Hugh Hefner’s Denigration of Women Is Nothing to Celebrate

By Alex McFarland | October 3, 2017 | 1:45pm EDT
Hugh Hefner and his two girlfriends Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt (Wikimedia Commons Photo/Alexander Hauk)

For anyone who strives to follow their inner moral compass—and we all have this God-given, objective sense of ethical awareness—the recent death of Hugh Hefner is one of those cultural moments that makes you … pause. Over the weekend, many news and entertainment sites “celebrated” his life through photos and celebrity feedback.

But should we really celebrate the 20th century’s chief hedonist, the man most responsible for erasing moral boundary lines and for reshaping sexual mores? Legions of American teen boys lost at least a part of their innocence to the pages of Hefner’s magazines, and in the process, warped views of the treatment of women were normalized.

As a pastor who has counseled hundreds of men and couples, I know firsthand the devastating toll that pornography exacts on relationships and on marriage. One of the prime architects of the sexual revolution that began in the 1950s¾an admitted serial adulterer himself during the times he was married, and one who amassed a $200 million fortune while helping to destroy family, home and hearth¾Hugh Hefner’s time on this earth is now done.

Throughout history, people of all cultures have opined on what constitutes “a life well-lived.” Spiritual and intellectual leaders have generally orbited around a definition that includes pursuit of virtue, self-control and service to others. Aquinas taught that the purpose of life was to truly love God and each other, with love being defined as seeking the highest good of another. Love, selflessness, service, the pursuits of truth and piety¾Hefner embodied the exact opposite of these things. His life is done, his legacy is fixed, and this soul who led many into his religion of fetishisms has now faced God.

Hefner’s true legacy

  • “Hef” was rich, famous, envied by some, and he moved among world leaders and celebrities. But was it “a life well-lived?” Hef’s legacy is undeniably tied to these trends of recent decades regarding the American family.
  • The marriage rate has dropped by almost 50 percent since 1950.
  • Countless studies indicate that married people are happier, healthier and live longer. Yet fewer people than ever expect their own marriages to last a lifetime.
  • The divorce rate has doubled since 1960.
  • Roughly 50 percent of marriages entered into today will end up in divorce.
  • One-fifth of all adults living today have been divorced.
  • More than 50 percent of couples will live together before they’re married, if they ever marry at all, and the divorce rate is higher for cohabiting couples.
  • 25 percent of married men admit to having committed adultery.
  • Only 30 percent of teens will be virgins when they are married.
  • Each year, 3 million teens are infected with a sexually-transmitted disease.
  • Since 1973, 9.5 million abortions have been performed on women under age 20.
  • Over 55 percent of marriages that end in divorce include one partner who is obsessed with porn.

The toll that pornography takes on marital intimacy is immeasurable. Far from cherishing women or improving their overall lot, it should be pointed out that the Bunny-meister has been America’s greatest detriment to the cause of women. Today, kids grow up in an America that is hyper-sexualized, and the objectification of women is now largely normalized. Far too many males approach relationships as the hunt for a hook-up partner rather than as the quest to commit to a mate to be served and cherished for life. And let’s face it, Hugh Hefner invested everything for these outcomes.

For much of his adult life, Hefner was renowned for his wealth, celebrity and constant harem of Bunnies on hand. But in terms of finances and respectability, the empire had been crumbling for years. As the world notes Hef’s passing, it is hard not to ask, along with the Bible’s St. Mark, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

From carnality to carnage

Hef was known for his Playboy mansion, its star-studded parties and other goings-on there. He could have had a more lasting mansion with Christ in heaven, wherein dwells eternal life, everlasting joy and righteousness (John 14:2-3; II Peter 3:13).

The passing of Hugh Hefner is sad, but sadder still is the legacy left by his life and priorities. He hasn’t left a “legacy” so much as a “wake of damage.” Playboy was sold to us as a philosophy of liberation, freedom, and fulfillment; What it left America, and its founder, with was only bondage, destruction and death.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

“Marriage in honorable in every way, and the (marriage) bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4)

Dr. Alex McFarland is a religion and culture expert, Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, national talk show host, speaker and author of 18 books, including his newest, “Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home.” For more information, visit


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