The Tragic Impact of Hugh Hefner’s Legacy


by David O'Neill


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.

Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Thomas W. Dorr (Thursday, 26 October 2017 20:18)

    I suppose if he were a Muslim then Jannah would not be much different from Earth in certain ways. Oh, I'm just kidding, David. Good on Hefner. A truly primitive person in a world becoming ever more primitive in the ways of man. A greater tragedy, perhaps, is the presumed death of the Oxford Comma.

  • #2

    Marko J (Monday, 30 October 2017 10:30)

    Yes, hrmmmm, quite. Indubitably.

  • #3

    Louis Villaume (Monday, 30 October 2017 16:52)

    It is clear the lack of regard Hefner had for women. What is less clear to those whom would put themselves on the other side of Hefner's hedonistic road, is how pervasive this thought is in all of society. Our ethnocentric disdain for abuse of women and their rights in other countries, and yet we do not hold them on equal footing in our own towns, cities, and societies.

    I grew up with the Roman Catholic teachings and have found that women are not held in equal regard. Their books did not make the final cut in our Scriptures. Their role was never as close to God as man's role within the practices of my own church. They got a raw deal from the "Good Old Boys Club", or the Councils and Popes who laid out God's message.

    So while I concur their is much that is wrong in Playboy, or any other exploitation of women, I struggle with wanting to listen to the people who do the same in their daily practices. That is the definition of hypocrisy.

    Hope you do not mind the alternate view. I am very impressed (as always) with your gift of communicating thought.

  • #4

    Gjergji Evangjeli (Tuesday, 31 October 2017 08:56)

    Dear Mr. Villaume,

    There is a great danger that in passing very quickly over the sentence “Their books did not make the final cut in our Scriptures, some people might believe that this sentence bears some resemblance to truth. This is, in fact, not the case.

    The Gnostic writings never made it into the Canon because they present a different and foreign Christ, who does not save and does not come from the Father. These blasphemous words were then impiously impugned into the mouth of great and holy women, such as is the case with St. Mary Magdalene in the so-called Gospel of Mary. This pseudo-Gospel was never rejected by the Church because it was never received by the Church. It was most certainly not written by St. Mary Magdalene, sprouting up some time after the completion of the New Testament and the death of the saint. If you have evidence to the contrary of this, then please present it.

    In Book V of Against the Heresies, St. Irenaeus of Lyons provides the clear reason why Christians accept the Four Gospels and reject the Gnostic writings, namely because the Gospels trace back to the Apostles and the Gnostic writings don’t. Not because they were allegedly written by women. (I am compelled to also mention here that the Council of Nicaea didn’t say a word about the Canon. Not even one.)

    As far as women not being close to God is concerned, I invite you to read the narrative of the martyrs of Lyons, or Perpetua and Felicity, or a number of other early Christian writings on the piety of women and tell me again how the Church does not see them as equal to men.

    We obviously don’t know each other, but I’m saddened to hear that you have left the Church. I can only hope that this was not due to forming an inadequate opinion by means of misinformation.


  • #5

    David O'Neill (Sunday, 05 November 2017 21:07)


    First, thank you very much for taking the time and reading my article on Hefner and for bringing your thoughts to the discussion. The argument that you make is one that is made constantly, but one that I find has little intellectual merit. As Gjergji mentioned above, issues with the Gnostic writings were not with the gender of their authors but with the heretical viewpoints that they supported and the fact that they were written hundreds of years after the life of Christ to advance gnostic heresy rather than factually tell the life of Jesus Christ.

    In response to your argument that women got the "raw deal" from the Church, I encourage you to read the articles below.

    Once again, thank you for reading the article. I look forward to seeing you at Thanksgiving! (perhaps we can discuss this subject more at that time)

    Pray for me,
    David O'Neill

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