The Ultimate Playboy

Last week, the pop culture world was shocked when Hugh Hefner, editor-in-chief of Playboy, passed away at the age of 91. Honestly, I thought this man was never going to die so I was pretty floored when I read the news. I remember being super young, secretly changing the channel from Nickelodeon to E! to watch “The Girls Next Door” and admiring the beautiful women running around Hef’s Playboy Mansion, but never understanding what exactly he did himself. I guess it’s good that I didn’t because I was technically, like, an infant. Within the time that’s gone on since he passed, there have been many reactions to the news but not all of them have been disheartened or full of grief. Because I’m not that sly, unwise 10-year-old girl anymore, I can understand why people, mostly women, would express their anger about who Hugh Hefner was and what he stood for.

There is no question that Hefner changed the entire dynamic of the discussion of sex and sexuality, beginning all the way back in the 50s with his first Playboy publication. However, I’ve come to question if he is responsible for changing this dynamic for both men and women... or only men. Hefner made it easier for men to access magazines and outlets exploiting women and treating them as objects. However, an argument to this, is that it was all on their own terms. Many of the centerfolds and Playmates were showered with fame, money, and attention that they sought by posing for the magazine. But, the discussion about sexuality still stands strongly on the male side of the argument, whereas it typically ends up in situations like slut-shaming and the like when talking about women embracing their own sexuality.

During his life, he strongly advocated for human rights including same-sex marriage and was very involved in charitable work. Several argued that this was him preserving the image of the Playboy brand and that his activism was only in the name of the interests of Playboy. Many women who lived/worked with him claimed that he was very oppressive and expected them to fight and vie for his attention.

All in all, Hefner was partially responsible for breaking down the barriers of discussing sex and sexuality as something that wasn’t taboo and could be embraced freely. Starting out, I think he held a set of values as a businessman and an innovator but that slowly got watered down for his own personal gain and attention he received from the droves of beautiful women that were looking to be on covers and spreads of his magazine. I don’t think this is the right mentality for a man who would have never gotten to where he was in life without women, their bodies and their minds. He owed all what he had to women, whether he liked to acknowledge that or not.