I remember a few years ago watching a James Bond flick and thinking to myself that if 007 was a real life person that he would be a lonely guy. That despite living the male fantasy life of adventure, gadgets, fast cars and beautiful women, that Bond would surely at times find his life lacking the deeper, ongoing relationships that all humans crave. However it would be hard to test such a theory because Bond does not exist. However there is another semi mythical character who lives the ‘male fantasy life’ who does exist, the creator of Playboy magazine Hugh Hefner.
By creating Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner not only mainstreamed pornography, but managed to change how millions thought about sex and relationships. Like all great pop culture icons, Hefner seemed to live the dream, embodying the fantasy of a new unattached male, who lived a life of unfettered hedonism and radical individualism.
Many social commentators now speak of the man drought, that is the lack of men who are willing to commit to long term relationships, who instead prefer casual sex with women, who prefer pornography to commitment and who look to their male friends for companionship instead of looking for a spouse. This kind of life was pioneered by Hefner. Strangely Playboy now makes more money selling accessories to young women than it does selling magazines to men, Playboy has also deeply influenced how young women see themselves. Just look around at the amount of girls that you see with playboy stickers on their cars. Ariel Levy in her book Female Chauvanist Pigs illustrates the way that Playboy has influenced what she calls raunch culture amongst young women. Playboy seems to embody on so many levels the hyperreality that has come to dominate Western Culture over the last half century.
However the tale of Hefner’s life seems to have a twist in its last act. The man who lives surrounded by naked models at the playboy mansion, who has spent most of his life partying with the rich and famous, who until recently has been in an open relationship with his three playboy bunny girlfriends, who has made millions of dollars, seem to be craving intimacy and relationship as he approaches his final days on this mortal coil. The irony is that Hefner seems to be living his last days as a broken and lonely man. In the last few weeks, two of Hefner’s girfriends have left him for younger more attractive men.
It is interesting that instead of being a life that men envy, Hefner’s life could end up turning into a cautionary tale. A reminder that the hyperreal dream cannot not deliver us what we desperately need as humans. That nothing that our culture can offer us can help us to deal with the fact that we age, and that we die. Check out the full story here
For those interested in checking out how in contrast to the hyperreal view, the biblical imagination creates a more liberating and ultimately satisfying view of sexuality check out this article that has been one of the most popular posts on my blog The Unadulterated Pleasure of Limits