On the sexism of Playboy

Hugh Hefner died, and a lot of people are suddenly talking about what a great figure he was.

I’m sure there’s a lot of history here that I don’t know – I only have what I’ve gleaned from what little personal attention I’ve paid over the years. I get that Playboy was the thing that broke the mold of porn sleaze and brought porn into mainstream “respectability”. Or at least, the thing the opened the door to that. But even in my youngest and most impressionable days, the porn it offered was never really all that palatable to me, and in retrospect whatever respectability it brought seems downright sexist and regressive. Sure, the women were naked, but they were also clearly being subjugated even if they were there by choice. The image of the Playboy Bunny was never appealing, for probably the same reason that I find strip clubs to be the least sexy places on the planet, including lamprey-infested volcanic bat caves (to the bat cave!). The Bunny has little agency, she’s a passive … thing, there only for the enjoyment of predominantly rich men or men who want to think or act like they’re rich.

I’m sure Hef had a bunch of fun parties and enjoyed his life, and gave voice to a number of writers who would otherwise have needed another platform, but that life has never been one I aspired to or admired. It always seemed exceedingly lonely and thin, surrounded by women who were only or primarily there because you had stuff, not as active or equal partners in anything. The Playboy lifestyle is very much the kind of thing that someone like Trump would enjoy. It doesn’t seem graceful, elegant, or stylish, but a bit boorish and somewhat repugnant. Second guessing history is a weird thing, and while I can acknowledge the liberation that Playboy did for sexual freedom, taken at face value, it seems like a relic best left to the past (which is probably fine since the internet seems to have mostly killed it anyway).