This is a time for celebration, when a bad man who was cancerous to civilized society has died. Hugh Hefner did bad things, like contribute heavily to America’s rape culture. He invented the total and complete modern utter objectification of women. He flippantly pretended to “liberate” women “by putting them in rabbit costumes.” He presented women as body parts put here for men’s enjoyment, and spent an entire lifetime leering at us like we are big robotic dolls designed for men’s pleasure. Then, to cover up his bad and egregious treatment of women, he spouted the nonsense that he liberated women from their sexual repression. What sexual repression? There was none. Women were having unwed sex since the inception of this country at about the same rate men were. Think about it: If they weren’t, then the men were having the sex with each other. That was Hugh Hefner’s argument. Men wanted lots of sex so they “freed” women up to have it, except that never happened, because women were having sex too, with the men, when the men were having all that sex.
The leap of logic it takes to believe Hefner’s ridiculous “liberation” argument is exhausting. When I was a kid we called men like Hefner “dirty old men” because that’s what he was. But worse than being a pervert, he was also the man who mainstreamed derogatory porn as not just totally natural, but somehow beneficial to women. I know men like this, and you probably do too.
But privately, these men think objectifying half of the world’s population is actually not OK, so they hid his magazines, and lied about buying them, but buy them they did. Hefner’s magazines were objectifying smut, not art, and most men knew it. But it wasn’t just Hefner’s magazines that eroded women’s standing in the world. It was his lifestyle, his parties, his multiple young girlfriends, his comments, his dressing up of women as rabbits, and his general pervasive overall argument that women are “pets and playthings” and men can take what they want from them. He called his own pets “bunnies”. He de-humanized women and he did it on a very large scale. That is how he added to rape culture.
I’m not here to judge porn. Porn is everywhere, including really old porn from near-ancient times.
There are also porny images carved into ancient Mayan walls and ancient Egyptian temples and ancient Greek pottery. See this history of erotic images page. No one needed Hugh Hefner to give us porn or nudes or “liberate” women’s sexuality. Ancient people did that.
But it’s his message that women aren’t fully human, but more like animals, to be possessed and overwhelmed with men’s desire, that comes through loud and clear in Hefner’s life and products. That is on Hefner. He made that. It’s not just an insulting message, it’s a dangerous one.
For a real “sexual liberation” argument in written form, see one of Helen Gurley Brown’s books, or any number of real feminists’ books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s and more recently. Tons of women thinkers and writers deserve the real credit for the women’s movement, for our current boldness, self esteem, feminism, equality, social and civil rights justice, and “sexual liberation”. I know one thing for certain: no man deserves that credit, certainly not pervy Hugh Hefner. Good riddance to the dirty old man.