Hefner is the man who helped to usher in a wave of sexual liberation in the 1950s when he created the Playboy empire after working in the magazine publishing industry for a few years.
Ever since it's incarnation at his kitchen table in 1953, he reinforced that a woman's "place" was no longer only in the kitchen, but all over men's magazine covers too, scantily clad (or nude) and strictly slender with big breasts.
Of course, the aim was not solely to objectify women (arguably), but also to give a progressive take on sexuality at a time when society was still pretty conservative. Oh and also to publish great reads.
Channel24 shared the following quote from Hefner, indicating how his broad-minded outlook on sex is something he took pride in:
"... I changed attitudes toward sex. That nice people can live together now. That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex. That gives me great satisfaction."
Fast forward 60 odd years and nude women on the pages of Playboy magazine get phased out (his son who is now at the helm has re-introduced nudity), Playboy Enterprises is one of the most recognised international brands and the lifestyle that The Hef promoted is now standard in a lot of music videos, suburban house parties and night clubs.
The lifestyle? One that many would describe as hedonistic, one of excess and grandeur with lust perpetually lingering in the air, complete with women as 'trophies'.
The 'trophy' women
Hef lifestyle aside, let's talk briefly about 'his' Playboy Bunnies. According to The New York Times, the first face of Playboy was Marilyn Monroe when she appeared on the cover of the first ever issue of Playboy in December 1953 - a curvy woman with curly blonde hair.
It would seem that she set the bar for the body type of "Bunny girls" during the '60s, as Business Insider reports that 'Playmate of the Year' contestants had an average height of 1.6m, average weight of 52kg, average waist size of 57cm and an average bust size of a C-cup. The typical proportions of an hourglass figure.
However, as decades lapsed Playboy girls got taller, slimmer and blonder. Perhaps a preference inspired by the standard body type of supermodels which were so revered during that time.
The pioneer of the sugar daddy movement
The late Hugh Hefner was also notorious for his sexual affinity for women much younger than him. Not just as models for his publication, but as love interests too.
According to Business Insider, Hugh started dating younger women in the '60s when he dated 18-year old Barbara Klein at age 42. In the early 2000s we started seeing him on red carpets with three women on each arm and so it began...
The trend of much older wealthy men dating young women became more common across the world. A dating dynamic ever common that the term "sugar daddy" even appears in dictionaries. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a well-to-do usually older man who supports or spends lavishly on a mistress, girlfriend, or boyfriend."
Perhaps we can't give all the credit to Hugh, but bear with me..
Introducing the blesser and blessee...
It was not too long ago when mainstream South African media was shaming young black women under the guise of "investigative journalism" for having what was previously known as sugar daddies (now blessers).
Remember the backlash Khanyi Mbau received for being the first public "blessee"?
This 3rd Degree interview might refresh your memory:
On the other hand, male "sugar babies" (Ben Tens) remain unshamed. Instead, it is the older women dating them who are on the receiving end of disdainful remarks. But that's a conversation for another day.
The point I'm alluding to here is that men like Hugh Hefner or our very own Kenny Kunene get a pat on the back, street cred which earns them titles such as 'King of Sushi' and are #goals to young male professionals, who flex their financial muscle to pick up women.
There are a stream of articles poking at the subject of Hefner as sexual liberator, alleged pimp and other less flattering titles. What remains is the definition of a blesser and it's accompanying culture and what The Hef actually got up to.
Weekly allowances to his girlfriends, sex parties and even disturbing reports from former playmates about how they would get paid to perform sexual acts and use or abuse substances to make the experience more bearable.
Not every "blessee" experiences the Hefner-Bunny dynamic, though (luckily). Usually what the blesser-blessee relationship entails is an older rich man bankrolling the lifestyle of a younger woman he may (or may not) be having consensual sex with.
Yes, blessers aren't always sleeping with their blessees - I've heard of men who just simply want to be seen having dinner with a young, attractive woman and will also spoil them as a 'token of appreciation' for their company.
But that wasn't Hefner's modus operandi. And it's also not the modus operandi of a lot of blessers, as they often want something in exchange for things like buying a woman a weave, updating her wardrobe or even paying her rent.
Hefner's blessees lived with him in his mansion so that they could tend to his every sexual whim. His extravagant party lifestyle also somewhat set a precedent for the way men now splurge on alcohol in the club in order to peacock for women.
While blessees don't necessarily live with their blessers, both the above-mentioned Hefnerisms are what characterise some of the dynamics within (patriarchal) transactional relationships today.