Hefner Died, But His Legacy Lives: Raising Daughters, Not Bunnies, In A Playboy Age
We were getting ready for bed on Wednesday night when my husband looked up from the news feed on his phone and said, “Hugh Hefner died.” I caught my breath and said, “Wow. He’s probably really suffering right now. How sad.” Raised by Christians, he ran hard away from the Lord, pursuing what he saw as the good life. And so, in that moment, I felt very sad for him. For all his worldly success, his mansions, his silk robes, his money, his women, he was now most likely facing an eternity separate from God, just as he lived (unless the Lord intervened in his last days).
But following my brief moment of sobering grief for Hefner, my blood pressure rose and I just got plain mad—a mad that I haven’t been able to shake since. Hefner’s life is over, but his legacy lives on. And I’m trying to raise four girls in it.
To be sure, the entire sexual revolution cannot be blamed on Hefner. But I think it’s safe to say that he exploited the female body like no other. He created an empire and a lifestyle that said to men, “You should have all this—these women, these mansions, this life with casual sex at the center” and to women, “Your worth is equal to how good you look naked.”
He normalized pornography, marketing Playboy as a “gentleman’s” magazine. He made staring at naked women for pure carnal pleasure an acceptable pastime for husbands and fathers. How many of us have dads who had boxes of Playboy in the basement?
He dehumanized women calling them “bunnies.” He exploited the female form, using it as a prop to build his empire and to market it to men everywhere. He ushered in an oppressive era of air-brushed perfection and an impossible standard of beauty.
Hefner’s Playboy empire contributed greatly to (caused?) our societal value that a woman is only as valuable as she looks. We now have generations of women enslaved on multiple levels:
- women enslaved to the pursuit of looking young or looking perfect or looking more like sexy magazine covers—women who will never be satisfied by their own God-given bodies because they don’t measure up
- women enslaved to a cycle of noncommittal and “playful” sex because they’ve bought the lie that they’re most valuable when they’re giving it all up—women suffering with the ramifications of such sex, like STDs, abortions, feeling used and abused and discarded when done
- women who are literally enslaved, held captive by men that use them for sex and pimp them out to others for their own financial gain.
Hefner pulled pornography out of the dark, hidden recesses of society and made it normal, good, “playful” fun. His legacy really is, what’s the big deal, anyway? But it’s a huge deal. Women have been commodified and their bodies cheapened, all in the name of liberation, but it’s actually exploitation.
In my home and in my sphere of influence I want to push back this culture of using and abusing with all that is in me and raise four girls to be strong, God-honoring, and God-cherished women. As creatures made by a loving and powerful and purposeful God, may my girls and yours see the true worth in their bodies, the real worth in their souls, their infinite value as ones carefully formed by the Lord Most High.
The good life is in Jesus, not at a Playboy mansion. Satisfaction is in Christ, not in looking like a centerfold. Our worth is based on God Almighty, not on how sexy and available we can be. We were created by him and for his glory. We are most joyful and alive and content when we find ourselves in him. Oh Lord, make this known to us moms and to our daughters.