Hefner came to prominence in Ross Douthat’s kind of world. Sex was a giant squid, far too scary to talk or think clearly about. Birth control and alternatives to PIV were illegal (though almost everyone got away with them). Abortion was illegal and particularly shameful. One could also go to jail for saying forbidden words onstage or printing pictures that showed pubic hair. The only controversy about gay people was whether they belonged in the jail or the bughouse.
Hefner challenged all of that, printing his nude pictures along with excellent fiction and nonfiction and editorials questioning the war on some drugs and the war on some Asians. To be sure, he pandered to acquisitiveness and display, and his last years were horrible for his harem and probably not all that much fun for him.
But I’m happy to live in the world Hef made. For one thing, when Ross Douthat proudly proclaims that when a pill-taking woman threatened his precious maidenhood, he ran off in terror, perhaps with a hand protectively cupped over his boy bits, we can laugh in his face.