The founder of Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner, is worried about his legacy. In preparation for his eightieth birthday, which he celebrated yesterday, he’s been busily filling leather-bound scrapbooks—1,500 of them—about his life and work. He’s arranged to be entombed next to Marilyn Monroe, the actress who posed nude in the first edition of Playboy in 1953.
According to a Wall Street Journal article by Matthew Scully, Hefner wants to be remembered as a philanthropist, social philosopher, cultural revolutionary. In fact, Hefner wants to be remembered as anything but what he was: a smut peddler, and the exploiter of women.
As Scully puts it with biting sarcasm, “There was a dark and joyless time in America when one could actually go about daily life without ever encountering pornographic images.” And without Hefner’s pioneering vision, “American males could not avail themselves of hundreds of millions of obscene films every year—as they do now.”
The fact is Hugh Hefner did more than anyone else to turn America into a great pornographic wasteland. Kids can now download porn on cell phones and iPods. While riding in their cars, children are treated to the sight of X-rated films on the DVD screens of cars in the next lane.
There’s no longer any doubt that the pornification of America has led to a huge increase in crime against women and children, crime committed by those who consume porn that teaches that women want to be raped and degraded.
And not just women. Hugh Hefner, sitting in his mansion in his bathrobe, thinking over his life, ought to consider the effect of his life’s work on kids like Justin Berry. Berry testified before Congress last week about how he was molested by a predator he met online. Justin spent most of his teen years posing naked online for people who paid to see him perform on camera. And he is far from alone: “There are hundreds of kids in the United States who are right now wrapped up in this horror,” he told Congress.
If Hefner wants to be remembered for his good deeds, he ought to start right now funding programs to help people damaged by his twisted view of sex—programs that help men who are enslaved to sexual addiction. Instead of funding Planned Parenthood, he ought to fund crisis pregnancy centers, which help women who bought into the lie that they were “liberated” only when they became reusable sex objects. Hefner should also help women who were lured into the sex industry and exploited—including those “Playboy Bunnies” he made famous, so many of whose lives ended tragically.
And then, Hefner might fund research into cures for the dozens of sexual diseases, including AIDS, that affect millions who believed his warped worldview—that sexual repression is bad, and that sexual promiscuity is, therefore, liberation and redemption.
The picture of Hefner on his eightieth birthday sitting in his mansion in his bathrobe, in the company of “girlfriends” paid to be there, and his jars of Viagra tablets, is a pathetic, tragic one, and it exposes his true legacy. The lesson: The life lived in pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification leads to nothing less than self-destruction.