Many hundreds of years ago there reigned a great and powerful King who had all the world at his fingertips. He had built a mighty Kingdom whose capital had become the center of world trade and his borders stretched from one corner of the known world to the next. Lacking in nothing, he truly had it all. A private zoo, a private navy, thousands of horses, immeasurable wealth, and no less than 1000 women to do with as he pleased.
In the end, the King reflected on all that he’d done in his life and concluded, “Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
I am of course describing King Solomon of the Bible and I quite suspect that the recently deceased Hugh Hefner’s life wasn’t all that different in the end.
Indeed, the above could just as well have described Hefner and the life he chose to lead. One that was filled with every pleasure the world can provide, particularly, loads and loads of women. Hefner spent the better portion of his early life building Playboy Magazine, a magazine that would go on to become the premier, “Gentleman’s Magazine” in the world. Featuring pornographic images of young, beautiful women alongside far less erotic editorials and articles covering everything from sports to politics. Hefner flat out stated in his later years that he wished to be remembered as a man who made an impact on sexual values.
In this, he certainly succeeded and not for the better. While Playboy was and is comparably tame next to some of the other magazines and pornographic content one can find on the internet today, it played a vital role in the mainstreaming of pornography and more casual sexual mores in American society. If your coworker is more comfortable talking about their sex life than their salary (and they are) then you have Hugh Hefner to thank. But if you’re also noticing a rising rate of depression amongst young women, increased confusion amongst young people about love and relationships, a declining marriage rate, and a rapidly growing pornography addiction epidemic with real world health consequences, then you also have Hefner to thank.
A major factor in Hefner’s and Playboy’s success was the way in which it marketed itself as a, “Gentleman’s Magazine.” Something read by not just refined men but by mature men. This impact has been felt throughout the world of so-called, “Adult Entertainment” and yet the science tells us that pornography such as that marketed by Hefner, actually has the impact of turning grown men into little more than children. Addiction works by affecting the brain’s reward centers and when we constantly choose to give into our desires in order to get that shot of dopamine running through our minds, we gradually weaken those portions of the frontal lobe responsible for willpower and self control. That is, when a man feels the desire to view pornography or crack open a playboy magazine, if he’s become addicted to it, then his willpower is going to gradually get weaker and weaker over time. Until, like a child, he has no impulse control whatsoever left.
In stark contrast with Solomon who, for all his many flaws, was incredibly wise; Hefner was deeply confused. Making such comments such as, “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex.”
Notwithstanding the fact that it was religion which got man to advance beyond his primitive status as a hunter-gatherer, who sometimes might use force to get the sexual mates they’d prefer (quite civilized huh Hugh?) it seemed that for Hefner sex had become life itself. Indeed, it had become his own private religion in a way. Perhaps as a way to fill a gaping void he felt in his own life.
King Solomon eventually grew to hate his life, in spite of his material success and, as many these days tend to do, turned to an addiction in order that he might escape from the gaping emptiness that had grown within his heart. In Solomon’s case, this turned out to be sex. “But King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;” (1 Kings 11:1)
Sounds a bit familiar huh? Almost like an eccentric old man who lives in a vast estate, wearing nothing but silk dressing gowns and constantly cavorting around with numerous scantily clad, if not outright nude, women. Perhaps, after his empire had been firmly established in the pop culture of America, old Hugh found that his vast wealth was not bringing him the happiness he imagined. It would certainly explain why he spent the final decades of his life focused entirely on surrounding himself with beautiful women and presumably bedding many of them. But, as Solomon so wisely observed in his own life, this was all but vanity. Just as a drug addict may discover that they can never have enough anymore to truly feel happy, old Hugh perhaps felt that he couldn’t get quite enough sex to be happy.
In the end, Hugh Hefner leaves a legacy just as we all do. Unfortunately, his appears to be that of accelerating the decline of the traditional family in America and the rise of sexual libertinism which has destroyed so many lives. In the end, Hugh Hefner will be, I think, remembered above all else as a man of great talent and vision who squandered his life away in the pursuit of empty vanities and who wrought great destruction on the culture of his day as he did so.