Mollie: I find it fascinating that Flanders says “the battle has been won.” On the one hand, he shows a certain self-awareness about the nature and outcome of the war that was being waged by Playboy against sexual morality. On the other, can you imagine a more Pyrrhic victory? Hugh Hefner—and by the way, that New York Times story was mostly noteworthy for letting me know that Hugh Hefner is still alive, God bless him—dreamed of a world where gentlemen enjoy all these luxuries—cigars, fine spirits, voluptuous and willing women who exist to cater to their whims. But his own magazine so cheapened sex that any profits the Playboy corporation makes are derivative from the time when sex still had some kind of value.
The Times article mentioned that the magazine is far less valuable than the licensing of its logo, particularly in other countries. So the bunny logo sells more than the naked lady product, in some perverse reimagining of the late comedian Bill Hicks’ joke about the ultimate commercial. He said the advertisement executives really wanted to run would begin with a shot of a beautiful woman’s face. The camera would slowly pan out to reveal the woman in all her naked glory. Nothing left to the imagination. And the only words would be “Drink Coke.”
Now, you can get a glimpse of random ladies’ saggy breasts simply by taking a casual stroll through Times Square. And there is nothing you can imagine that you can’t get to in two clicks of the Internet. Yet Hefner’s vision of sexual libertinism also created a campus culture that took us from furtive exploits in the 1950s to “Animal House”-style romps in the 1970s and 1980s to, now, some weird dystopic sexual lockdown where you can’t even attempt a kiss without getting expelled from campus on rape charges.