Chief Creative Officer Cooper Hefner draws a line between sexism and sex while discussing the need for men to consciously evolve.
Two weeks before Harvey Weinstein started dominating news cycles around the world, I authored an article for Playboy.com that explored the state of masculinity and manhood. In the piece, which you’ll find below alongside new essays on masculinity from Playboy’s March/April 2018 issue, I insisted that men encourage one another to have challenging and long-overdue conversations about what it means to be a man and how we can continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves—not just for one another but, equally important, for our female counterparts. My motivation: I had stepped into senior management at an organization that has played a crucial role in defining what it means to be a man, as well as what it means to be a woman, in Western society. But as the women’s movement evolves from #MeToo to Time’s Up and beyond, the need for an unfiltered conversation about masculinity is more urgent than ever.
There’s an important distinction to make, especially here in the pages of playboy. When it comes to Harvey Weinstein and others like him, many people read headlines and jump to the dangerous conclusion that sex and men’s desires are the problem, when in reality that is not the case for most. The gross abuse of power and the use of sex with self-serving objectives in mind are the issues at hand. The actions of Weinstein and many others in positions of power are simply immoral, but in order to have a conversation with the rational man—an individual who behaves with decency and respect, even if his sexual appetites are unique—it is important that a clear line is drawn between sexism and sex. In simplest terms, the line assists in clearly showing that the abuse of power is wrong, and when exploring Weinstein’s situation, we find that sex was used as a weapon—one that kept consent out of the picture he was painting.
Although the world has changed since Playboy’s inception, many in the United States and abroad still vilify sexual expression, especially when it’s coming from a woman. We see heterosexual men own their sexuality unapologetically (if unconsciously, as I discuss in the piece to the right), while women struggle to achieve traditional career success and are also scrutinized for attempting to own their sexuality, or any other form of independence. The unequal status of women in the workplace and in society is directly connected to masculinity in more ways than men often acknowledge.
The domino effect following Weinstein’s fall reminds us that the mistreatment of women and the abuse of power in social and professional situations have been an epidemic for far too long—one that many men have not recognized to its full extent, but that all of us have witnessed throughout our lives, whether we choose to admit it or not. Sadly, most women have not only seen this but have fallen victim to it in one sense or another.
It is my hope that the conversation continues between men and women and that offering a seat at the table to both sexes will help us participate in a needed moral awakening—one that guides us not to the vilification of sex, but to a moment when unjust behavior toward women no longer exists.