Some people are not worth mourning. Because of Hugh Hefner’s influence on our pornographic culture, I’d put him in that category.
We politely say RIP about pretty much everyone who dies, but that’s not the biblical view. Certainly we’re to pray for our enemies, but there’s also this realization that some people, by their very existence, make the world worse. And we don’t need to pretend otherwise.
Hugh Hefner was one such person.
I am mourning today, but I am not mourning for Hugh Hefner. I am mourning for what he did to our culture. Yesterday I was Skyping with Ashley Easter, who is doing great work helping survivors of abuse within the church, and promoting healing. And we were talking about how being married to someone with a porn addiction can give a wife PTSD, and can be abusive, in and of itself, especially if he’s dehumanizing her and asking her to act out things that he sees. He’s not treating her like a person; he’s treating her like an object. That’s what abuse does, too. They have that in common. They say: You are a body to use.
So I’d just like to write today about some of the thoughts that have been running through my head about Hugh Hefner’s influence on our society.
So many people in my generation had their first exposure to pornography through Playboy magazine
When I was about 8, my best friend Christine showed me a stack of Playboys in her shed that her dad had stashed there. I’m thankful that we didn’t look too hard at them, but I know she and her older brother looked at them a bunch.
It was normal to have stacks of Playboys around. I remember being on a missions trip when I was 16, and one of the female leaders, who was about 27 at the time, recounting how she had seen a Playboy when she was about 10, and she was still struggling to get those images out of her head. It really impacted how she saw sex.
And that’s one of the biggest problems: When we’re just starting to have sexual feelings, and then we see porn around the same time, we pair the feeling of sexual arousal with a degrading image, rather than with a relationship with someone we love. What becomes sexy, then, is that image. Later, when you’re with your spouse, it can be difficult to become aroused without dredging up those pictures, even if you saw them decades ago. That’s what porn does to you–it separates your sexual pleasure from your spouse, and causes you to disengage.
Playboy started that process of widespread sexual disengagement, because Playboy made porn acceptable
Certainly Playboy is not the main way that people see porn now. But Playboy largely started the porn culture. Before Playboy, the people who looked at porn were largely perverts. It was something done in secret, and certainly not talked about in polite company. But Hugh Hefner made porn “cool”. He put long exposes in his magazines, so much so that there was even a Braille edition of Playboy. People could jokingly say they read Playboy for the articles!
And he was a “gentleman”. He dressed in a suit. He invited people to parties. He made porn high class.
You didn’t need to feel ashamed anymore. Playboy was just what men did.
Soon Playboy wasn’t enough–and people needed more hard core porn
But we know what happened, don’t we? Playboy became too tame. That’s what porn addictions do. You no longer get a high from just looking at these women, so you need something “more” and something different. More magazines were started, with more hard core porn. When the internet came along, all boundaries were broken, and you could find anything.
It was Playboy that first knocked those doors down, and said, “Hey, it’s normal for guys to want to look at women! It’s healthy even! Let’s celebrate it!” And then the Pandora’s box was opened.
Hugh Hefner also made objectification of women cool
Just as women in the wider society were arguing that they needed to be taken seriously for their brains and more than their bodies, Hugh Hefner made the opposite seem reasonable. He was in this rich mansion. He was wining and dining the elite of society. His parties were always talked about. He always wore good suits. He was almost like James Bond, for pete’s sake! And so he was the elite, and his parties were where the movers and shakers of the world were invited.
Yet while his parties had all these brilliant, successful men, what kind of women did they have? They had “bunnies”. Young women, who all looked pretty much the same, who were there solely because of their bodies. And they were so dehumanized that they even wore bunny ears.
It wasn’t about what was between those ears that was important, after all. It was what was between something else.
Think about the significance of a “Playboy Bunny”
She’s something cute to look at. She’s something to entertain. But bunnies don’t speak. Bunnies aren’t smart. Bunnies aren’t old, either. They’re all young, and they’re there for entertainment purposes.
That’s how he saw women. Even when he married, he married women far younger than him, because all that really mattered when it came to women was what they looked like. After all, if you wanted to have an important conversation–well, that’s what men were for. But women were only for one thing. And it became cool again to think of women that way. Women even aspired to be Playboy bunnies, because they seemed so popular, so revered. But what they were revered for was not who they actually were. It was only what they looked like. And the less they talked, the better.
Hefner’s real influence was to demolish the idea that men and women could achieve real intimacy and pleasure through a healthy joining of equals.
Hefner made it cool to talk about sex. Hefner made it cool to think about sex and joke about sex. It was no longer a pervert’s thing anymore.
But Hefner’s view of sex was of powerful men using young, pretty things. “Sexy” wasn’t being in love with someone who could challenge you, and who could talk to you, and who would be with you your whole life. Sexy was someone of a certain body type, who was there to fawn all over you.
Even think of all the pictures of Hugh Hefner you’ve ever seen in your life. Is there one woman hanging off of him, or multiple women? I usually remember multiple women, many with bunny ears, all kissing him. It wasn’t enough to just have one woman, you see. The more the merrier!
Hefner never understood that the best sex actually is between two people who are committed to each other, and who have been married for many years (In the research I did for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, the best sex in marriage is years 16-24. It gets better the longer we’re together!). It’s not about the super young girls. It’s about a relationship of real intimacy. But he didn’t know that, because he never had that.
What’s in the Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex?
I don’t know how many have really made love.
And in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–I teach you how to do exactly that. I show how God intended sex to be intimate in three ways: spiritually, emotionally, AND physically. And I show you how to get there, too!
If you’ve struggled with figuring out what all the fuss is about, or you feel held back in marriage because you just can’t embrace your sexual side, then check out The Good Girl’s Guide!
You were meant for more.
And he encouraged other people to see sex the way he did: It’s all about men feeling important, and women being used. It’s all about the body, and not about the heart or the mind. It’s all about getting what I want, not creating a relationship.
What a terrible, terrible legacy. Apart from war, I can’t think of much worse. And so I do not mourn Hugh Hefner. And I pray that one day people will see his legacy for what it is: a cruel thing built on sand, which has wrecked so many people’s abilities to experience real intimacy.
And maybe, just maybe, if we talk enough about the mistakes that he made, we’ll point people back to what real sex, and real intimacy, is.