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Hugh Hefner, Playboy & the death of sex

Hugh hefner, playboy& the death of sexI remember the first time I saw a Playboy magazine. I was about 11 and an older neighbor has stolen a copy from the nearby 7-11. Not yet to puberty, it didn’t have the effect on me that later views would. In fact, I was just confused. Why would I want to look at a naked woman? I lived in a house of women, having four older sisters, and seeing any of them without clothes would just be gross.

But as my physiology changed, my curiosity grew and I had other opportunities to view Playboy. It was electric. Those pictures set my senses on fire. If I had the same access to those magazines that other friends did, I could easily have become as addicted to them as they did. But lack of access didn’t make me invulnerable, it just kept me protected. But only semi-protected, because access to soft-core porn only became easier and easier over the years.

Now, online nudity is just a thought away.

Hugh Hefner and Playboy‘s day is done. But Hefner unleashed something almost unstoppable. The money in porn and the power it has over people is astounding.

I have friends who have had their marriages and sex lives ruined by addiction to pornography. One told me that even touching a computer keyboard launched a rush of temptation in him because of how often he’d viewed porn online.

I am grateful for a small group of friends that I turn to whenever the tug feels irresistible, because even though I’ve been protected more than many, the temptation for me is real and never far away. And though I don’t use their services myself, having come up with my own alternative that works for me, I’m grateful for organizations like xxxchurch.com and Covenant Eyes which are using the power of tech to establish accountability networks to combat the power of lust.

But it’s not just the addictive power of porn that is its only drawback. It simply kills good sex.

Porn-aided sex is just bad sex. It’s two-dimensional, non-relational, and unsatisfying.

The best sex takes place between a married couple who have known and loved each other for many years. They know each other. And I love that one biblical expression for sex is to “know” each other. The best sex comes out of a long knowing of one another, because it’s whole purpose is to know each other. You can’t know a one night stand. You can share physical pleasure, but there is no true intimacy.

And one of the most difficult things about sex is also its gift: Men and women experience it differently from each other.

This is a basic generalization which means it’s not always true, but for men, the physical precedes the emotional. Whereas for women, the emotion precedes the physical. Thus, a man can be physically aroused without being emotionally connected, but will become emotionally connected through the physical act. Women, on the other hand, become emotionally connected first and then express that emotional connection through the physical act. This is why men are ready for sex at a moment’s notice (they start physically) and women generally take longer to be prepared for sex (they need to make an emotional connection first).

This can lead to a stand-off and sadly does in many marriages. The man wants his wife’s body and will give her his heart afterward. The woman wants her husband’s heart and will give him her body afterward. If both try to get what they want before giving what the other wants, no one gets anything.

But that’s where the beauty of sex and of a long knowing of one another comes in. When a husband gives his heart to his wife without demanding her body, guess what she gives him? And when a wife gives her body to her husband without demanding his heart, guess what he gives her? It’s a lovely and loving exchange.

Eventually, we each get what we want by giving away what the other wants first. That’s real love. “A love marked by giving, not getting.”

When there is this interchange of gifts, sex is at its best.

But porn short-circuits this exchange. A man simply views his 2D sex object and gets a form of sexual gratification without ever having to give his heart away. And if he takes part in this cheap exchange too often, it become difficult for him to do the real 3D version. And that’s a major bummer.

Studies have shown a direct relationship between viewing porn and erectile dysfunction.  The basic wisdom on this is that the more you view the sex of others, the less satisfied you are with your own sex. Also, the more porn that is consumed, the more kinky and violent it needs to be to effect arousal over time. Eventually, arousal becomes next to impossible. Again, that’s a major bummer.

But this also leads to a third problem with porn. Not only is it addictive and does it cause a short-circuiting of the good sex in a loving marriage, it is harmful to women.

Porn reduces women to objects. Instead of subjects to engage in relationship with, women are turned into objects to do things to.

Their basic value is reduced to their body parts and to their ability to respond to the sexual advances of men. Is there any wonder we have a problem with sexual assault on college campuses when young men have been raised with access to porn? (Compounding this is the reality that many young men lacked father figures in their homes to model a loving relationship with a woman, but that’s another issue.)

Violence against women is a recognized issue in our culture, one which brings major consequences to high level athletes on a regular basis. And yet, we deal with it as if slapping some hands were the answer. In the meantime, we’re training entire generations of young men to objectify women, educating them into how to treat women as sex toys.

But not only does the objectification of women do bad things to the brains and souls and practices of men, it messes up women as well. Body image issues among girls and young women is at an all-time high. Putting the occasional plus-size model on the cover of some magazine makes for a feel-good story, but it does nothing to repair the constant barrage of impossibly proportioned women on our screens. How many 50-year-old women can match the bodies of the centerfolds their husbands get turned on by? How many should have to?

Sex is good. God invented it and offered it as the first of his gifts to Adam and Eve. It can be intimate and beautiful if done generously as God intended. But it can be horrific when grabbed or stolen or otherwise coerced.

Hugh Hefner’s death points to another death: The death of sex, the death of life-long intimate marriages, where the self-giving of husband to wife and wife to husband has been pawned for cheap and broken imitations. I guess they’re not all dead, but they’re becoming and endangered species.

May we rediscover the subtle flavors of a long romance, turning our backs on the intense and intensely unsatisfying saccharine flavors of what Hefner and his ilk have been handing out.

5 thoughts on “Hugh Hefner, Playboy & the death of sex

  1. Great article, Pete! You make some excellent points, and give some great reminders. Thanks for sharing. I’ll do the same — i.e. share it with others, not write an article.

    1. Thanks, Matt. Porn has had such devastating effects on so many people and marriages that I’m grieved by its growing acceptance. We tell people not to smoke, because it kills them. But then we nod and smirk at this poison we’re drinking. It makes no sense.

  2. After-thought… I’d be interested to hear you flesh out more of what you mean by “the death of sex.” The last couple of paragraphs seemed a bit abrupt to me. Now that I’ve had a few minutes to think about it, I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re saying.

    1. OK. I’ll edit it a bit. I’m saying that porn has killed sex for so many people. Sex itself isn’t dead, but it’s been ruined.

  3. Excellent post Pete. Thanks!

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