Around the time of Hugh Hefner’s death, his son gave an interview about the impact of his father. He said that his father was not only a great man, but he shaped the culture in which we live. That statement jumped out to me because we have indeed experienced the culture that Hefner created in these past few weeks. After the recent scandal broke, Harvey Weinstein said that he was the product of the sixties and the seventies and came of age in those decades of rebellion, free sex, and sexual immorality.
I was in high school in Detroit in the late sixties and the city was exploding in so many ways. We had the Detroit riots and 24-hour movie theaters, where people could watch the first X-rated films. It was the time of the charismatic movement and the Playboy movement. Because of this, at my school of over 3,000 students, we had a Bible Club in the last period and we also had an English teacher who carried his Playboy magazine in his pocket so that only the name of the magazine could be seen.
Hippie culture, Beatles culture, and Playboy culture shaped the people who became the leaders of government, politics, education, sports, and the movie industry. In Playboy, men read about male virility and the articles scoffed at the concept of marriage and fidelity. The important thing was for young men to experience as much sexuality as they could, because life was short. Women have bought into sexual evolution as well to explore their sexuality outside of marriage. When I worked in a factory, breakfast and lunch on Mondays were the times to describe the sexual exploits of the weekend. One of the young men who worked with me asked our pastor if he would ask some of the married couples to talk about their sexual happiness, because the only thing that he ever heard about was sexual happiness over the weekend and it was not the married type.
Our colleges and universities have mixed dorms and in Europe they have mixed showers. Our universities are known as drinking centers over the weekend with students showing up for classes on Tuesday because on Monday they are too hungover. Many of them remember that they have had sex, but do not remember the names of their partners. A friend of mine told me that one of the departments of his university had the motto that no student will graduate from that department as a virgin. In the midst of this freewheeling sexuality, one out of every four women is raped on our campuses. When one of those women decides to go public, the public relations departments at those schools do their best to cover up this reality.
For the past 15-20 years, Harvey Weinstein has been a philander and a rapist, harassing old and young actresses, and the Hollywood culture has defended him. They defended him because many of them on a larger or smaller scale were doing the same thing. There were other producers, directors, and talent organizations who made sleeping with the person in power the ticket to get into the industry. In addition, the movie industry sneered at marital ethics and glorified this type of behavior.
The sad thing is that this is not only in Hollywood; the culture of Hugh Hefner has saturated every level of our society. It is at conservative Fox and in liberal Hollywood, it is at the White House because the President of the United States can get away with it, and it is at the New York governor’s office because the governor can do it too. I have known seminary professors and high school teachers, both male and female, who were asked to leave their teaching positions and some even landed in jail because they could not control their sexual drives.
We are the culture that Hugh Hefner has created and we are pretty sick. As I wrote this article, I remembered the heartfelt cry of Catherine of Seine when the papacy was at its lowest. She wrote that the church was sick in head and body, meaning that there was sickness from the pope all the way down to the members. Harvey has not created this; he has just shown us how sick we are. He will go to find healing somewhere in Arizona, but we as a nation should hear the words of the prophet: “The heart is desperately wicked. Who can heal it?” May we turn to God and practice being people of sexual purity instead of sexual predators.