation of heterosexual males and not heterosexual females. He promotes women’s sexual liberation throughout Playboy, especially by promoting the important work, Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown. The 1965 advertisement shown here is for Brown’s book and the movie recently based on it. Within this same issue of Playboy there were at least two other ads for this movie. Sex and the Single Girl was published in the early 1960s and advocated concepts very similar to the Philosophy directed at men, but for women. Brown, who later turned the magazine Cosmopolitan around, wrote this work as a guide for single, heterosexual, working women. She considers marriage the worst part of a woman’s life and pushes her readers to consider sex outside of marriage, to enjoy the pleasure from sex, and even advocates its use as a weapon. This book, along with birth control pills made publicly available in 1961, helped usher the women's sexual liberation into the public sphere before other women's issues.

While the Philosophy certainly supported women’s sexual liberation, some may argue as a necessity, Playboy aligned itself with the women’s movement in other ways too. As Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, American women were just beginning to gain a sense of consciousness during the mid-1960s. Yet discourse on abortion, birth control, and gender equality is visible in the Playboy Forum in 1965 and throughout the decade. Women were often just as active and vocal as men in the forums. The Women's Movement finally gained some widespread public traction in 1968. In this one year Kate Millet published Sexual Politics, feminists buried a dummy representing "traditional womanhood" during a demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., and feminists protested the Miss America Pageant. The protest of Miss America was extremely controversial and birthed the stereotypical feminist bra-burning myth. Playboy's focus--and based on the forum its audience's focus--on feminism and women's issues increased and became more passionate around this time and through the early 1970s. Yet Playboy didn’t seek to aid the women’s movement by only writing about it. The Playboy Foundation donated thousands to groups fighting for abortion rights before the establishment of Roe v. Wade in 1973. The foundation also supported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to further women’s rights and help provide day care centers for working mothers. However, this does not mean the Philosophy lacked flaws in regard to this movement.

The Philosophy