Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine, has died at age 91. Along with the birth control pill and the hippie movement, Hefner was a catalyst for the sexual revolution. But his actual legacy was less about sexual relationships than sex as a solitary act provoked by a picture.
Certainly, Hefner and his magazine played an important role in promoting and eventually normalizing extramarital sex. His magazine projected an image of sophistication and masculinity that had nothing to do with marriage and fatherhood.
Playboy presented women as impersonal objects of sexual desire. The burgeoning feminist movement decried Hefner’s depictions of women. And yet, in his “Playboy Philosophy” column, Hefner defended feminism. And he was an early champion of legalized abortion.
Which demonstrates the true beneficiaries of feminism and abortion. The “liberation” of women from the “patriarchal” institution of marriage, actually “liberated” men from the demands and responsibilities of marriage. Women’s “reproductive freedom” meant that men could pay for their pregnant girlfriend’s abortion, rather than “doing the right thing” by marrying them.
And yet, if sex has to do with a relationship with another person, Hefner’s actual legacy was profoundly anti-sex. The main effect of Playboy was to teach men and adolescent boys that they didn’t really need a relationship with a woman at all. Playboy’s glossy photos of naked women were sufficient. With the stimulation of those pictures, a man could have sex with himself.
Playboy paved the way for harder-core magazines. Before long, the availability of out-and-out pornography made the magazine obsolete. Circulation fell. The magazine briefly tried to reinvent itself by eliminating the naked pictures, but that made circulation fall even further, and the nude photographs were recently re-instated. But there is a direct line from Playboy to internet pornography, with the consequent dehumanization of sex.
And we are already seeing the next frontier of what Hugh Hefner started. Today’s “playboys” are seeking to apply the wondrous achievements of today’s computer, artificial intelligence, and robotic technology to create sex robots! These are animated mannequins that look like Playboy bunnies, which men can use as a self-gratification appliance.
Having treated women as objects and then replacing actual women with pictures of women, we now have genuine sex objects. Men are having sex with objects!
This is what Hugh Hefner’s sexual revolution has come to.
Photo from Promifotos.de at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons