It has been disturbing to see all the praise lavished on the late Hugh Hefner in recent days. Hefner was as much a moment as a man, and his legacy is not a positive one.
Larry King tweeted last week, “Hugh Hefner was a GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights.”
But as David French points out in National Review, Hefner didn’t invent pornography. He merely made it acceptable to middle America.
“It’s hard to calculate the damage he did, but the cultural rubble is all around us,” writes French. “My generation is perhaps the first to grow up with easily accessible porn. Every one of us knew whose father had a Playboy subscription, and their kids knew exactly where dad kept his stash. They’d sneak out old issues, bring them to school, and pass them around. Before teens could rent porn on tape, they could see porn on the page, and once they saw it, they were hooked.”
The result was a coarsening of the soul and a hardening of the heart.
“Boys grew up believing they were entitled to sex on demand, and the sex would always be amazing,” French writes. “They learned to grow bored of the ‘same old thing’ and instead to seek new adventures. They learned that monogamy was confining, that promiscuity was liberating, and that women should always be hot. The normal female form was no longer enough. It had to be enhanced, sculpted, and waxed. Though that kind of reality can’t exist for the vast majority of men, that didn’t stop the desire.”
That was Hefner’s illusion, and it came at a high cost.
“How many families have broken to pieces when a wife discovers her husband’s secret addiction and realizes that she’s not enough - that she’s never been enough - and he spends much of his life fantasizing about thousands of others?” French asks. “Another family breaks. More lives fall into despair. All this is known. Everyone has seen it happen in their churches, in their neighborhoods, and in their families. This cycle has likely happened to thousands of men who’ll read this column. And yet, the secular, progressive guardians of our public morality - you know, the people who think you’re a horrible person if you don’t recycle or if you use the wrong pronouns - all so often don’t just tolerate but celebrate the sexual ‘liberation’ that is part and parcel of porn nation.”
Sadly, even our president has bought into this dangerous lie.
“The evidence is on his office wall,” French points out. “These were the people setting the tone for American culture. These were the people mocking the values that kept families strong. These were the people who were teaching a nation that fulfillment could be found in sex, and that the joy of sex was worth more than marriage itself. They were wrong, and the cultural harm done outweighs the cost of botched presidential elections, bad congressmen, or a judiciary riddled with knaves and fools.”
Hefner’s legacy is broken families.