Jessica Ahlquist to Receive Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award

Last year, young science advocate and activist Zack Kopplin was honored with one of four “Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment” awards (named after the Playboy founder) and accepted it at the famed mansion:

They just announced one of this year’s winners and she, like Zack, is well known to the atheist community and very deserving of the honor. So congratulations to Jessica Ahlquist :)

Ahlquist, 17, is scheduled to speak at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, CA on May 22nd where she will receive a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. The award in the Education category — $5,000 cash and a commemorative plaque — is for Ahlquist’s “courageous and successful lawsuit” in the Cranston prayer banner case…

The full list of winners will be released later this week.

I spoke with Jessica this afternoon and asked her what went through her mind when she found out:

I was so shocked when I heard that I was going to be honored with this award. At first, my activism doesn’t seem like it could possibly be connected to Hugh Hefner or Playboy, but when you think about it, we both advocate for the First Amendment. That’s what the award is really about. I’m so flattered and I’m definitely looking forward to the ceremony and meeting all of the other amazing awardees.

She’ll be in great company, no doubt.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Christopher Borum

    Jeepers, she’s still only 17? I feel like so much has gone on since that story started she’s gotta be, like, 25 by now. Well, congratulations to her-she deserves it.

  • randall.morrison90

    Yeah, and we know Hugh Hefner really respects women! He would never exploit them, no way!

  • Negasta

    Congratulations to Jessica! I cannot think of a more deserving of this award.

    On a slightly different note, I bet Zack enjoyed going to the Mansion, he is teenage boy after all!

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    and the comments about misogyny will start in 3..2..1..

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Perhaps your down votes would be better served by emailing Miss Ahlquist and imploring her to refuse the award due to its implied support of misogyny.

  • Kinky F.

    Now this is the stuff that just entertains me to no end!!!!! It is like “Jesus Toilet Paper”. When Christians leap without looking, then see the toilet paper with Jesus’s smiling face and crown of thorns printed on it, they have themselves a real puzzler….

    Just like this! All the faux-sensitive delicate flowers of the atheist world and faux liberalism don’t know what to think until they see the bandwagon’s reaction!!!! I love this shit! This is entropy at its finest!!!

    Well gosh….I mean, we love Jessica and all and rewards are good, but I dunno what I should think, cuz’ like, it’s from Hugh Hefner!

    Oh gawd this is fun! Bring on the fake outrage! Show me the mind/thought police! Hold on, I wanna pour a drink for the shenanigans and hijinx!!!

  • Kinky F.

    Hah! I like where you are going with this Bubba, but the average slob around here doesn’t have the balls to go off-script and actually say CHAPEAU to both Hugh and Jessica!

    Fuck it. Time to sit back and watch Rome burn to the ground! Entropy at its finest!

  • WallofSleep

    Well, at least you’re easily amused. Personally, I couldn’t care less that Heff’s name is attached to this award. Wait, maybe I could. *Ughnnn* Nope, sorry. Can’t.

  • TheAnti-Coconut

    I would respectfully decline to accept the award. Support free speech but you don’t have to endorse every use of free speech. There could one day be a Phelps Award For Free Speech or a Glen Beck Award For Independent Journalism or an Anti-Vaccer Reward for Skepticism. No thanks.

  • Kinky F.

    That’s the spirit! Say fuck it and go off script…well in your case, sort of….but let’s face facts – the game is over! Time for the running out of the clock and the end-game! Nothing but amusement and hijinx now!

    Good on ya for just saying “fuck it”!

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    It’s a real conundrum for some. All the misanthropes can do is vote me down. No one dares having a discussion about misogyny in fear of taking the wind out of their sails or coming off looking like they support Misandry.

  • Kinky F.

    YES! And the douche from Coconut Grove gets a three-pointer with a slammer of a jab….not knowing whether to say “wowzer” or to use absurd reductionism!!!! YES! No penalty box for this faux-liberal limp-wrist! No sir, this guy is on the line, going for it! HAHAHAHahahahahAHHAHA!

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    A terse “Ad Hominem” and still no takers?

  • Kinky F.

    What do ya expect. These are the same people who will say in one breath “porn empoers women, they are taking charge of their bodies”, then turn around and call Hugh and exploiter and misogynist…you really cannot hold them to a gold standard buddy….

    And before any of your delicate flowers get your panties in a twitter, I don’t like the other side of the fence either; liberal, democrat, repugnican, conservative — you are all full of shit…..

  • WallofSleep

    You truly are easily amused. No, I don’t have a script, never have. I suppose you believe all atheists think alike?

  • Godlesspanther

    Take it easy folks. Be good to yourselves so that we may all vote for Kopplin/Alquist 2032!

  • SeekerLancer

    You know, I might hate the guts of all those people but if they didn’t have the right to talk about their bullcrap then what right would I have to my own opinions?

  • SeekerLancer

    I honestly find it insulting when they attack Hefner because it implies the women who appear in Playboy aren’t capable of making the choice to do so themselves.

  • LesterBallard

    But why not Alquist/Kopplin?

  • LesterBallard

    Yes, you’re so far above it all, sitting there in your mother’s basement, waiting for her to bring you your coco and tuck you in after you’ve given her a nice foot rub for your allowance.

  • Feminerd

    Accepting or respectfully declining the award are both perfectly valid options. $5,000 helps quite a bit for college, so there’s a very practical reason to accept it. Jessica Ahlquist definitely deserves awards for supporting free speech, and Hugh Hefner, while being part of a very misogynist industry, is also a leading fighter for free speech.

    On the other hand, Hefner is also not exactly a fantastic person. He’s upfront about seeing (at least some) women as sexual objects and exploiting them for his own benefit. He’s honest about his repugnant attitudes, but that’s about all one can say that’s positive about that. If Ahlquist wanted to make a stand by rejecting his award, she would be totally justified in doing so.

    Either way, it’s her choice. Neither choice is inherently right or inherently wrong. The people playing troll here are (Kinky F, Bubba Tarandfeathered) clearly have no fucking idea why objectification sucks so much, hurts so much, and should be discouraged so much. Their attempt to shut down discourse by poisoning the well with ridicule and undeserved shaming will not stop me from posting about my ambivalence about this award. Nice try, though. The wolfpack approach is especially intimidating, but I refuse to be intimidated into silence by fear of ridicule.

  • Feminerd

    I’m sure you’re aware that there are many types of porn? Some are empowering, some degrading. It depends on why a woman is making porn, her working conditions, her pay, the respect she gets on set from other actors, directors, and producers, the story, the types of sex, the emphasis on female vs. male enjoyment, and many other factors. Sex is not inherently degrading, so sex for others to enjoy is not inherently degrading.

    That said, Hefner’s attitude is exploitative and objectifying. He doesn’t give a flying fuck about anything about a woman but her body. He doesn’t see sexuality as a component of a woman, but the only component of a woman. That’s wrong and misogynistic. Context and nuance, Kinky F. Context and nuance. I’m no delicate flower, I don’t know how panties twitter (seriously, panties that make noise? mixing metaphors much?), but your attitude is all sorts of fucked up and I’m calling you out on it.

  • RobMcCune

    I think that’s the ticket I’d vote for.

  • Caroline Miller

    Well, as long as she didn’t have to appear in a Playboy spread to receive the award, I’m OK with it.

  • Emmet

    Hear, hear.

  • Msironen

    Feminist-Approved Porn is the best thing since Christian-Approved Atheist Literature. Surely you’ve heard of best sellers like “The God Delight” by Richard Dawkins, “The End of Non-Faith” by Sam Harris and “God is So Awesome” by the late Christopher Hitchens.

  • Ewan

    “On the other hand, Hefner is also not exactly a fantastic person.”

    Pretty much everyone that needs to rely on legal protections for free speech is someone’s idea of ‘not a fantastic person’; Jessica was famously labelled ‘an evil little thing’.

    Free speech is for the unpopular stuff, otherwise it’s not really free speech.

  • Outcast Kyle

    Kudos to her; she really deserves this and many other awards. I just one from now she could appear in the magazine.

  • Kinky F.

    HahahahahAHAHAHAHahahahah Oh this is RICH!!! Such cognitive dissonance coming from the feminist side of the fence! I give it a 9, but the Romanian judge is not impressed with the intellectual dishonest dismount, so he gave you a 6.

    (cue the Robert Duvall voice)….”I love a good rationalization in the morning, reminds of hypocrisy and spin”….

    You keep feeding yourself that spin and nonsense sister, maybe one day you will actually truly believe it.

  • Kinky F.

    You are calling ME a name? You are a whinging example of misandry and spin in action there sugar!

    HahahahAHAHAHAhahahahahHAHAHAH I am just loving the break-down! Jesus this is fucking entertaining!

  • Gus Snarp

    I have never before been more certain that such a standard description of an anonymous troll was accurate as I am in this case.

  • FelyxLeiter

    You should probably pour a drink to calm yourself down.
    On second thought, this post is so bizarre and incoherent that maybe alcohol isn’t such a good idea.

  • Kinky F.

    Yes! That’s the spirit! Poke the feminist bear!!!!! Or, as is the proper term in the animal kingdom when dealing with bears, since it is feminist, don’t poke the sow!

  • Kinky F.

    HahahahHAHAHAHahahahah! Feigning indignance and using ad homs!!!! Wowzer! We are well into the second period, with a hockey fight breaking out! Yes!

    You clowns are amusing, I’ll give you that!

    “Oh dear, how can this be? How can this troll not fall in with the party line pap and go off script!?! Oh the humanity!!! What about the children!!!!???!!!”

  • Kinky F.

    No, no they do not. I am an hardcore atheist slick, and you and I do not think alike. I’d open a vein if that was the case.

    And you act like being easily entertained is a bad thing! Why is that? Wife not putting out enough? Kids underachieving? Sad.

  • Kinky F.

    There is nothing that cannot be improved upon with some booze; anyone telling you otherwise is lying to you.

  • msironen

    I’ve found that mocking generally yields better results than outright antagonism. Much like with fundamentalist Christians.

  • PhiloKGB

    Those aren’t ad homs; they’re insults. You’re not wrong because you’re a dipshit. You’re wrong because you’re wrong, and you’re also a dipshit. See how that works?

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    Larry Flynt just did a wheelie. :D

  • FelyxLeiter

    I dunno; acute alcoholism comes to mind.

  • Kinky F.

    Yes! And the challenger comes out swinging with the classic one-two “mother’s basement and cocoa” jab! Tired, but hell, you have to respect the choice for nostalgia!

    You go girl!

  • Kinky F.

    ooooo, a swing and a miss. The challenger tried to land a jab but lost it during the semantic set-up. Score this round for the champ!

  • Kinky F.

    And they are just so ripe for mocking!

    These people simply do not have the capacity to go off script or away from party-line pap!

  • RobMcCune

    (cue the Robert Duvall voice)

    Fitting, you seem like the type who believe themselves to be a 19th century cavalryman.

  • Leiningen’s Ants
  • Feminerd

    I don’t see any name calling. I said you lacked any understanding of context and nuance, were needlessly insulting, and mixed metaphors in a confusing way. That might be a roundabout way of calling you an idiot, but I’d argue that’s merely the logical conclusion of the evidence at hand.

  • Feminerd


    Doing porn is not a problem. Seeing women as fit only for porn is a problem. Women who do porn do nothing wrong. Hefner, who sees that as the only thing women should do in order to gratify him whether they want to or not, is doing something wrong.

    Mockery works much, much better with truth behind it. When you mock a straw-man argument, you just look silly.

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    Kinky, like, a day ago you were all like “equal punishment for young dummies what-who pour water on atheist paper stuff.” You were totes rooting for Miss Teen Hate USA (Dixie) to fall on her face more on national TV.

    Why for you now act liek dick? Es no bueno mi muchachao~. Also your laugh needs real work. Either record vlogs and post them same day same hour, or get off the pot. Other people must shit.

  • Immanuel Goldstein

    Based on the quotes, she has not interest in declining the award. Who are you to tell her she should? You come across as just as puritanical and unpleasant as the religious people you claim to oppose.

  • Feminerd

    “Either way, it’s her choice. Neither choice is inherently right or inherently wrong.”

    Reading comprehension. It is your friend.

  • Feminerd

    Ah, I see. Everyone hates someone, so we can’t call out anyone at all. Why, Fred Phelps surely has supporters, so I can’t call him a homophobic, sexist bigot because someone, somewhere, supports him. And accepting an award from him surely presents no ethical quandaries! [/snark]

    Or we accept that reality that reality is ethically grey much of the time. That we have hard choices where neither choice is wrong. And that reality matters- Hefner is proud of his misogyny, while Ahlquist pretty clearly doesn’t meet any definition of “evil” I’ve ever heard. Free speech includes the freedom to be wrong and to be an ass; all free speech must be allowed, but not all speakers must be celebrated. Why is saying that Hefner is a bad person so very controversial? Why is saying that both accepting and rejecting the award can show ethical integrity, but it’s a hard choice, so very denigrated?

    No one’s saying Hefner shouldn’t be able to say the shit he says, or even give awards to other people who say unpopular things. I have no idea where you’re getting that.

  • Mario Strada

    You know Kinky? I am not so sure I disagree with you on many points. I don’t think Jessica should turn down the award, and certainly not based on Mr. Hefner views on women. The guy is ancient and at least at some point we liberal progressives and him had a common cause and a common enemy. As much as I dislike the misogyny of a magazine like Playboy, I can also look at it as a step on the way to a more enlightened society.

    Anyway, while I think there are some (very few) nuggets of truth in your posts, the way you choose to express it is offensive to me. Intellectually offensive, that is. Just the use of “HahahahahAHAHAHAHahahahah” by what I presume to be an adult makes me cringe and makes me instinctively discount any possible valid point you may have had.

    Now I know that the result of this post will be, at best, an excuse for more juvenile rhetoric on your part. Go for it.

    HahahahahAHAHAHAHahahahah, lolololololololol

  • pagansister

    As a former citizen of the state of RI, I’m very proud of Jessica. Whether one “approves” of HH, I imagine she can use the money for college.

  • Ewan

    “Seeing women as fit only for porn is a problem”

    Yes, but you know who took on the running of the Playboy company after Hugh Hefner? Christie Hefner. She’s a woman, and was Chief Executive for over twenty years.

  • RobMcCune

    Fairly sure this person has trolled here before. Their M.O. is being perfectly reasonable for a few weeks, then trolling out of pure hatred for human dignity. The incoherent raving started at the end of the last iteration.

  • msironen

    “It depends on why a woman is making porn, her working conditions, her pay, the respect she gets on set from other actors, directors, and producers, the story, the types of sex, the emphasis on female vs. male enjoyment, and many other factors.”

    “Story”? “The types of sex”? If porn like this actually existed, it would be analogous to Christian rock except 10 times worse.

    I don’t even have to strawman you, you’re doing such a good job of it yourself.

  • Msironen

    “Hefner is proud of his misogyny”

    That’s pretty disingenous, since I’m fairly sure Hefner doesn’t identify as a someone who hates women. Now I understand that as a feminist you’re operating with a conveniently broader definition that allows for more effective smearing.

    “but not all speakers must be celebrated”

    And you’re here to tell us who can and who cannot be celebrated?

  • LesterBallard

    Only one like? Your mom too stupid to use a computer?

  • Feminerd

    No, I’m here to say that shutting down discourse is unacceptable. I do not celebrate Hefner, in fact I find him repugnant. Why won’t you let me say that? Do I argue everyone must find him repugnant? I mean, obviously I think women are people and not sexual objects, and anyone who helps create a culture in which that’s up for debate is, um, not a good person, but that’s an argument we can have. At what point do I say you must find Hefner repugnant or else? I’m saying that I find Hefner’s ideas problematic and wrong, and I do not celebrate the man, and I can understand why someone might turn down an award from him.

    Homophobes are not actually scared of gay people. Misogynists don’t usually hate women, and misandrists rarely hate men. These words have common and academic contexts beyond their denotative meanings, and you know it. Nice pedantry try, though.

  • Feminerd

    Your point?

  • Feminerd

    *shrug* I like porn with stories. I like porn with foreplay, consent negotiations, and some kink. I like porn that has explicit female enjoyment of the act(s), instead of focusing exclusively on how much the guy likes doing whatever he wants and the girl is his fuck-doll. If you consider that to be analogous to shitty music, so be it. It’s certainly a straw man to argue that feminist porn would be bad porn, though, since you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. Or are you saying people don’t usually have preferences in the types of sex, number of performers, gender of performers, and so forth in their porn selections?

  • RobMcCune

    Because criticizing Hefner is getting between Msironen and his porn.

  • Msironen

    I like kink and don’t mind foreplay in my porn, but “consent negotiations”? Really?

    The underlying problem with Christian rock isn’t that it’s just somehow universally shitty. The problem (which leads to almost universal shittiness) is that they subjugate the music to something completely unrelated; a religious ideology in their case. Starting to sound familiar?

    I’ll say this for Christians though: they aren’t trying to shut down the mainstream rock music industry, at least not anymore.

  • Feminerd

    Yes, consent negotiations. Though that’s an academic term, really. Porn that looks something like how idealized sex should be, basically. “I’m going to do this; want me to?” “Yes, no, that, no not that”. It’s not as unsexy as it sounds.

  • Ewan

    My point, fairly clearly, is that in attacking “Seeing women as fit only for porn is a problem” you’re attacking a straw man, because no-one involved here does that.

  • Feminerd

    Is that not the attitude Playboy presents?

  • Amazed

    I’m deeply sadden reading this story. I can’t believe how perverted, corrupt and wicked this world has become. I can’t believe anyone could be proud to receive such an award, especially from a perverted and wicked man. People always say, where is GOD when there’s killings murders and suicides in our schools? Well people like this ignorant little girl has taken him out. It’s sad to see that unless they repent they will be lost. I pray that GOD has mercy on them because they know not what they do.