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Glamorizing the Grandfather of Porn

Written By: Marcia Segelstein  |  Posted: Friday, July 29th, 2011

            The CBS News program Sunday Morning recently profiled the grandfather of porn, Hugh Hefner.  The piece, called "Hefner at 84: Still a Playboy, Activist, Rebel," was, as you can probably guess from the title, what's called in the business a "puff piece."  This wasn't a hard look at the cultural chaos Hefner helped to spread, or the pornography industry he helped spawn.  Nor was there a hint of how sad and pathetic Hugh Hefner looks in his signature silk robe, giving a grand tour of the Playboy Mansion as an old man.

           Sunday Morning is known for being different from most news shows.  It's slow-paced, and often its profiles are of artists and musicians, its pieces about places of natural beauty.  Profiling Hugh Hefner as an "icon" seems a strange choice.  Not depicting him as a highly controversial figure in American culture is hardly up to the most basic journalistic standards.
            Hefner happily takes credit for helping to turn America's sexual mores upside down, telling correspondent Bill Whittaker:  "We were there to ignite the flame that became the sexual revolution.  I take some pride in that."  At least Whittaker gets it right when he says that, with the publication of Playboy, "Eisenhower's America was shocked, and titillated, and changed forever."
            Whittaker provides Hefner a platform from which to tout his supposed good deeds.  "Beneath those pajamas beats the heart of a rebel, an iconoclast who's been tearing down barriers for decades."  And here I thought he was primarily tearing off the clothes of women, pointing cameras at them, and turning them into sex objects for men to ogle.  Hefner is happy to take the credit.  "We know about the sexual revolution.  People are less aware of the part I played related to racial equality, gay rights, the changing of drug laws.  We were the amicus curiae, friend of the court, in Roe v. Wade.  It gave women the right to choose."  Who knew we had so much to thank him for?
            Hefner's name comes up often in Dr. Judith Reisman's new book about Alfred Kinsey, Sexual Sabotage: How One Mad Scientist Unleashed a Plague of Corruption and Contagion on America.  Reisman has been a crucial force in helping to uncover the fraudulent research, phony statistics, and despicable methods (including collecting data about children and sex from known pedophiles) that Kinsey and his team employed.  Kinsey's seminal books, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, helped convince a nation that its Judeo-Christian sexual mores were not only a sham, but the cause of deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness.  And the world has never been the same.
            Reisman notes that Hefner's biographer, Russell Miller, gives the credit to Kinsey for the beginnings of Hefner's career in pornography.  "It was the Kinsey Report that aroused his interest in sex....He began avidly reading...books on sex law, and any work with a vaguely erotic or pornographic content."
            According to Reisman, Hefner saw himself as Kinsey's "pamphleteer."  A few months after Playboy was launched, not coincidentally five years after Kinsey's Human Male volume was published, Hefner put out a manual aimed at college males.  X Virginity: An Important Treatise on a Very Important Subject "urged bachelors to seduce virgins by dangling love, marriage, and family before their eyes."
            As if launching a campaign against sexual morality (including instructions on how to seduce virgins) weren't bad enough, Hugh Hefner later provided seed money for SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.  Started by Kinsey's followers, SIECUS is one of the foremost providers of sex education in the America today.  SIECUS pushes "comprehensive" sex ed in schools -- i.e., instructions in various kinds of sexual activity and how to engage in "safer sex."
            As principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Judith Reisman completed a study called "Images of Children, Crime & Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler."  In Playboy alone, in issues from December 1953 to December 1984, Reisman reports that her researchers found 1,849 "child visuals," often in cartoons, frequently involving incest.  In the November 1971 issue of Playboy is a photo of a young girl who looks to be about 8 years old, sleeping naked on a bed covered in Disney character sheets.  This is the text that accompanies it:  "Baby Doll.  It's easy to feel paternalistic toward the cuddly type above.  Naturally, she digs forceful father figures, so come on strong, Big Daddy."  The May 1974 issue of Playboy includes a cartoon of a naked little girl (again, about 8 years old), drawn with exaggerated breasts, in bed with an old man.  Smiling, she tells her mother on the phone, "Uncle William and I are playing a game of consequences."
            In the Sunday Morning piece, Hefner tells Bill Whittaker: "I do oversee what goes into the magazine: Pick the covers, pick the playmates, cartoons, jokes, letters.  Still actively involved."
            Hugh Hefner is more than a mere icon.  Not only does he represent so much of what is wrong with America today, he helped us get here.  He mainstreamed pornography, sexualizing not only women, but young children.  He fanned the flames of the sexual revolution, mocking virginity and traditional values.  He was a prime mover in supporting Roe v. Wade, opening the door to abortion on demand in America.  He helped launch SIECUS, paving the way for "comprehensive" sex ed to be taught in classrooms across the country.
            Given his legacy, there are few men more deserving of media scrutiny than Hugh Hefner.  And few less deserving of pandering profiles shamefully broadcast by CBS News.

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