Porn has changed. I went to Porno movies (as they were called that back in the day) in greasy theaters and first run ones when that too became the new thing of the day and then porn went on to become DVD's and then on internet and it has never looked back. And with it came more vulgarity and more ways that young men are introduced to sex and sexuality. How sad. How Grim. How Pathetic.
So when I heard that a few years ago to pay debt the infamous Playboy mansion was sold with the caveat that he could live there til death, my first thought was: He is still alive? And then his death announcement came with some type of bizarre thanks for the memories and tributes as if he was the leader of a new sexuality and the movement towards personal freedoms. Really?
I recall a creepy looking white guy wearing pajamas and the supposed parties of bacchanalia that defined his era. The E channels with its endless need for faux reality had several shows focused on the Bunnies who lived with Hef and then later more memoirs and truth telling started to emerge as I am sure Hef was well into his dotage and unlikely to either get up, get it up or sue let alone know what day it was. He was a pig and enabled men to be pigs but confined to the Mansion who cares?
I recall the Playboy clubs and I recalled the great expose by Gloria Steinem that exposed the realities of working for this "empire" of sexual slavery. Funny how obsessed we are today about Human Trafficking and yet Hefner brought it too new heights with club memberships around the world all under the concept of sexual freedom.
So when I read this article and the one below today in the Guardian I thought this is by far more honest a tribute and in fact truth about what was the beginning of the sex industry. How revolutionary.
I called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. But that’s what he was
September 28 2017
Now that he’s dead, the old sleaze in the Playboy mansion is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Quite the opposite
Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.
It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.
Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.
I don’t really know which women were liberated by Hefner’s fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court – because over the years they have.
The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”
The fantasy that Hefner sold was not a fantasy of freedom for women, but for men. Women had to be strangely chaste but constantly available for the right price. Dressing grown women as rabbits – once seen as the height of sophistication – is now seen as camp and ironic. There are those today who want to celebrate Hefner’s contribution to magazine journalism, and I don’t dispute that Playboy did use some fantastic writers.
Part of Hefner’s business acumen was to make the selling of female flesh respectable and hip, to make soft porn acceptable. Every man’s dream was to have Hefner’s lifestyle. Apparently. Every picture of him, right to the end, shows him with his lizard smirk surrounded by blonde clones. Every half-wit on Twitter is asking if Hefner will go to heaven when he already lived in it.
But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James recalls, they had to go to his room and “wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases.”
If any of them left the mansion and were not available for club nights where they were paraded, they didn’t get their allowance. The sheets in the mansion were stained. There was to be no bickering between girlfriends. No condoms could be used. A nurse sometimes had to be called to Hefner’s “grotto” if he’d had a fall. Nonetheless, these young women would have to perform.
Hefner – repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation – would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didn’t care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep “Daddy” excited. Is there no end to this glamour?
Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say