On Monday evening, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died at the ripe old age of 91. He spent his life sleeping with women (he estimated over 1,000 conquests) and pretending to be a deep thinker. But the media’s gushing focus on Hefner is truly astonishing: in an era in which the media routinely condemn President Trump’s “toxic masculinity,” blast the casual vulgarity of Clay Travis’ support for the “First Amendment and boobs,” and complain about exploitation of women in culture, they were willing to overlook all of their basic views about female value in order to laud Hefner. Why? Because Hefner was a creature of the Left through and through, a man who sought to break down traditional sexual mores in favor of a “freer” and more vulgar America.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Hefner’s attempt to glorify the “swinging” lifestyle was a dressed-up version of pure hedonism. While he said he liked to listen to jazz, talk about Nietzsche, and be surrounded by beautiful women, he’s only famous because of the last element: without publishing pictures of bare breasts, Hugh Hefner would have been a nearly-anonymous, seedy-type trying to hit on women who could pass for his granddaughters. Hefner is iconic only because our culture has been so degraded. Yes, Hefner published articles by Norman Mailer and John Updike. So did Picador and Random House. But neither of those publishers have been feted for doing so. The media may pretend that Hefner’s “sophistication” is the reason they’re praising him today, but it’s his obscenity and his open hatred of traditional morality that really turned them on.
None of this is to argue that Hefner’s antics weren’t protected by the First Amendment. They arguably were — although it’s highly doubtful that James Madison and company were particularly concerned about the right of individuals to publish nudity in public. It is to argue that glorifying Hefner for his pornographic use of the First Amendment is ridiculous.
It’s also worth noting that the Left’s attempts to attribute Hefner’s reputation to his forward-thinking on civil rights is an attempt to coat turd in gold. Martin Luther King, Jr. somehow pushed for civil rights without publicly touting a lifestyle straight out of a Saudi harem. Rosa Parks didn’t have to pose as a Playboy centerfold to effect change.
What the Left truly loves about Hefner is that he was instrumental in destroying public support for monogamy. It was Hefner who celebrated polyamory, who suggested that prior generations were repressed and ignorant — as though he was the first man to discover the pleasures of sex. Here’s The New York Times lauding him in a 3,300-word essay (they gave William F. Buckley some 3,000 words):
Mr. Hefner wielded fierce resentment against his era’s sexual strictures, which he said had choked off his own youth. A virgin until he was 22, he married his longtime girlfriend… In “The Playboy Philosophy,” a mix of libertarian and libertine arguments that Mr. Hefner wrote in 25 installments starting in 1962, his message was simple: Society was to blame. His causes — abortion rights, decriminalization of marijuana and, most important, the repeal of 19th-century sex laws — were daring at the time.
What a fellow. He hated that he stayed a virgin until he got married — clearly that cut off his creative juices. He loved abortion and he disliked traditional marriage. Feminists used to be wise enough to understand that Hefner’s brand of female objectification didn’t liberate women; now, feminists suggest that Hefner, who built his infamous grotto into a “squalid prison” for buxom younger women, was somehow a breaker of chains. Hefner didn’t make women more respected; he made men more open in their piggishness.
But he broke the old consensus about the value of marriage, so bully for him.
All of which shows that for many on the Left, principles about female value and opposition to men acting like garbage are disposable, so long as the man in question fulfills certain anti-traditional standards. From Bill Clinton to Teddy Kennedy, political leftism is the golden ticket to enjoying all the rewards of personal depravity. That’s why Hefner was treated as a cultural hero rather than as a pornographer masquerading as a highbrow philosopher.