On October 27th, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, died at age 91. A leader of the sexual liberation movement, the damage that Hefner has incurred on American Society is unfathomable. It is a frightening thought to imagine how many souls were led into a state of sin by viewing his magazine.
Hugh Hefner was born in 1926 in relatively normal conditions, he was the son of an accountant and his family were practicing Methodists. In 1953, he published the first edition of Playboy. Perhaps one of the saddest things about Mr. Hefner is that he believed himself to be a philosopher and an intellectual, as if his idea of over-indulgence in all areas of life was anything new. His philosophy is no different than hedonism, a false ideal that has spread throughout history, but his decision to style it “Playboy philosophy” is worth dissecting.
By assigning hedonism the name of “Playboy philosophy”, Hefner gives his ideals a perfect description. Clearly a thought-system that encourages the individual to follow the whims of their desires, view others as sexual objects (Hefner himself estimated that he had slept with over 1,000 women), and avoid the natural consequences of sexual intercourse (Hefner was a constant financial and political supporter of abortion and contraception), it is fitting that he styled himself a Playboy. These traits show an immaturity and an unnatural desire to cling to the irresponsibility of youth. A man is one who views women with dignity, holds respect for them and denies his carnal desires. It is a child, a Playboy, who caves to his desires and delights in immature pleasures while trying to escape the ensuing responsibilities.
Moreover, his depiction of the women in his magazines and at his nightclubs as “Playboy Bunnies” reflects the dehumanization of women that is ever-prevalent in pornography. Saint John Paul II exclaimed that “'It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.” Let us contrast this with why Hefner decided to utilize the term “Playboy Bunny”. Hefner explained that the bunny “has a sexual meaning, because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping — sexy. First it smells you, then it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like caressing it, playing with it. A girl resembles a bunny.” He made no attempts at masking his dehumanizing view of women, depicting women not as humans but as animals made for sexual exploitation. He denies Adams recognition of the humanity of Eve (an idea that was not always commonly held, some ancients viewed women as another species, as it appears that Hefner does). “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). It is evident that Hefner failed in his duty to uphold the dignity of women, as he didn’t even view them as humans with dignity to uphold.
Perhaps a distaste for Hefner is one of the few issues that feminists and conservatives are able to wholeheartedly agree with. It is astonishingly clear that his political viewpoints were driven more by his selfish interests than anything else. Ross Douthat’s Op-Ed published on October 1 in the New York Times encapsulates Hefner’s political leanings perfectly. Douthat explains, “The social liberalism he championed was the rotten and self-interested sort, a liberalism of male and upper-class privilege, in which the strong and beautiful and rich take their pleasure at the expense of the vulnerable and poor and not-yet-born.” Playboy was advocating for legalized abortion 10 years before Roe v. Wade. Many have argued that Hefner’s advocacy was not out of desire to support women, but rather because the existence of abortion was good for Hefner and his promiscuous lifestyle.
Though it may be easy to celebrate at the death of a man who drastically changed our social landscape for the worse, as Catholics we do not rejoice in the deaths of others. Rather, we should pray for his soul. Any soul up to the point of death, like the good thief, can repent and come to know the mercy of God if they are truly contrite. We do not know if Hugh Hefner repented in his last days, but we may hold a small amount of hope and therefore pray that his soul may pass from Purgatory to Paradise, where he could pray for all of the souls that he has led astray here on earth.