The tyranny of the minority is alive and well and flourishing in our South African democracy; a democracy still so young that one might have thought people would remember what it was like to live without freedom. Yet, as our
own history pales in the daily grind, our freedoms get kicked in the teeth daily, with self-interested and short-sighted people taking it upon themselves to decide for all of us what is fit to see, to read and to buy. Most recently, the same Spar Group that stuffs your kitchen with sugary and fatty foods, that incites our nation’s children to nag their way through a candy and chocolate-filled check-out line, and that sells harmful chemicals, liquor and tobacco, as well as a couple of products that acknowledge that sex is a normal part of our daily lives – condoms, lubricants and sex toys – turned down PLAYBOY on the argument that they are a family-friendly store. Yes, the Adams family, if you think carefully.

This month’s Forum carries the most recent contribution to PLAYBOY from Hugh Hefner himself who, for six decades, has been at the forefront against the assaults on freedom in the name of a selective morality.

We thought it rather appropriate for our local situation. The sad part, on comparison, is that whereas in the US the morality battle was, and remains, fought through the instruments of State, namely the political and legal process, our own State/Government (as we have lost the distinction) is busy trampling heavily on our freedoms-at-large while players in the market place, like the Spar Group, inadvertently set the tone for a sheepish acceptance by citizens keener on cheap cell-phone time than the right to choose. Read it and weep, as we will likely see you in hell when one day there is nobody left to stand up for what you held dear.
– Charl du Plessis, Editor-In-Chief PLAYBOY South Africa.

By Charl du Plessis

Editorial by Hugh M Hefner

Fifty years ago PLAYBOY fought alongside enlightened Americans everywhere on the frontlines of the sexual revolution. In the streets, in the courtrooms and in the pages of this magazine we beat back against legislators who were determined to control what you do in your bedroom – and who you do it with. Now, decades later, a new generation of repressed conservatives are pounding on America’s bedroom door, their knock the beating of a war drum that sounds their intentions to again regulate our sex lives.

For months I have watched the rhetoric building. Last October, in an interview with an evangelical blogger, Rick Santorum [Republican candidate for US President] promised to defund birth control on the grounds that contraception is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” He claimed in his argument that contraception led to an increasing number of babies born out of wedlock. Ron Paul [another Republican candidate for US President] was no better, believing that the birth control pill did not cause immorality but that immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pill. Mitt Romney [a third Republican candidate for US President] vowed to see a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and to overturn Roe v Wade [the landmark abortion case in the US]. He later promised to eliminate Planned Parenthood. While wooing the conservative vote, these candidates revealed the ways a GOP-led government would decide with whom we can have sex and for what reasons – single or married, straight or gay.

These are battles we have already fought and soundly won. In 1961 police arrested Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr C Lee Buxton, a Yale professor who served as its medical director. Buxton and Griswold were charged with violating a state law that banned sharing information about contraceptives – including with married couples. The US Supreme Court voted seven to two to overturn the convictions.

The Justices clearly saw the affront: “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship… We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights.”
Victories like this helped us tear down the puritanical structures I questioned in the PLAYBOY Philosophy, structures in which “our legislators, our judges and officers of law enforcement are allowed to enter our most private inner sanctuaries – our bedrooms – and dictate the activity that takes place there.”

In 1965 I established the PLAYBOY Foundation in part to appeal cases that now seem amazing – consenting adults sent to prison for acts that were considered “abominable and detestable crimes against nature,” such as oral sex. In 1967, police in Massachusetts arrested Bill Baird for the crime of lecturing students about contraception and handing out samples of spermicidal foam to a female member of the audience who may have been single.

Massachusetts argued that it had the right to protect morals through “regulating the private sexual lives of single persons.” It was the right of the state to hold over its citizens the threat of pregnancy and the birth of an unwanted child as punishment for fornication. The PLAYBOY Foundation helped fund Baird’s appeal. In 1972 the court argued, “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” Later, we freed a young woman who was arrested, at her father’s request, for fornication. I still recall the father’s reasoning: “I’d rather see her in jail than debauched.”

All these years later I hear echoes of this same ignorance espoused by a new crop of self-appointed arbiters who are determined to oversee our morality. I heard it when Santorum backer Foster Friess said, “Back in my days, [women] used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” implying that if women held an aspirin between their legs, they wouldn’t open them. I heard it when I learned about proposed anti-abortion legislation in Kansas that would protect doctors who conceal vital medical information from pregnant women. And I heard it when Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified on Capitol Hill about allowing employers to avoid providing contraception for religious reasons. “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it,” Limbaugh said. “We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” Fifty years of sexual freedom vanished in a sound bite.

I want to believe that what we are hearing is the death knell of a desperate minority clinging to a fading ideology, but I’m worried this could be the start of something more: an organized attack on our most basic human freedom. If these zealots have their way, our hard-won sexual liberation – women’s rights, reproductive rights and rights to privacy – lie in peril. We won’t let that happen. Decades ago, we fought back against these moral charlatans because your sex life, your fantasies and desires, your plans to have or not have a family – none of that is anyone else’s business, especially not the government’s. Welcome to the new sexual revolution.

By Hugh M Hefner
Published by Playboy South Africa June 2012