No Way On Hefner Way, Says Catholic Women's Group

The Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women says no way to Hugh Hefner Way. They're demanding Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City Council rescind a move to name a north-side street after the founding father of the Playboy empire, saying Hefner dishonored the city and the world by "exploiting and prostituting" female beauty and "using images of... children" to promote incest and pedophilia. Playboy says no way that's anything close to the truth.

"(Hefner's) introduction and glamorization of 'soft core' porn, using naked, 'airbrushed' women to further his social agenda of irresponsible sexual behaviors, launched the future marketing of even more deviant and criminal forms of pornography," writes Arlene Sawicki of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, in a letter to Chicago Alderman Edward Burke.

And they have a potent ally in the American Family Association, the conservative "family values" advocacy group. "(T)he victims of pornography and sexual addiction are real," says AFA Action Alert editor Buddy Smith. "You might suggest that Hefner Way would become appropriate if the city decides to name sewer lines."

But Playboy, when reached for comment, told AVN On The Net the Catholic Women are relying almost entirely on a book they say was a likely offshoot of research which ended up being discredited by the two entities which commissioned it in the first place in the 1980s - the U.S. Justice Department and American University.

Earlier this week, one City Council committee turned down a bid to rename a street for Hefner not far from the house where the publisher first cobbled Playboy together with $8,000 ($600 of which was his own money borrowed from a bank using his apartment furniture as collateral) and a layout at his kitchen table. Later in the week, though, another committee approved it. Hefner himself appeared at a ceremony dedicating it.

"Today, we are drowning in pornographic materials that are available everywhere; over TV/cable, in our neighborhood stores, newsstands, public libraries (via the Internet) and even our public schools," Sawicki's letter continued. "It is a known fact that adolescent boys are the biggest victims of this pornographic traffic, sometimes leading them to lifetime addictions and deviate activities. What a shameful indictment of our present pagan, post-Christian culture! Mr. Hefner has made his millions of dollars by exploiting and prostituting the beauty and God-given dignity of the female body. Most women are repulsed by this fact."

Sawicki claimed Judith Reisman's book, Soft Core Porn Plays Hard Ball, "documents the fact that Hefner (and other porn publishers) used images of infants and children to further themes of incest and pedophilia in the first years of publishing his slick, glossy magazines." She also accused Hefner of "openly admit(ting)" children should be free to use porn, "under his distorted ideas" of free speech.

Playboy director of communications Bill Farley said that by leaning on the Reisman book, Sawicki is most likely relying on discredited thought. He added that, especially in its early years, Playboy rarely if ever even discussed child pornography.

Reisman did a study on child pornography in the 1980s, commissioned by Justice and American University, Farley said. That project "studied cartoon images from adult publications, and she had a panel with no background in research or psychology review and rate them as to whether they were child pornography. Now, they might have seen a cartoon of an adult woman in a pinafore, or something else that might be construed as a childlike manner of dress, and thus concluded it was child porn. (Reisman)'s been eating lunch off this ever since."

But both the Justice Department and American University rejected the study as unscientific, Farley continued, adding he suspects Soft Core Porn Plays Hard Ball might be something of a rehash of that study.

"It depends on your mindset going into it," he said of the study. "She clearly represents the anti-sex feminists, and (Sawicki) was probably disposed to believe anything which supports her position."