Hugh Hefner Defends “the Playboy Philosophy” to William F. Buckley (1966)

“Mr. Hefn­er’s mag­a­zine is most wide­ly known for its total expo­sure of the human female,” says William F. Buck­ley, intro­duc­ing the guest on this 1966 broad­cast of his talk show Fir­ing Line. “Though of course oth­er things hap­pen in its pages.” Not long before, pub­lish­er and plea­sure empire-builder Hugh Hefn­er’s Play­boy mag­a­zine ran a series of arti­cles on “the Play­boy phi­los­o­phy,” a set of obser­va­tions of and propo­si­tions about human sex­u­al­i­ty that pro­vid­ed these men fod­der for their tele­vised debate. Hefn­er stands against reli­gious­ly man­dat­ed, chasti­ty-cen­tered codes of sex­u­al moral­i­ty; Buck­ley demands to know how Hefn­er earned the qual­i­fi­ca­tions to issue new codes of his own. Describ­ing the Play­boy phi­los­o­phy as “sort of a hedo­nis­tic util­i­tar­i­an­ism,” Buck­ley tries simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to under­stand and demol­ish these 20th-cen­tu­ry revi­sions of the rules of sex.

“The Play­boy founder is no match for the Catholic who snipes him at will with ‘moral’ bul­lets,” writes the poster of the video. “The acer­bic, dry Buck­ley is on attack mode with a con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ence, in moral pan­ic, behind him. The Catholic had the era of con­ser­vatism behind him. [ … ] In the 21st cen­tu­ry though, Buck­ley (passed 2008) would have a hard­er time defend­ing moral­i­ty with Hefn­er.” One won­ders how, were Buck­ley still alive, he and Hefn­er might approach these issues were they to revis­it this debate today. Times have cer­tain­ly changed, but I sus­pect Buck­ley would raise the same core objec­tion to Hefn­er’s argu­ment that loos­en­ing the old stric­tures on sex leads, per­haps coun­ter­in­tu­itive­ly, to more sat­is­fied, more monog­a­mous pair­ings: “How in the hell do you know?” Though this and cer­tain oth­er of Buck­ley’s ques­tions occa­sion­al­ly wrong-foot Hefn­er, the faith­ful can rest assured that he keeps enough cool to fire up his sig­na­ture pipe on cam­era.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

375+ Episodes of William F. Buckley’s Fir­ing Line Now Online: Fea­tures Talks with Chom­sky, Borges, Ker­ouac, Gins­berg & More

Yeah, Baby! Deep Pur­ple Gets Sha­gadel­ic on Play­boy After Dark

James Bald­win Bests William F. Buck­ley in 1965 Debate at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty

Jack Ker­ouac Meets William F. Buck­ley (1968)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.