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The Purveyor of Pleasure Brought Nothing but Pain

The Washington Post’s Theresa Vargas reminds us of the murder of Playmate Dorothy Stratten as “the dark side of Playboy.” And it is a sad, tawdry tale indeed.

But what in the world was the bright side?

Hugh Hefner is finally dead after an implausibly long life filled with alcohol and promiscuity. The New York Times’s Ross Douthat bid him a scathing good-bye, but many obituaries seem to be fondly appreciative, as if a rascally uncle had finally passed on, leaving lively wakes full of laughter over tales of the old boy’s antics.

What the old boy did, however, was to bring shadows into the lives of millions of people. If it is obvious that Hefner did nothing to elevate the status of women, he didn’t do much for men, either.

Hefner brought pornography into the public square. He brought it out from behind the counters of disreputable little cigar shops onto convenience store shelves, and out from the seedy, smelly peep shows to pay-per-view TV in your Holiday Inn room—and finally, like a tidal wave, into everyone’s life via the Internet, the Internet that, ironically, largely did in his empire.

He also glamorized strip clubs (and, thus, the prostitution that invariably lurks nearby). Bachelor and birthday parties of even respectable men could be held at so-called gentlemen’s clubs with anyone who objected to the objectification of women risking the label of “prude” or “spoilsport.”

Worst of all, however, Hefner brought the shadow of unfaithfulness into thousands of homes.

It might seem no big deal nowadays to come across airbrushed photos of nude women tastefully arrayed in soft light and luxurious fabrics. We have even learned to call it “soft porn.”

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