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Secrets of Playboy A&E Documentary Reveals Truth About Porn Industry

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains written references to violent and disturbing sexual scenarios.

Since its first publication featuring a raunchy nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe in 1953, the Playboy brand has been built into a prolific and influential household name known for ushering in the sexual revolution, mainstreaming the widespread cultural acceptance of female objectification, and introducing millions upon millions of people to porn for the first time.

Though the company and its late founder, Hugh Hefner, have not been without controversy, in its 70+ years of existence, the brand has remained resilient and very much mainstream. Even today, a new generation of children and teens proudly tote the iconic Playboy bunny on their jeans, tees and hoodies. But recently, the company’s deeply sinister and exploitative history has been put on bold display in the new A&E documentary series, Secrets of Playboy.

For many, any remnant belief that the Playboy mansion was nothing but 24/7 fun and consensual sex has been shattered by the popular series, which unravels “the glamorous mythology created by the brand over several decades.” The 10-episode series features “archival footage and exclusive interviews with insiders from all facets of the Playboy world, many sharing their stories for the first time.”

Ex-staff members, former Playboy bunnies, past executives, and Hefner’s ex-girlfriends all recount their experiences at Playboy, including everything from corruption, suicide, and illicit drugs, to rape, illegally filmed orgies, and beastiality. It’s a truly disturbing and devastating look into the abuse of power at every level—one in which women are the primary victims.

Hefner, he broke me like you would break a horse. He scared me a lot at the end because you couldn’t satisfy him—he had to have more and more and more…. I might as well have been a vibrator, I might as well have been a sex toy—because that’s what it was…

Secrets of Playboy reveals exactly what we would expect from a brand that built its colossal money-making enterprise by objectifying women’s sexuality.

Regularly hosting the likes of Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, and Jim Brown—all charged for multiple counts of sexual assault and rape—Hefner’s Playboy mansion has been described more like a prison than the fantasy that was broadcast to the world. Many times, it was used as a sort of safe house for predators who could live out their sexual fantasies without judgement.

Hugh Hefner’s Predatory Past

Sickening as it is, not much of this should come as a great surprise, and yet what is most difficult to comprehend is how so much of it took place with so few speaking up. Staff members saw what was going on and knew it was wrong, but there was a power dynamic at play that made Hefner seem “untouchable,” and so people kept quiet and kept their jobs. On multiple occasions, past staff members in interviews said, “What was I going to do?” even after witnessing a woman being brutally raped by a visiting celebrity.

One of the most telling interviews in the series was from Hefner’s ex-girlfriend, Sondra Theodore. She recalls some of the most traumatic sexual scenarios she was expected to be a part of, including beastiality, and talks about the abuse and manipulation that took place in her relationship with Hefner, whom she calls a “monster” in her interview.

RELATED: The True Legacy of Hugh Hefner

I felt that [my body and my mind were] both being stripped, used and swallowed up. It was just, he was eating me inside out. Looking back, I don’t know how I fell for this. I don’t know, it’s, like, baffling,” said Theodore.

Hefner, he broke me like you would break a horse. He scared me a lot at the end because you couldn’t satisfy him—he had to have more and more and more…. I might as well have been a vibrator, I might as well have been a sex toy—because that’s what it was. And nobody knew the hell I was in.

The Porn Industry Problem

All of these revelations and stories point to a much deeper and more entrenched problem. It’s the problem of turning the other way when power is abused in the porn industry. Because the reality is, rampant sexual assault and rape don’t represent just a few “bad apples” in the porn industry, they are emblematic of the industry at large. Cover-ups, the silencing of women, lack of regulation, corruption, assault, suicide, manipulation, STIs, and rape all come with the territory in porn and it has gone unchecked for far too long.

The reality is, rampant sexual assault and rape don’t represent just a few “bad apples” in the porn industry, they are emblematic of the industry at large.

Our society has mainstreamed an industry that spits out abused woman after abused woman in the name of “sexual liberation” and slapped a pretty logo on it in the hopes that no one will notice. And for the most part, it has worked. Producers, abusers, and directors are protected because the porn industry is a money making machine, all while female performers are often torn apart (sometimes literally)—and no one hears a cry.

In the porn industry, women are disposable. Our politicians, regulators, workplace safety officers, and the general public somehow completely turn a blind eye to things that in ANY other “workplace” setting or context, we would be completely mortified by.

But the facade is beginning to crumble. The world is waking up to the truth and we’re here to shout it from the rooftops until we see a widespread, systemic cultural shift away from the blatant exploitation of the porn industry.

In 2020, the Traffickinghub campaign, which Exodus Cry advanced globally, went viral, calling out Pornhub for enabling, distributing and profiting from rape, child abuse, sex trafficking, and criminal image-based sexual abuse. The unprecedented traction gained from that campaign, which garnered the support of millions around the world and led to Pornhub deleting 80% of its content overnight, is just the beginning.

This year, our film production studio Magic Lantern Pictures will release a three-part film series that takes a deep dive into the inner workings of the porn industry, unmasking its true face. And while the A&E documentary Secrets of Playboy largely focuses on the exploitation from decades past, our new film series will examine the dangerous and outright criminal activity happening behind the scenes on porn sets TODAY.

Stay tuned in the coming months for trailers and release dates!

In the meantime, check out our film Raised on Porn, free on YouTube here.

And help make a difference in the lives of sex industry and porn industry victims by giving here.

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