Emily Hill

Playboy’s shameless bid to distance itself from Hugh Hefner

Playboy's shameless bid to distance itself from Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion in California (Getty images)
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‘Get woke, go broke’ is the rule that explains the collapse of so many powerful institutions which profess social justice principles before asphyxiating on their own hypocrisy. Playboy may be the next corporation to consign itself to oblivion. This week, it distanced itself from its late founder, Hugh Hefner. It's a mission that is doomed to failure.

'Today's Playboy is not Hugh Hefner's Playboy,' we were informed in an open letter published on Playboy's website. The statement came after various 'Bunnies' told a TV documentary that Hefner drugged, groomed and secretly filmed girls and celebrity guests at his mansion.

Linda Lovelace, the 1970s porn star who starred in Deep Throat, alleges that Hefner made her indulge in bestiality with a German Shepherd and had an interest in snuff films. Holly Madison, a model Hefner dated for eight years, said the Playboy Bunny lifestyle left her contemplating suicide. Others reveal that Hefner kept a stockpile of Quaaludes, the same powerful sedative Bill Cosby used, according to his accusers. Apparently, there were cameras and microphones hidden in rooms in the Playboy mansion. And Hefner’s former butler now claims that the millionaire, who died in 2017, aged 91, would invite prostitutes to come over on 'pig night' to have sex with his high-profile celebrity friends. In addition to being objectionable on every basis, it is also illegal in the state of California – where Hefner's mansion was based – to record people in a private place without their permission.

‘While the magazine magnate tried to present himself as a champion of women’s rights in reality Hefner was a 'vampire' who manipulated and coerced young women,’ a report in the Daily Telegraph notes. Playboy have responded by insisting: 

'We trust and validate these women and their stories and we strongly support those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. We will never be afraid to confront the parts of our legacy as a company that do not reflect our values today. As an organisation with a more than 80 per cent female workforce, we are committed to our ongoing evolution as a company and to driving positive change for our communities.'

This is like the BBC trying to revive Jim’ll Fix It saying the format has nothing whatsoever to do with a deceased paedophile: gaslighting so extreme no one sane would attempt it. 

Playboy was founded by Hugh Hefner, made famous by Hugh Hefner, and its success rests on the brand he built and the concepts he invented: Playboy has an 80 per cent female workforce because the business consists of exploiting women.

Personally, I have no problems with pictures of naked ladies in magazines or men enjoying pictures of naked ladies in magazines. I also don't mind women who want to work dressed in bunny outfits or men who want to gawp at women working in bunny outfits but you can’t call it progressive. Not in the Sixties, when Hefner founded the company, not in the Eighties when he announced ‘I am a feminist’ to Newsweek, and not now he’s dead and ‘PLBY’ wants to make out it has nothing to do with him. And unless men’s rights activists start demanding that handsome young men must make more money as waiters by going to work dressed up as goats with horns on their heads, I won’t sympathise with the idea that women have no reason to complain when it comes to equality either.

Playboy can’t pretend to have nothing whatsoever to do with the late pyjama-clad pervert, especially as advocating for progressive ideology is straight out of his playbook. 'In its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, Playboy was supportive of mainstream liberal feminist causes,' Carrie Pitzulo, a history professor at Colorado State University and author of Bachelors And Bunnies: The Sexual Politics Of Playboy told Fortune magazine. 'If women can have consequence-free sex, that helps the guys…But ultimately, Hefner and his editors genuinely supported this cause because they believed in personal freedoms.'

I’m sure they did believe in personal freedoms: for themselves. And it is shocking to discover just how many feminists believed that Hugh Hefner was striking some sort of feminist blow rather than – as modern Playboy is doing in distancing themselves from his memory – pursuing a PR strategy. ‘Consequence-free sex’ is certainly something that ‘helps the guys’, as do the abortion rights Playboy campaigned for eight years before Roe vs. Wade: it means they’re not hit with any bills for babies they don’t want and can use and dump ladies as easily as magazines with centrefolds. 

So whatever Playboy says, its attempt to do an 'I Believe Her' for victims – while claiming to have nothing to do with the victimiser – is a bit much.

Written byEmily Hill

Emily Hill is the author of the short story collection Bad Romance.

Topics in this articleSociety