Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died last week. Watching the hour long coverage of his life and impact on Entertainment Tonight yesterday, I realized just how iconic he was.
It seems that everyone in entertainment (and even our president) has at one time rubbed shoulders with Hefner. Going to a party at the Playboy Mansion appears to be some sort of sign that you have arrived. For the most part, Hefner's way of life has been endorsed and praised by our culture.
The TV coverage yesterday offered several testimonials from women who credit their careers and livelihood to Hefner. With tears in their eyes, Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy praised him for his work. (I find this interesting, given the stance that Anderson has recently taken against porn.) According to those closest to him, he was a generous, successful man who led a rich life.
But What About Everybody Else?
For the few who built successful careers in entertainment after taking their clothes off for some pictures, Hefner is appreciated and praised. But I would suggest that for every one person who can say that, there are literally millions of people whose lives have been negatively affected by this one man's legacy.
While I will certainly be compassionate on the man's soul and pray that somehow he discovered God's grace in the light of the gospel, I can't begin to quantify the negative impact his life had on our world. We have Hefner to thank for some fundamental shifts in our culture that have left untold devastation and pain in their wake.
For All This, We Say "Thanks, Hugh Hefner."
Here are seven things we can thank Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine for in our "pornified" culture today...
1. Thanks for normalizing pornography.
He took what was previously shameful and made it mainstream. When you compare the hard-core content available online today to the pictures you could find in Playboy magazine through the years, there's really no comparison. Playboy is honestly pretty tame. But he got things started. He was the pace-setter. And just ask any man between the ages of 40 and 70 where they first saw porn. I guarantee that 95% will say, "Playboy Magazine." Thanks for the gateway drug, Hugh.
2. Thanks for the sexual revolution.
No, Hefner didn't bring about the sexual revolution on his own, but he was one of its champions. Throughout his lifetime, he was a key player in shifting our culture's ideals about healthy sexuality. Fifty years ago, the vast majority of people saw monogamous, heterosexual relationships as the ideal. Today, it's anything goes. He advocated for (and modeled for millions of men) a "do whatever feels good" approach to sexuality. The fruit of several generations of this thinking has undermined the very health of our marriages and families. So thanks for inadvertently making the world a darker place, Hugh.
3. Thanks for making the exploitation of women cool.
Dressed in his silk robes and smoking his manly pipe, Hefner came to epitomize the freedom and virility that millions of men aspired to. But built into this persona was the idea that women were sex objects meant to meet the needs of men. He was cool so his endeavor to use women became cool. As porn has evolved into something darker and more addictive, the level that women are "used" has increased. Millions of young men today who have been raised on a steady stream of pornographic images have no idea how deeply this has been established into their minds. We owe this negative view of women to you, Hugh.
4. Thanks for turning sex into a self-centered pursuit.
Too many men who have learned about sex through porn have learned that sex is for them. It is something to be taken, not something to be given in love. When these young men marry, they are grossly ill-prepared to tenderly and passionately love their wives. They wonder why their wives aren't interested in sex, when their real problem is that they think it is all about them. Masturbation has become mainstream. Porn has taught them this. While they probably haven't learned that from Playboy, Hefner's early work got the ball rolling. So thanks for feeding our selfishness, Hugh.
5. Thanks for convincing several generations of men that sex is easy.
For young, single men who secretly envy the Playboy lifestyle, there is a subconscious belief that women are interested in sex in exactly the same ways as men. While there is great diversity on the spectrum, with different men and women having varying sexual desires and responses, women are generally more relational than men. Generally speaking, men have sex to feel connected emotionally while women have sex when they feel emotionally connected. Married men who forget this get easily frustrated. They forget that God put those differences in place so that men will take the time to pursue and love their wives. Porn disrupts that. It offers an easy out for a man's sexual desires. Thanks, Hugh, for encouraging men to not take time to invest in relationships that matter.
6. Thanks for creating a medium that destroys marriages.
According to one researcher in a study done more than a decade ago, more than half of all divorces today mention internet porn as a key contributing factor to the dissolution of the marriage. Affairs are on the decline, but self-gratification is becoming the norm. It's just too easy. But that doesn't mean that the impact on the marriage isn't significant. Again, Hugh Hefner didn't create all the content that is being secreted into millions of homes via the internet, but he did do the heavy lifting to make it acceptable and accessible in our culture. Thanks so much for helping to destroy countless marriages, Hugh.
7. Finally, thanks for the articles.
"I read Playboy for the articles." This is the number one reason men give for looking at Playboy magazine, so we have to mention it. But the truth is, when Playboy made the decision to stop having nude photos in March of 2016, readership went down. I guess it wasn't the articles after all. (They brought centerfolds back in March 2017.) Let's be completely honest: men looked at Playboy for one primary reason: their desire to lust after women that they had no right to look at. Thanks for feeding that unhealthy motivation, Hugh.
An Opportunity to Hate the Sin But Love the Sinner
Hugh Hefner's legacy runs far and deep and wide. And, as far as we can tell, it has very little worth in things that will matter in eternity. It is a legacy of pain and brokenness.
We will often encounter people like Hefner: people who have chosen a lifestyle that, from the outside looking in, we can see is ultimately destructive to their lives and souls. They are blinded to this so we must pray for them, show compassion, and look for every opportunity to speak the truth. We must cling to the Truth of God's Word with one hand and then reach out in love with the other. There's no place for judgement, but there is a place for wisdom.
As married people, we must be wise as we love. We must strive for sexual fidelity in our homes. Porn can often have just as great an impact on our hearts and our relationships as a sexual affair can. Do what you must to guard against that. Be tenacious.
As parents, we must be diligent to teach our kids to have a negative view of porn. This will not be easy. Hugh Hefner was incredibly successful at making something that will destroy us look like something that we can't live without. Our kids will be easily deceived and fooled if we don't show them a better way. Proverbs 5 is a great place to start. For your boys, our book, The Young Man's Guide to Awesomeness, might help. We wrote it to get your young man thinking differently about destructive things like porn.
Know this: each of our lives leave a legacy in its wake. While Hollywood and the mainstream press celebrates the passing of Hugh Hefner, they will likely speak of his life's work in a positive way. They will mention magazine readership and net worth and the names of iconic celebrities whose careers he launched. But when you view the sum total of what he left behind, it's not very pretty. He changed our culture for the worse and he deserves our pity. So does the world who views him as a hero. For heroic is not what he was.