You could look at Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, as a heroic civil rights crusader.
Or you could get real. He was marketing low-grade porn magazine that exploited not very bright women for money.
More to the point is that Hugh Hefner, who died in 2017, was the father of sexual harassment in the workplace, which continues to be a problem today for millions of workers.
Hefner didn’t invent sexual harassment but he made it appealing and sexy to a generation of men at work. As a result, a generation of young women were forced to deal with the male delusion that female workers want sexual attention on the job. Especially if its your boss!
Somehow all of this was lost on Richard Lopez, the director of the 2017 documentary, American Playboy, which is airing on Amazon.
Office Worker and The Boss
Lopez shows Hefner eyeing Playboy’s first subscription manager, a beautiful young blonde named Charlaine Karalus.
It was 1955.
Karalus attends an all male meeting of Playboy officials, holding a clipboard to cement her lowly rank. Hefner expresses unhappiness with that month’s proposed centerfold. At that time, Playboy bought photographs of pin ups, models and actresses from outside photographers.
“Why don’t we take our own photographs?” asks Karalus. The men laugh but the ever insightful Hefner gets serious and says, “She has a point. Why don’t we?” Thus the magazine is magically transformed
As the meeting disbands, Hefner looks at Karalus with new respect, telling her that his office is always open if she has any other ideas.
The next thing you know, Hefner is closing the blinds in his office and he and Karalus are going at it on his desk.
Hefner then features Karalus as Playboy’s first “Girl Next Door” under the pseudonym Janet Pilgrim, which he selected for its puritanical connotations. “Because you’re not the type of girl I’d expect,” he said.
Readers can’t believe that Karalus is an office worker at Playboy!
Hefner finds other ways to use his pretty subscription manager / paramour. He sets his sights on getting a new credit card company called Diner’s Club to advertise in Playboy. He uses Karalus, scantily dressed in a negligee, as bait when a male Diner’s Club advertising representative arrives for a meeting.
Rebel With A Cause?
Frankly, I couldn’t stomach any more of the documentary after Episode 2 so I missed the sixth episode called, “Rebel with a Cause: Civil Liberties and Government Crackdowns.” In my defense, the description states Hefner uses “the pages of the magazine to fight for civil rights.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 81% of women and 43% of men report experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. The problem is particularly insidious in the workplace because the perpetrator is often someone in a position of power. If targets say no, they risk their financial security and sense of well-being.
But, in American Playboy, sexual harassment is A-Okay if you’re a brilliant entrepreneur with a vision who is attempting to remove the binds of sexual repression.