C.S. Lewis wrote that “a man with an addiction is a man with very little sales-resistance.” The fortune and fame of Hugh Hefner (1926-2017) is evidence that Lewis was right. To be fair, Hefner did not invent pornography, and what his media empire did promulgate is probably considered mild compared to what the internet now offers. But therein lies the tragedy of his legacy. Hefner made it all normal. He put a veneer of classy on onanism, fantasy, and addiction. It’s well-known that casinos do not make their enormous profits off touristy “social” gamblers. No, it’s the people who come back week after lonely week, hooked, who grease the financial engines. The same is true of what Hugh Hefner built. The facade is glitz and Hollywood glamour. The brick and mortar that holds it all together is the despondency of those trapped in a locked room without windows.

That’s what Hefner’s legacy is. It’s ironic that a man memorialized as a “ladies’ man” institutionalized a habit that keeps men and women away from each other. Men who chase the Hefner dream wake up in their 30s and 40s shocked to realize that the years passed them by, while they were hibernating in make-believe fantasies. And that is to say nothing of the men whose marriages, careers, and fatherhoods fall apart when the depth of their compulsion is made public (as it almost always is).

Hugh Hefner became what he did in large part because a man who sins sexually sins against his own body, and the wages of such sin are neurological, powerful, and mysterious. The Mansion is a myth. The basement is the reality.

Liked it? Take a second to support Samuel James on Patreon!

Posted by Samuel James

Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books.