Too Much Sex?

The Debate Over Sexuality In American Society

Sexual imagery has saturated American society, through advertising, music, films, the Internet, and television. Has American society gone too far? Some say yes.

But others say that we have nothing to worry about. Among this group is Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine.

Hefner still lives at his famous mansion. He still wears pajamas to his parties, and still has a bevy of beautiful women at his side.

At the age of 74, Hefner is hip again. "I think that James Bond and the Beatles and the bunnies are all back at the same time," he says. The Playboy empire is thriving again. Subscriptions are up, especially among young people.

While Hefner has stuck to his philosophy, American culture has changed. It's so full of sexual pictures and talk that Playboy's brand of erotica, once seen as threatening to our way of life, is now considered rather tame. "Playboy in a certain sense in today's society is very old-fashioned," says Hefner.

Hefner says that sexuality has become more open than it was in the previous decade. "I do think all of this works in cycles," he says. "I think the sexual liberation and the excesses of the '70s created a backlash. I think what you're getting now is kind of a counter reaction to that more conservative time. I think people are ready to celebrate a little more their sexuality and life."

"The major thing that's really changed in terms of sex is the technology and the Internet, everything including sexual images is out there for everybody," he continues. "And you cannot put the genie back in the bottle. The future is now and one has to deal with that reality."

Hefner prefers not to talk about sexual explicitness, but open communication: "I think that, quite frankly, open communication on all subjects including sex is a good thing."

The leading voice in America for putting adult material back in the closet is highly controversial radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Says Schlessinger: "It's clearly not a good thing to take something as beautiful and wonderful and miraculous as men and women in the sexual relationship that is about love and children and family and make it degenerate."

"I am frankly horrified and frightened at how much we're pervading the innocence and well-being of minors," she says.

Schlessinger says that because the competition for attention has become so heated, the media has more and more turned to shock value to garner eyeballs. As a result, she says, people have a high tolerance for highly sexual images. "That people are not being shocked... anymore is very desperate," she says.

Hefner, though is not worried. He's basking in his golden years, with his four girlfriends. He does admit to having a little help: Viagra.

"It is more than an impotence drug," he says. "It is the best legal recreational drug. It knocks down the walls and the boundaries between expectation and relity." He says he is having the best sex of his life.

Sex is intimately bound up with the American way of life, he says. "The American dream really has to do with personal freedom and options, particularly in your private life," he says. "And I think that sex is, in a very real way, the single most civilizing force on this planet. It is the life force."

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