Hugh Hefner’s Smutty Legacy
Hugh Hefner died the other day.
Many news articles laud him as a civil activist who pioneered America’s sex revolution. Often, in these retrospectives, he’s painted as a self-made man of distinct perseverance who built Playboy into a media empire starting with only a little money: a self-made man.
In so doing, they say, Hefner promoted equal rights, published influential news stories, hired ethnically diverse employees, and championed sexual freedom.
But that glazes over fact: Hefner exploited women for profit.
The Playboy empire was built brick by brick from the flesh of women. Nothing can change that. And the egalitarian male chauvinist at the center of it all, Hefner, profited hand-over-fist from the degradation of women.
In Hefner’s world women became second class citizens, at the beck and call of male exploitation. Their only purpose was to satisfy the sexual appetites of men.
Men clicked the camera shutters. Men passed over their money at newsstands. Men cashed all the big checks.
Hefner wasn’t a self-made man: he purchased a nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe and printed 50,000 copies of it in a magazine.
Playboy’s sexual freedom propaganda masks a more sinister, one-sided, male chauvinist philosophy: unfettered male desire toward women. Hefner took away female individuality, calling them “bunnies,” and “playmates,” terms declaring male ownership.
In a 2015 memoir, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” Hefner’s ex girlfriend and former Playmate Holly Madison paints a much darker picture than that on the news stands. Among many other deplorable, disgusting acts, Hefner encouraged competition between his multiple girlfriends. He boasted elsewhere of sleeping with 1,000 women.
Worst of all, Playboy normalized pornography. Made smutty practices, the dredges of society, acceptable. And in doing so, Playboy allowed and encouraged rampant male desire.
I see it all over today. In the gym men stare at women without refrain like it’s their right. “Look but don’t touch,” a popular catchphrase. Pornography is so easily viewed these days, even by children.
Exploiting women for profit is never acceptable. Hefner never should have been a household name.
If he wasn’t male, or successful, white, and rich, he’d have been labeled criminal long ago. Now he’s dead. And now we get to undermine his legacy by valuing women, promoting equality and worth the way God intended; encouraging strength in our loved ones; and shouting down male chauvinists.