As I was rounding the aisles in a nearby store recently, I was stunned to see that TIME magazine had released a special commemorative issue featuring Hugh Hefner. The release of this magazine demonstrates an attempt to celebrate the life of someone who, in my opinion, contributed to the serious degradation of our culture.
The release of Playboy magazine in the early 50s, featuring a nude Marilyn Monroe, launched Hefner's start-up magazine. Up until that time, pornography was considered a social taboo that men were discouraged from viewing. It clearly objectified women and endorsed social philandering. Playboy regularly defied moral values, implying that these ideas and beliefs were no longer relevant to a progressive society. The magazine glorified lifestyles currently on display by many celebrities. Perhaps this explains why TIME – in this special edition – referenced many Hollywood stars who participated in the Playboy way of life.
With the explosion of the Playboy media empire, Playboy clubs began to sprout up all over the country. It was just another way for people like Hefner to challenge the current morality. Sex, in the Playboy fashion, is usually portrayed outside of what would be considered the realm of the traditional family.
During the magazine's first few decades, Playboy introduced thousands to the world of pornography. It taught that the "sexual revolution" was the just another way of freeing oneself from the boring, stale morality of the past. The promotion of Hefner's magazine not only helped popularize print pornography in America, but influenced the publishing of pornography around the world. Starting with Playboy's Monroe issue, the monthly publication went from 50,000+ magazines to over seven million copies sold per month by the 70s.
Brenda MacKillop, a former Playboy bunny and Ms. Virginia, would disagree with TIME's veneration of her former boss. Objectified and sexually abused by Hefner's male guests at the Playboy mansion in the early 70s, she was traumatized to the point of a failed suicide attempt.
It is interesting that a media giant such as TIME would honor the life of a man who became a multi-millionaire by reducing the value of women to their body parts. It is also hypocritical for TIME, Inc. to promote a person of Hefner's caliber while defending women's rights at the same time.
James Lambert is author of the book "Porn in America: The Drift Towards Decadence in Our Society and the Way Out" (1997).
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