Historically speaking, the 1950s are typically associated with the rise of suburbia and infamous for Leave It To Beaver style pro-family media representations. Yet Hefner drew on a counter-cultural trend that encouraged men to resist marriage and embrace the bachelor lifestyle. The conformist male, so the argument went, was being robbed of his masculinity, freedom and sense of individuality, and women were singled out as the culprits.
Described as greedy, manipulative, and lazy, America women were accused of emasculating men by dominating their husbands. Philip Wylie, in his book A Generation of Vipers wrote a scathing account of the American housewife: “It is her man that worries about where to acquire the money while she worries about how to spend it, so he has ulcers and she has the guts of a bear.”
Hefner exploited such messages relentlessly in Playboy, affirming that marriage and single women were the enemy of available men. A 1953 issue of Playboy warned men to beware of the month of June as “women become more heated, more desperate and more dangerous”. He worked hard to make it seem that the magazine was a respectable men’s lifestyle magazine which celebrated upper-class bachelordom.
Reno examines the historical roots of the belief that to be “authentic” requires rejecting social norms and customs. This article raises the question of who is to blame for enforcing these norms and customs and thereby making their victims live inauthentic lives. The misogynist answer seems almost inevitable, especially when sexual “freedom” becomes widely understood as a necessity.
Men must have their freedom because they must be authentic; authenticity requires freedom from social norms and customs, especially restrictive ones; marriage is such a norm and custom, and a notably restrictive one; their wives (and even their girlfriends) want their exclusive commitment, which is to say, do not want them to have this freedom; therefore their wives and girlfriends want to doom them to inauthentic lives.
These men may once have pledged before the world to honor their vows “till death do us part,” but once they have accepted the bohemian mystique, and the bohemian ideal, they will be tempted to think things through the way I’ve described. And even if they reject the conclusion, they will feel it to be true, and that’s nearly as bad for them and their wives.