I’m Not Playing
I wrote earlier today on social media that it would be difficult for me to comment on the death of Hugh Hefner. But I can’t get it out of my head. I can’t shake the need to write. And what I write might cost me, but I am not going to chicken out just because people might think less of me.
Of all the people that I have never met, Hugh Hefner caused me more pain and grief than any.
His life, his purpose, his efforts, had a directly powerful and evil influence on my life.
What’s difficult for me, in writing this, is how candid I have to be and at the same time passionless. Why candid? Because it’s personal, shameful stuff. Why passionless?
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18:23
God doesn’t celebrate the deaths of the wicked. He doesn’t hold a party for those who deny Him and their demise. No. That’s not who He is. And it’s difficult to be that, right now. Because when I talk about people whose death may, in fact, gladden me, I have to resist the urge to stand up on some moral high-horse.
I have no moral high ground over Hugh Hefner. None whatsoever. I’m not a better man than he was. And I know it. I know it well because I know that without God’s direct intervention, I would have probably been worse.
So hear me, this isn’t me looking down my nose. This is, instead, me telling you what it’s like when you watch a monster fall from a great height. A monster whose very life introduced so much misery into yours. On the one hand, I doubt very much that God embraced Hugh and welcomed him into His kingdom. I doubt that because I don’t think Hugh ever, ever loved Jesus.
Hefner didn’t create pornography. He didn’t pioneer it. He didn’t even really do anything other than one very important thing: he normalized it. Would someone else have done it had he not? Probably. But that’s not the point. The point isn’t that evil exists in this world and we should just get over it. No. No. No.
I refuse to let that be the world I live in. Hefner made pornography accessible. Before the internet decided to destroy everything good by tainting it with lust, Hefner made lust something that lurked close at hand. He lightened the shadow on it. And by doing so, by making it so readily available, he exposed people to it that never should have seen it.
I was three years old when I saw my first issue of Playboy. Not Penthouse, not Hustler, not anything other than a Playboy. I remember hearing people say Playboy wasn’t as bad as hardcore pornography. Because that’s what we need, acceptable levels of depravity. See? See what happened there? And don’t think for a second that Hefner had class. He didn’t. He just didn’t think he could make money on hardcore porn.
Three. I was three. I remember the photo in my mind’s eye. I can see it. It was a blue backdrop, sort of like the kind really bad school photos used in the 80s. The woman was kneeling on a white fur sort of carpet and had a white feather boa obscuring her legs. Her breasts were bare, obviously. She had bleach-blonde hair. She was caked with makeup. She had a fake tan.
I was three. My father bought the magazine at the Jr. Food Convenience store down the road from the crappy trailer he lived in. He bought a Coors in a can that he drank on the way home that day and he put the magazine atop our crappy white fridge. At the goading of some older kids, they told me to get a chair and scoot it to the fridge and then climb up and get the magazine down. The adults were outside. The older kids knew if I got in trouble, it wouldn’t be that bad.
I was three.
That first image was followed by a second discovery in my father’s house when I was eight. In those five years, I hadn’t forgotten that first image. At all. It held allure for me. It held some sense of forbidden fruit. And from the time I was eight until deep into my adult years, I was plagued by pornography.
Some of you might not think Playboy, or pornography in general, to be “that bad.” I will disagree with you on a number of levels but I know the damage it did to me. And you might cynically say, “Well, Hefner’s death doesn’t end pornography.” And you’re right. Humanity is evil from top to bottom and end to end. But that man’s actions brought porn into my three year old mind. He twisted my perception of healthy sexuality all in the name of giving my father ready and free access to porn. In many ways, he traded my father money for a piece of my childhood I can never, ever get back.
I was three. I know, without even needing to do any kind of formal poll, that I wasn’t the only one exposed to porn that young. I know that even without my poll, the numbers would show it’s not a guy thing or a puberty thing or a college thing or any other kind of weirdly archaic justification that usually ends with “boys will be boys.”
I was three. And now, thirty-four years later, this man is dead. And he didn’t die as a result of the evil deeds he facilitated. He didn’t receive justice for what he did to me, in this life. My hope? My hope for justice isn’t grounded in Hugh Hefner’s damnation. It’s grounded in the fact that regardless of what was done to me – and I assure you my little story is far from complete – that there is real justice.
I can say I’m not happy he died. I can say that what he did, what all pornography does, is wrong. It harmed me. It broke and bent a place in me that has never fully healed. I don’t know how to end this. I don’t know if I should call you to some action(probably repentance or maybe renewed diligence). I don’t know why I felt a need to catalog this and write it all out and just vomit this onto my digital paper.
I just know that my gut says somebody out there ought to read this. Somebody ought to know. And be aware, this post might disappear in the next day or so.