Hugh Hefner: Magnate or Exploiter?

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By Sumona Bose

This 91-year-old business tycoon may be remembered as the brains and brawn behind the Playboy Magazine, which might be arguably seen as a sexually liberating movement for women in an era where it was forbidden. However, this overly commercialised sexualisation of women has perpetuated the countless exploitation of women in the media and entertainment industry.

Starting with icons such as Marilyn Monroe, who graced the cover and centrefold of Playboy magazine in 1953, the magazine was considered the epitome of sexual liberation.

However, over the years, the same Playboy magazine commodified women’s sexuality in a manner that dehumanised a whole gender to the point where the world only opted to seek pleasure from women. The ‘dumb blonde’ persona or the ‘fiery vixen’ or even the ‘playboy bunny’ were the sole depictions of women.

Hefner’s industry degraded women in a manner we still cannot comprehend, while his flamboyant Casanova persona solidified his image as a role model to young boys and men around the world. Hefner’s display of his carnal desires in an entertaining manner, by building a Playboy Mansion and recruiting young attractive women, may seem to be a profitable investment in Hollywood, but it sets a harmful trend of exploiting young women.

While beauty itself is a massive social construct, the entertainment industry has severely impacted the image of women’s bodies and appearance. We live in a generation where we cannot afford to deteriorate anymore when it comes to the construction of beauty standards. Any ‘Playboy inmate’ would have to be a certain weight, height and within a specific age group to match the criteria. His relationships with several younger women question the morality of consensual relationships and the authenticity of these.

Before relaying his entrepreneurial skills to his massive success, we should ask whether his success was built on his own terms, or on those that set a tone to internalise the mistreatment and objectification of young women around the world.

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