Hugh Hefner Leaves Behind a Legacy of Sexual Exploitation, and a Public Health Crisis

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Following Hugh Hefner’s death, the media has erupted in praise for his alleged championing of free speech through the pornographic magazine, Playboy.

But in reality, Hugh Hefner leaves behind a legacy of sexual exploitation and public health harms.

Playboy popularized the commodification of the female body in soft-core pornographic magazines in the 1950s, and it laid the groundwork for the public health crisis of Internet pornography that America is experiencing today.

Reams of research show that Internet pornography is linked to neurological harms, sexual dysfunctions, and increases in rates of sexual violence. For example:

  • Pornography Use Shrinks Brain: A 2014 study found that increased pornography use is linked to decreased brain matter in the areas of motivation and decision-making, impaired impulse control, and desensitization to sexual reward.
  • Leads to Pornography-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED): One study on pornography users found that 20.3% said “one motive for their porn use was to maintain arousal with their partner.” It also found that pornography use was linked to higher sexual desire, but lower overall sexual satisfaction, and lower erectile function.
  • Pornography Is Linked to Increased Sexual Violence: A 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that internationally the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike.

Hugh Hefner was not a champion of free speech. He was a pioneer in the sexual objectification and use of women.

Research shows that Playboy historically portrays female sexuality as subordination and universal availability to the male gaze.

How can our society accept, let alone applaud, these messages about the value of women when we are simultaneously struggling with campus sexual assault, military sexual assault, and the culture of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley?

It’s time to acknowledge the reality that Playboy is actually just another brand for old-fashioned misogyny.

Learn more about the public health harms of pornography at endsexualexploitation.org/publichealth

NCOSE wishes for peace for the surviving members of Hugh Hefner’s family.

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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