Hugh Hefner, Playboy and Sexual Exploitation: 5 Powerful Lessons to Teach Your Kids
By now you've heard that Hugh Hefner, the creator of Playboy magazine, has died. We can only hope that his legacy of sexual exploitation of women dies with him.
However, you can use his passing as a powerful opportunity to teach your children 5 important lessons about good vs. bad pictures, the importance of love and respect, and what true success really means.
Playboy mainstreamed sexual exploitation
Playboy, the magazine that Hefner created in 1953, brought pornography out of the dark and made the commodification of women's bodies mainstream. Instead of hardened-looking women found in most pornography, he popularized "girl next door" models for his glossy magazine. And then he added serious, well-written articles and made it all a glamorous status symbol for men. And it worked.
I remember when I found a Playboy magazine in my father's bedside table. I was around 9 years old and I experienced a mixture of shock and intense curiosity. Of course I showed it to my sister who was 18 months younger than me. (Sadly, that's what kids often do when they find porn. That's why it's important to teach kids never to share "bad pictures" with other children. It's one of the 5 Safety Rules taught in Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.!)
How did Playboy affect me? I obviously realized my dad liked looking at these pictures of naked, voluptuous women. I wondered if I could ever grow up to look like that. My stepmother told me that I would "have it all" someday, and assured me that being a blonde (like her) would definitely help. Thankfully, I had adults in my life who helped me aspire to better, higher goals than being sexually exploited.
What to Tell Your Kids about Hugh Hefner and Playboy
Here are 5 lessons to teach your kids as you process the passing of a man who popularized sexual exploitation of women.
- There are good pictures and bad pictures! Good pictures develop a feeling of respect and awe for the human body. Bad pictures show private parts of the body that should be kept private. Bad pictures teach us that people are there to be used for our own excitement instead of respected and loved. What do we do when we see bad pictures?
- Hugh Hefner made a lot of money promoting bad pictures of women in magazines. His magazine taught that women should be valued mostly for outside physical appearance, instead of for who they were inside. That is wrong. Everybody should be valued as an entire person, and not just for the way they look.
- The Playboy magazine made it look like men who were rich and could attract a lot of pretty women were the most successful men. (A "playboy" is a man who wants to have a lot of girlfriends instead of being faithful to one woman, his wife.) That's not true success. Truly successful people help and respect others. They use their talents to make the world a better place for men, women and children. They don't spend their lives promoting the idea that women should be used or exploited for their bodies. Truly successful people may never be famous or rich, but their work, love and service help others day in and day out.
- Everyone can choose to look at good pictures instead of bad pictures. Good pictures help and bad pictures hurt. What are some good pictures we can look at? How can we avoid seeing bad pictures?
- If a bad pictures slips into your mind, you can work to replace it with a good picture. Bad pictures can be shocking or even exciting. But we can use our "thinking brain" to help us forget those bad pictures. How can we practice thinking of something good when bad pictures appear in our minds?
Hugh Hefner left a legacy of sexual exploitation that we should not carry on. Using Hefner's passing as a teaching moment can be a powerful opportunity to reinforce your child's internal filter against pornography.
Hugh Hefner was definitely not family friendly! But you can replace his legacy by helping your kids choose good media to consume!