By Samuel D. James
I understand what Ben Domenech is trying to say in his eulogy for Hugh Hefner, but I’m afraid he has strained out the gnat and swallowed the rabbit. Domenech sees in Hefner’s legacy a nostalgia that conservatives can appreciate—a nostalgia for a time when women were women, and men loved women because they were women. Domenech is correct that the unblushing amorousness of Playboy contrasts with our contemporary “sexless,” politicized public square. But he misses the fact that pornography, which Hefner did not invent but did commodify once and for all, is an agent of our current crisis.
Conservatives have long gained satisfaction from watching the awkwardness that ensues when feminists are asked about porn. After all these years, we still aren’t sure what happens when the unstoppable force of empowerment meets the immovable pillar of anti-objectification. Like the Pharisees who couldn’t answer Jesus’s question about John the Baptist, feminists fear the public implications of both porn-positivity (“So you’re OK with men being dogs?”) and slut-shaming (“So you’re OK with telling women what to do with their bodies?”). This catch-22 is not an accident. Abandoning the natural design and boundaries of the created order is a one-way ticket to confusion, not liberation. The failure of allegedly pro-woman ideologies to speak coherently about an industry more profitable than all sports leagues combined testifies to the emptiness and moral hypocrisy of secular worldviews.
Domenech is wrong, though, to think that Hugh Hefner’s legacy runs counter to these worldviews. On the contrary, pornography is arguably the single greatest secularizing force in American culture.
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