We Spleen: Hugh Hefner, Civil Rights Hero?

Last night on Larry King Live, King interviewed the original Playboy on his pioneering civil rights activism. But there was barely a mention of Playboy’s “pioneering” work in making sexist soft porn mainstream. Hefner reminisced on his collegiate activism, his progressive upbringing and his racially integrated TV show and clubs. He attributed racial discrimination to “fear of the unknown, fear of the different.”

Yes, Hefner did fight for an end to sexual repression and racial segregation–all while dating, photographing and ultimately codifying the image of the blonde, blue-eyed, buxom Playboy Bunny and centerfold. Thus the Bunny became the building block of an empire defined by sexual and aesthetic homogeneity, not diversity.

King’s interview is complete with a slideshow of Hugh throughout the ages, but apparently the show’s producers couldn’t dig up enough photos of Hefner with his African American friends, or even his man-chums: The mogul is surrounded by an all-white crowd of adoring Playboy bunnies in each photo.

How did Hef respond when King brought up his magazine’s counterproductive influence on the women’s movement? “It takes a very curious attitude towards Playboy to come up with that conclusion,” Hefner maintained. “The notion that our sexuality— the fact that we are attracted to the opposite sex, that there are two sexes on the planet—is a blessing, and its something I think we ought to celebrate.” Certainly. But sexuality doesn’t have to take the form of bunny ears.

ABOVE: Playboy bunny ascending stairs, courtesy of Flickr user x-ray delta one under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Well said, Anna! What a douche!

    But seriously, the hubris is astonishing.

  2. “The notion that our sexuality— the fact that we are attracted to the opposite sex, that there are two sexes on the planet—is a blessing, and its something I think we ought to celebrate.” Way to forget people who identify with neither sex, gays and lesbians, Hugh!

  3. I never liked Hugh Hefner every time I see him I throw up in my mouth. A celebration of sexuality? It’s more like he is celebrating his straight sexuality.

  4. The brilliance that is Larry King. Did he ask Hugh Hefner what does he suppose the effect was of his “pioneering work” in commodifying women and making women into body parts, more easily to be used as such by people (removing the sacred and the soul, the whole of the person, in order to make usable [able to be used] and profane)?

  5. Tom Vitale says:

    He is not “celebrating” any kind of sexuality. Read “Ordeal” and “Out of Bondage” by “linda Lovelace” (Linda Boreman”)
    He established sexism as a social good; he is celebrating his control over women—and men: “I read it for the articles”. Thus he is controlling society. (Including hollywood).

    “soft porn” is nonetheless Pornography. And ALL pornography is a social malaise.
    Read: Andrea Dworkin “Pornography” or any of her books; especially “Intercourse”.

    Read: “The Prostitution of Sexuality” by Kathleen Barry

    Any image of women as sex objects demeans us all. It does not matter if the photographer is female, non-exploitative, if all of hollywood calls it an honor to be in “playboy magazine”: they are saying women are here for sex with men on men’s terms.
    But even sex on a woman’s terms can be sexist and exploitative. Sex on mutual terms that is non-exploitative and an expression of real love or at the very very least, a realand caring and mutually affirming contact with another human being is sexual intercourse that is not violent. IF the man is possessing the woman, even if she thinks that is love, it is not love; it is not good. It is violence. It is not OK with me. She was probably trained to believe possession is love. And I am not willing to do that to a woman.
    Why do so many women become depressed when they get to be like 60 or older? Because they have been subordinant to and possessed by a man; they have suppressed their creativity and life force for that man. And what do they have to show for it?

    Andrea Dworkin in “intercourse” says it all and says it very eloquently.

    • More like depressed when they get to be about 40, in the Playboy world especially, where there is a premium placed on youthful beauty. Not so youthful, not so valuable.

  6. Thanks everyone for your comments. It’s nice to know that other people see HH for what he is, a con-man. And all the rest of the population are such easy marks that they actually think HH is sex-positive. NO. HH is money-positive. Profit is his only goal.

  7. Tom Vitale says:

    Yes, Valerie: he definitely is a con-man !! at the least !!

  8. another death trap for women, and men –

    see the other as a commodity – like Charleton Heston in Soylent Green – women as "furniture."

    and we wonder why there is such a lack of compassion in this world – HH is an elitist – he's made a lot of money out of the product of women as sex toys. what a guy.

  9. For the 50th anniversary celebration here in the Chicago area, I wrote in to the local papers when they asked for suggestions for "special centerfolds" for upcoming issues. I suggested a nude photo of HH himself, to show us all what those buxom girls are getting into bed with! (Ew, talk about "throwing up in my mouth!") I also suggested a photo "spread" of Hugh's daughter Christie, who spent her formative years making lots of money and eating well on selling pictures of other women's naked bodies…why not get a look at hers now? After all, it's not "porn" according to her, it's "art"!

  10. I never liked the dude, and I definitely don’t like him anymore now that he’s being romanticized! But this quote from the article, “The notion that our sexuality— the fact that we are attracted to the opposite sex, that there are two sexes on the planet—is a blessing, and its something I think we ought to celebrate.” doesn’t seem liberating at all! There are more than two sexes on the planet, and not all of us are only attracted to “the opposite sex”. He’s a true-blue misogynist!

  11. Still fighting against his promotion of the dumb, buxom blonde bimbo concept that did irreparable damage to intelligent, beautiful women. He just rode the sexual revolution. He didn’t create it. The feminist movement created the sexual revolution. He promoted the ancient idea that every douche bag guy is entitled to a beautiful harem, especially if he has enough cash. That idea has been responsible for the pursuit of gross materialism and the abuse of women.


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