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FIRST-PERSON: Hugh Hefner’s persistence

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Hugh Hefner published the first issue of Playboy magazine in December 1953. For the past 50 years this porn pimp has peddled his publication featuring nude women airbrushed to perfection. More than that, Hefner has consistently and consciously infected society with his noxious ideal of sexual hedonism.

When Playboy first hit newsstands, Hefner’s “liberated” ideas of sexuality were considered taboo. However, month after month, year after year, he continually repeated the message that the indulgence of any desire — underscore “any” — is not only healthy, but also virtuous.

The influence that Hefner’s repeated message has had on American society cannot be denied. Today, many popular magazines portray more flesh than did the early issues of Playboy, and sex in a variety of shapes, forms, fashions, saturates popular culture.

The mainstream media has long portrayed Hefner as a smiling, swank, polished man-about-town. Rarely has he been depicted as a sex-obsessed man with a drooling desire to destroy the conventions of culture. Hefner himself was very calculating in how he introduced his hedonistic vision for America.

In December 1962, almost 10 years after Playboy’s inaugural issue, Hefner began what would be a 25-segment essay titled, “The Playboy Philosophy.” When completed it was a 345-page attack on all that was decent in American society. Hefner’s manifesto was particularly scornful of “Puritanical religion.”

In Hefner’s mind, a cultural utopia was only possible if religion was rejected outright and pleasure — especially unrestrained sexual pleasure — was embraced. While Playboy has been celebrated as an idol to heterosexual hedonism, it is worth noting that Hefner argued for absolutely no boundaries in the pursuit of pleasure.

Overlooked by many has been the magazine’s subtle promotion of pedophilia. In an interview with Traditional Values Coalition, Dr. Judith Reisman, founder of The Institute for Media Education, pointed out that Playboy began featuring cartoons about incest in 1954. “Child sex abuse in ‘humor’ was systemic in Playboy. Before our research findings were released in 1985, Playboy averaged eight images of children (cartoons and illustrations) in each magazine, most of these sexual in tone,” Reisman reported.

It cannot be emphasized enough that humor is a subtle form of acceptance. Month after month for at least three decades Playboy subtly planted the idea that adult-child sex is acceptable. In recent years some academicians have touted Playboy’s idea as healthy, not to mention the Supreme Court has ruled that virtual child pornography is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Hefner must be pleased.

While Playboy catered to heterosexual appetites, Hefner was no prude. In chapter 18 of “The Playboy Philosophy” he argued for the abolition of all laws against sodomy, including laws against bestiality. As a result, Hefner has for some time funded organizations committed to fighting for unrestricted sexual expression in America.

With the likes of Princeton University professor Peter Singer touting bestiality as normal and court decisions supporting same-sex “marriage” as well as the “right” to engage in sodomy, Hefner must be happy.

It would be intellectually dishonest to blame our current moral morass completely on Mr. Hefner. However, it would also be naive to fail to realize that Playboy has contributed significantly to the decline of moral restraint in America.

Perhaps as significant as the obvious impact Hefner has had on American culture might be the less quantifiable ways he has stained society. How many marriages have been undermined by the fantasies fostered by Playboy? How many women have pursued the airbrushed ideal depicted by Hefner via unhealthy dieting or unnecessary plastic surgery? How many children have lost their innocence due to the influence of the most popular men’s magazine in the world? We will never know.

Fifty years ago Hugh Hefner had a vision of a society free from any and all sexual restraint. The relentless repetition of his message has influenced society and morally marred American culture. Hefner well understood that it takes time to change a culture.

American society did not arrive at its current immoral condition overnight. If the culture is to experience change, it will require a consistent, relentless and patient message that moral restraint is the only path to lasting personal peace and long-term societal stability.

Hugh Hefner has invested 50 years of time, talent and treasure tearing moral sensibility down. How much of the same are Americans who care about decency willing to expend in order to repair it?
Kelly Boggs writes this column weekly for Baptist Press. He is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs