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Interview: Hugh Hefner

Porn or erotica?
By S.I. ROSENBAUM  |  August 15, 2010


REVIEW: "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel," by Betsy Sherman

I wanted to ask Hugh Hefner what he whacks off to these days. I really did. But when I was actually talking with the 84-year-old centerfold tycoon, I couldn't bring myself to. He's just so sweetly old-fashioned. Hefner is the subject of a new documentary, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel, directed by Brigitte Berman. The film is not unhagiographic, but it's still fascinating. I'd no idea Hef had got up to so much — hosting the first mixed-race variety show, organizing jazz festivals, fighting the Man. You start to believe, watching the documentary and then talking to the guy himself, that he really did read Playboy for the articles.

Like a lot of publications, you're competing against the internet. What do you think about the state of porn on the internet right now?
You're probably asking the wrong guy! I don't watch porn on the internet.

Really? Never?

Do you own a computer?
I own an iPad. My girlfriend, Crystal Harris, gave me an iPad for my birthday. I like it. I haven't gotten any further than twittering. It's a nice way to interrelate with your fanbase.

So you've never actually consumed porn on the internet?

Are you curious?
Uhhhhh, I really am not that computer-sophisticated. I really haven't, uh, everybody here at the office is computer-literate, you know, but the iPad and the twittering with fans is as far as I've gotten and that only started a few weeks ago.

On the internet, more and more porn is available to more and more people, and a lot of it is more kinky and more strange . . . Have you talked about this with anybody?

This is news to you?
The notion that somehow the porn is getting kinkier on the internet is certainly news.

Do you feel like that's a trend in the porn world in general?
I have no sense of any trends — I don't know anything about the porn world! Ha! You're talking to the wrong guy! I don't have anything to do with porn. I think that on some occasions people refer to Playboy as pornography, but that's their problem. If Playboy is pornography, then there is nothing erotic anymore. Porn is the negative term for explicit sexuality, which is certainly not Playboy.

Ahh. You know, I have to tell you, I don't think it's a negative term anymore.
Oh, come on.

No, really. I use it without any pejorative implication.
I never heard anybody suggest that porn isn't a negative term.

I'm 32 years old, and I really think I grew up without it having a negative connotation. It's just easier to say than erotica.
Well, those are two labels for the same thing. I do think the language related to sexuality has been eroded dramatically since the 1980s. People started giving negative labels to erotic imagery, so that even pin-up pictures are now referred to as porn.

Well, even things that aren't sexual are referred to as porn now.
Like what?

Well, I've heard advertising catalogs called "furniture porn," or "computer porn." It's really a term for anything arousing desire.
That is an evolution semantically.

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