The face of an empire dies:
With Hugh Hefner’s recent departure, we watch as an out pour of love and devotion (and some disgust) flows from the world. Photos are popping up all over the internet of Hugh with celebrity friends while he sits or stands in his weird and well- marketed robe. Ancient images of Playboy bunnies of the past who once bounded around his mansion in nothing more than their teeniest of clothing, and fans of a multi-million dollar, multi-nationalist man, a man that helped them fill their spank banks- mourn the loss.

I don’t and I didn’t ever expect to mourn him because I really just didn’t care. Nor did I feel like I would have liked who he was or what he stood for; which in my eyes was the brutal and long standing exploitation of women. I didn’t know much about the history of the magazine that is Playboy either, which I recently discovered was the first ever pornographic magazine allowed into homes with children. Hugh was well known as being a good guy, well respected by those that knew him. Some of the public mourn this ‘social justice warrior’ who was even known to have backed gay rights in the 1950’s. Hugh, was a self-made millionaire, a cultural pioneer of sorts and a man, who, in his day fought in court for free speech, defied segregation and changed the lives of many people.

The Discovery:
This morning my friend Rinree, sent me a study conducted by well-known and somewhat respected media educator, Dr. Judith A Reisman. The draft study named: ‘Playboys “Child centrefold and child playmates” caught my eye. Rinree had respectfully sent it along with a ‘trigger warning’ and a warning comment of- “This is really fucked up”- and she wasn’t lying.

First I read parts of it, slowly from my bed, eventually bursting in to tell my husband who was in the bath about what I’d read. Reading the part about the 3045 images and depictions of children in Playboy was enough for me to investigate further and I was legitimately surprised that I had never heard about this before.
As maybe many of you will also be. I could be completely wrong, my own research on this could be completely misguided by my own bias. But here I am, because in my head it seems right, and feels about in line with how I felt about the empire he had created.
I knew there was more to the history of Playboy and I knew that I wanted to write a piece on Hugh, but I didn’t because I don’t have a great knowledge of him or his empire and couldn’t be bothered trying.

What I knew:
All I knew was what mainstream media was telling me about him or it. All I knew was what the various women and men who knew him had already said about him, positive and negative, and as with many things I took it all with a grain of salt.
Until today I had no idea that children were once part of Playboy’s long winded history.
I had heard all the stories of sexual abuse and harassment among the bunnies and visitors to the Playboy Mansion.
I had also heard of the rape allegations within it.
I had heard about the drug use and attempted murder stories.
I had heard of the parties, and orgies that he held within his walls.
I heard of the derogatory ways ‘his’ women were forced to have sex with him.
I heard of the drugging and physical abuse.
Hell, I even heard good things.
I thought I’d heard all of it.
But I’d never heard about the children…

Hugh Hefner has been previously quoted stating that “nothing is accidental in Playboy” and that “every comma has its place”. He also stated that he worked “closely with his artists from the concepts all the way through to the final drafts”.
So, one might assume, using Hugh’s own words that child exploitation material in his magazine was no mistake?

Who are these magazines really aimed at?
After some further reading and investigation (not too much, just a mornings worth), I discovered the statements that were made by this Dr. Reisman, seemed to be true.
Reisman had once won a case against Dutch Playboy when they tried to sue her for defamation (between 1984-1985) after she stated that, “{Her} research { into Playboy, Husler and Penthouse}  reported the findings of 14,854 images of crime and violence and 6,004 images of children (with the predominate group being girls between ages 3 to 11 years) as part of the overall sexual and violent scenario. There were 989 sexual scenarios which included children actively involved with adults; and each magazine portrayed children as unharmed and/or benignly affected by the child/adult sex.”

I assumed they lost because the judge couldn’t prove her wrong? They couldn’t sue her for defamation. Because it was evident, yet not pushing too many of the laws boundaries due to lack of actual nudity or actual abuse, and only eluding to it.
How else would they get away with it for over 20 years?
The more I read up on it the more it seemed to me that Hugh Heffner’s, Playboy magazine was almost catering to a demographic people might not expect; the paedophiles?

Dr. Reismans study had discovered that ‘as early as 1954 and through to the 1990’s Playboy contained comics and images that sexualised children, mostly children from the ages of 3-11 and following a close second children ranging ages 12-17 years old. At a rate of approximately 8 images or comics per magazine.’ It would seem as though Playboy was trying to condition its readers into seeing child rape* and exploitation as a regular part of a males’ sexual life.

Reisman’s study in 1972 revealed that in 373 issues of playboy, there were 3,043 images or comic strips depicted children under the age of 18, many with a strong sexual exploitive message and/or rape* with reference to alcohol and drugs.
The years before that, from 1954 onwards it was found that children appeared in these kinds of magazines around 6000 times (Penthouse, Husler and Playboy).
In the first 1954 issues of Playboy, a comic depicted a young male child, seeking out rape* in Paedophile based scenes, eventually then leading to comics of young female children being photographed explicitly by family and friends.

In Reisman’s study, 1849 of those images were of ‘sexual nature’. Or as we know it, child rape. One image(left) depicts a ‘young girl’ lying face down with no underwear on, on a Micky mouse quilt cover, gripping a teddy bear. The caption: BABY DOLL: “It’s easy to feel paternalistic toward the cuddly type above. Naturally, she digs forceful father figures, so come on strong, Big Daddy”.baby doll
In another comic dated in March of 1972(below), a child whom has been drawn with breasts (apparently typical of playboy to blur the lines of child, teen and adult). The child is sitting in her bed, in what is obviously a child’s bedroom while the child is sitting with a teddy bear, a middle-aged man stands nearby with his pants down and the child is smiling and agrees to rape* while adding “But first of all, we have to ask teddy’s permission, and that costs $40.” 3-aba49486c7
This is a classic example of what you’d expect to have read in Playboy for this time-period.

However, by 1988 in 92% of all issues, the ages of the children rose and 79% of children were over the age of 18. With this downfall in child exploitive material, it’s was then that (despite some disgust in the beginning) Playboy models began removing their pubic hair, to keep readers interested, the lack of pubic hair implied or mimicked pre-pubescent girls. The magazine again always trying to imply that the woman was not of age to appeal to the Paedophile demographic. Replacing a need to keep placing children within the issues due to assumed public outrage.
As a result, Playboy began to sexualise women in child-like ways as the amount of child content had to be eradicated,  a rise in youth fetishes ensued. The magazine often promoting the women as children in child-like poses; standing with buckled knees in a school uniform or in child-like clothing, clutching onto childlike toys, sucking on their fingers  or dummies with pig tails and captions using the words ‘Daddy’

Normalisation of child exploitation?
The sexual exploitation of children in these magazines was perhaps training the viewer, an adult or child (lets be honest, we know that the kids found these magazines too) to become sexually aroused by the content found within the issues pages, regardless of appropriateness or age. By placing naked women among the faces of real children, then alongside comics depicting children being raped and/or sold and exploited by friends or family allowed the behaviour to be normalised. Likely making it easier to abuse children and get away with it. And while the child exploitive material is seemly (I don’t buy porn mags so I could be wrong) no longer present in material such as Playboy, it might make some sense as to where the epidemic of historic sexual abuse of children comes from. If you consider that for the 20 years that men (or women) who viewed these magazines with child explicit content, were frequently subjected to an idea that young children are sexual and want to be abused. The lines become blurred when someone has been exposed to something over a gradual period of time. The normalisation of Child exploitation material is no exception.

A more sinister side to the Playboy empire?
While many could and would, debate that it was a mistake made in the innocence of the era, and it has caused people no harm, it is no coincidence to me, that many survivors of abuse are coming forward now; after being been abused in the 1950’s and well into the 1980’s. Back before internet pornography was king, the only way you could access sexually explicit material in the home was through magazines. And through these magazines the abuse of children being almost unconsciously planted in the reader’s minds, it’s no surprise to me that the sexual abuse was and remains rife in society due to the normalisation from such eras. It has deeper roots than we could ever imagine.
Despite the fact that Dr.Reismans research was dubbed as “A scientific, disaster riddled with research bias and baseless assumptions”,- I believe that a majority of our population would agree with me when I say that children of any age, had and have, no place in adult sexual material ever. The fact that this was even placed purposefully in an adult’s magazine that could be found in family homes, perhaps highlights a more sinister side to the Playboy empire?
Remember, Hugh once said “nothing is accidental in Playboy” and that “every comma has its place”. 
Perhaps, Hugh knew exactly who his target demographic were and knew what to do to try and win them over?

And win them over he did.

*Please note: I did change some wordings; I call rape exactly what it is, it’s rape as there is no such thing as sex with children.

NY Times article
Playboy law suit
The Study


5 thoughts

  1. I will read this in full when I’m ready but I got the gist of it and as usual a fantastic post from you. I skimmed through it. My Perpetrator (My Grandad) use to have these blood magazines in his studio hidden slightly. But those from my fragmented memory thinking if it now is how he justified some of his nudes he took of me to paint from and sale! Along with the sexual abuse! Fuck playboy and I’m so sorry for all those involved under the (playboy umbrella ) Who suffered and probably still do today. So wrong so sad so sick!


  2. Yeah this is a HUGE stretch, if not a complete misrepresentation. trying to claim playboy was attempting to normalize child exploitation while not giving but 2 examples with no context was a really weird way to make a point.
    Now dont get me wrong, playboy has done some questionable things, including the role-play section of the send in stories, yet the 2 examples used fit in with the latter, not the overall point being made.
    It doesnt help that the author spends a lot of time on the issue sent by a friend, but shows no examples from that issue which would illustrate it being “fucking weird.”
    The whole thing comes off as a swing and a miss in an attempt to get some shine off of Hugh’s death. Like, we get it, Hef wasnt perfect, AT ALL. But acting like an old dude on an internal mid-life crisis doesn’t make the dude ok with child porn.


    1. Hey Big D. I get what you’re saying. Hence why I invited other to do their own research on this. But do you still have the same opinion given that Playboy photographed Brooke Sheilds at 10 years old In Full frontal nudity? There a lot out there if people want to see the true face of this ’empire’. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all. He made his millions from women’s flesh. His first magazine with Marylin on the cover was not even approved by her, she received no money from it, nor was she ever thanked. Now that old shit is being buried next to her corpse. That’s just fuckin weird.

      I had no intention on getting any swing off of his death especially considering how little information I had. I honestly didn’t care. Til I read that.
      It wasn’t a miss. Despite the lack of evidence, people read it. People are chatting about it.
      Did you happen to read the study I left in the references.
      And how do you also explain the court case?

      I’m happy for anyone to disagree if they also have done the same research and then spend their Sunday doing a blog about it to prove it otherwise.


  3. Awesome article! Thank you for blasting that dirty little “secret” wide open. I always thought Mr. Heffner’s smirky smile was creepy. Now I know why! It wasn’t just a porn smile, it was a pedo smile and so many of the men devoted to Heffner’s “literature” have EXACTLY the same smile. Well, Mr. Heffner, your Eternity is in a very HOT place, isn’t it.

    Liked by 2 people

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