Hugh Hefner's Supposed Biological Imperative


In what might be called the Slatiest piece that Slate ever slated, this post “in defense of May-December marriages like Hugh Hefner‘s” plays devil’s advocate while tilting at windmills. It must be tiring.

At issue, of course, is the squick factor implicit in Hef’s recently-announced engagement to the 23-year-old Crystal Harris. Slate’s Christopher Beam deems the mass cringing as an irrational prejudice borne of misplaced busybody impulses — when, in fact, the risk factors are no greater than for most other marriages. He then goes on to list various May-December relationships — including Woody Allen’s and Morgan Freeman’s rather unsavory situations — presumably as a means of demonstrating that they can endure. Perhaps, but this is where his conclusion goes awry:

But the best reason not to hate May-December marriages is the same reason not to hate any marriage that’s not your own: What’s the point? In the case of marriages like Hugh Hefner’s, you’re arguing against an ancient biological imperative for men to marry women of child-bearing age, and the need for material security in which to raise those children. Likewise, there will always be young men who don’t want or already have children and who are attracted to older women. And anyway, even if it is a mistake, one partner is likely to expire before the marriage does.

Okay, so now he throws in “young men,” but did he list a single example of that dynamic in the comprehensive roster of couples? With the exception of Harold and Maude, no sir. And anyway, how could he, when he’s playing the “biological imperative” card? What’s Ashton Kutcher’s biological imperative? Exactly. It’s disingenuous, to say the least, to pretend the power dynamic at work isn’t at least part of what people find problematic — in Hef’s case, anyway. As Amanda Hess dryly noted, “Curious! Perhaps there is an alternate explanation for the bad reputation of such marriages.”

And how about when there’s not the same “ancient biological imperative” towards fertile young women? In the latest Millionaire Matchmaker, we were given one of those clients who’s such a pill that he makes Patti look reasonable and sympathetic. And the dude would not — on principle — date guys over 33, despite pushing 50. Falling in love with a person regardless of age is one thing; when age becomes a fixed and arbitrary barrier, it’s a different issue. The latter seems far more like Hef’s situation than not. There’s falling in love with people and then there’s what Beam describes: “Hugh Hefner has a simpler rule: His age doesn’t matter, but she needs to be in her 20s.” Biological imperative, I suppose. And besides, it’s not as though we’re going into some innocent, private old man’s bedroom and judging: Hef has made himself the face of a brand, deliberately publicized it, and attempted to define — and live — “fantasy.” We have a right to argue the definition.

Don’t Mind The Gap [Slate]

Earlier: But Hef, What About Holly Madison?

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