Perhaps it’s not surprising that Hugh Hefner, the Playboy mogul who died on Wednesday at 91, was relatively public about his own private life. After all, he made a name for himself by championing a mid-century lifestyle revolution that was best known for nude photography and sexual adventure.
In interviews with TIME over the decades, Hefner put his own openness to the test, answering questions about everything from his political beliefs to how sex at age 82 compares to sex at age 33 (different and better, he said, because people are more “liberated” these days than they were back then).
In 1967, a cover story explained how Playboy‘s glossy vision had, by arriving at just the right moment and with just the right spokesman, helped a particular type of erotica make the leap from shameful secret to a mainstream lifestyle aspirational. In 2014, Hefner spoke about why that cover story was a “very important moment” to him, as it signified the success Playboy had had at bringing its ethos to the mainstream.
In 2009, he sat down for a “10 Questions” interview (seen above) in which he answered queries from readers and, in the course of doing so, explained his own take on “the Playboy philosophy,” which he said had helped sex in America change “dramatically” since he had first gotten into the business of magazine publishing. Those societal changes — greater acceptance of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the legalizing of abortion, the increasing commonness of oral sex — were all part of the magazine’s history, but at the heart of Playboy, he said, was “a case for life as a celebration.”
Still, Hefner’s history wasn’t all limousines and waterfalls. As the reader questions made clear, many people throughout his career were quick to point out that he had made his fortune by trading in women’s bodies. He didn’t deny that there was objectification going on. He just didn’t believe that objectification was bad. Hefner broke publicly with the feminist movement nearly a half-century ago, but said that what he did was helpful for women, not harmful.
But, whether or not one agrees with him on that, Hefner — who, then 82, said that “new love” was his secret to staying young — proved that desire could be a force to be reckoned with.
“Sex and the attraction between the sexes,” he said, “does make the world go ’round.”