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Too Much Sex?

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

But others say that we have nothing to worry about - among them, Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy. Bill Lagattuta reports on the debate.

Hefner still lives at his famous mansion. He still wears pajamas to his parties and still has beautiful women at his side. "I have four girlfriends," Hefner says. "Two of them are identical twins. Three of them have names that rhyme: Brandy, Sandy and Mandy. It's bad fiction but it's true, and a lot of my life has been like that."

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 sexuality that Playboy's brand of erotica, once seen by some as threatening to the U.S. way of life, is now considered rather tame. "Playboy in a certain sense in today's society is very old-fashioned," Hefner says.

Hefner says that sexuality has become more open than it has been in recent years. "I do think all of this works in cycles," he says. "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 about 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. (It) is never a good thing for an entire society, much less for any individual's soul or well-being."

"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 very 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 gilfriends. 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 reality." He claims he is now 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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