I’m working on a Puerto Rico post (I have relatives on the island), but I want to briefly touch upon the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who died on Wednesday at the age of 91. The resulting obits have ranged from a odd appreciation by Ben Domenech to a condemning post from social conservative David French.
I feel uncomfortable about both the praises of Hugh Hefner and the demonization. Of course, that is what you get when Americans talk about sex. Hefner was part of the sexual revolution which allowed for greater power for women and sexual minorities. I don’t think I would be able to be out of the closet and married to a man if it weren’t because of the sexual revolution. That said, Hefner did treat women like more sex objects than sexual beings with brains. And while the sexual revolution brought more freedom to women it also has its share of problems. More freedom meant easily available porn, and the objectification of women has led to sexual assault.
The best writer about Hefner is Damon Linker who wrote about the good and the bad. He wrote yesterday:
On the positive side of the ledger, lots of men in the country’s socio-cultural elite consider themselves to be feminists, and they strive to treat their girlfriends, wives, and partners with equal respect — in part because that is precisely what their girlfriends, wives, and partners expect and demand.
On the negative side, Hefner’s work of sexual liberation has advanced far beyond what anyone could have anticipated 63 years ago. The internet has made every conceivable variety of pornography freely available to anyone with a smartphone or laptop, most of it tailored to the fantasy lives of men. Meanwhile, in the real world, sexual assault and other forms of sexual coercion remain real and serious problems — especially on college campuses, where an abundance of hormones, alcohol, and personal freedom far too often (and predictably) combine to produce reckless and hurtful behavior.
I don’t praise Hefner, but then neither do I condemn him either. He was human, a mixture of good and bad, and that is what should be remembered.