Following Bill Cosby & Hugh Hefner Down the Rabbit Hole.

hugh hefner bill cosby

In July it came out that in 2005 Bill Cosby admitted in a sworn deposition to buying Quaaludes with the intent to use them to rape women, not to “have sex with them” as headlines read.

Around the same time, former Playboy Playmate and Hugh Hefner’s “No. 1 Girlfriend” Holly Madison released an incriminating memoir, entitled Down the Rabbit Hole, about her time in the Playboy Mansion and how it often involved Quaalude-addled group sex with Hefner.

You might remember that late last year when we finally started to pay attention to the long-standing assault allegations against Cosby after a deluge more came to light, Hefner wrote in a statement that “Bill Cosby has been a good friend for many years and the mere thought of these allegations is truly saddening. I would never tolerate this kind of behaviour, regardless of who was involved”.

Putting aside the fact that Cosby and Hefner are friends (14% of Cosby’s accusers were employees or guests of Playboy at the time of their assaults), both men’s predilection for drugging women to better inure them to sex is a damning testament to their power in Hollywood.

It would seem that since last year reports of sexual and physical violence against women have begun to be taken more seriously. As of this writing, 2015 alone as seen 63 women be murdered by their intimate partners or killed in gendered attacks, according to Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women project. The prevalence of these crimes doesn’t necessarily mean that women are experiencing more violence but perhaps that we’ve started to actually give a shit about it.

The striking similarities of the stories of the upwards of 40 Cosby accusers with nothing to gain should be enough to prioritise their safety and justice over the comedian’s legacy and power, but alas, it took the comedian’s own admission for reruns to be cut from networks and a statue in his likeness at Disneyland to be taken down. And even then, apologists such as The View co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Raven-Symoné urge us to resist making a “snap judgement” despite the “proof”. (Goldberg has since come around, saying on The View that “all off the information that’s out there kind of points to guilt.”)  

“What did these women do to get themselves in that situation?”, we ask, particularly in the case of apparently complicit women like Madison and others who frequented the Playboy Mansion.

Madison explains in Down the Rabbit Hole that “I was about to be homeless. I had no place to go and was panicking over what to do next when this opportunity with Hef just sort of fell into my lap. If I became a girlfriend, I would have somewhere to live. If I became part of Playboy’s inner circle, perhaps that could even help my career.”

“The Playboy Mansion… had been both my safe haven—and my prison,” she continues.

What further kept Madison trapped was her decreased confidence and self-worth upon becoming a girlfriend. Hefner’s six other girlfriends at the time Madison moved in were also plagued by insecurities which Madison says led them to bully her. And, in turn, “my shrinking violet personality was a sign of submission that [Hef] used to manipulate the other women.” When Madison tried to have an intelligent conversation with the man she supposedly loved and whom expressed love for her, “he would scoff at whatever I said. It didn’t matter if my remark was educated or even correct, because if I said it, it must be wrong.” In attempting to exert her independence and autonomy by getting a makeover, Hefner belittled Madison, calling her “old, hard and cheap”. After a seemingly throwaway comment from Madison about fellow girlfriend and Girls Next Door star Kendra Baskett (nee Wilkinson), Hefner screamed at Madison to “stop being such a fucking CUNT!”

“He frightened me,” she writes.

Just because young women seek out rich men to experience the fame and fortune they otherwise wouldn’t have access to doesn’t mean they consented to inebriated sex. On the same night she refused Quaaludes from Hefner in a scenario that made headlines upon publication of the book, “I can’t even begin to tell you how much vodka and champagne I consumed… While I patted myself on the back for turning down the pills, by the time we left the club, I couldn’t have been any more incoherent” for her first group sex encounter with Hefner.

The ostensibly compromised integrity of Madison and others who’ve written similar accounts of their time with Hef, like Hefner’s former girlfriend Izabella St. James, and their previous contributions to maintaining the glass curtain Hef and the Mansion are shrouded in makes them less likely to be believed.

Also making headlines for embellished claims was Rolling Stone’s damning article entitled “A Rape on Campus” at the University of Virginia in which reporter Sabrina Erdely failed to properly corroborate the alleged victim Jackie’s story by seeking out other sources before the story went to press. While the feminist and left-leaning media have made it clear that Erdely and Rolling Stone were at fault, a report was issued further blaming the very people it was supposed to protect: sexual assault victims.

“The editors and Erdely have concluded that their main fault was to be too accommodating of Jackie because she described herself as the survivor of a terrible sexual assault,” the report says, feeding all-too-perfectly into blame-the-victim rhetoric.

Chloe Angyal wrote at Feministing that “‘Jackie’ will become shorthand for people seeking to discredit future allegations of rape” just as Fatal Attraction’s “Bunny Boiler” has for unhinged women who trap and frame innocent men.

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence such as that surrounding the 2014 Isla Vista shooter, Elliot Rodger, society doesn’t believe women when we tell them that harassment and a general feeling of being unsafe is something that happens on a daily basis for many of us. The hashtag #yesallwomen was spawned in an effort to debunk that. Despite the fact that the killer sent an accompanying 140-page manifesto to former friends and family members outlining his murderous intentions, people were still willing to believe that Rodger and men like him (#notallmen) are “good blokes”, while “blonde sluts” are to blame for “starv[ing him] of sex” .

Going back to Hefner, in 2005’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, author Ariel Levy speaks at length with Hefner’s daughter Christie, then CEO of Playboy Enterprises. Like Cosby and his respectability politics, Levy also quotes from past interviews with Hef in which he claims to be a champion for women and, dare I say it, a feminist.

In the book, Christie is described as the founder of many women-friendly organisations, such as Emily’s List, which works to elect pro-choice Democratic candidates to office, and the Committee of 200, which runs a mentor program between successful business women and young women and girls. Levy writes,

“The Playboy Foundation also gave grant money to NOW’s Legal Defence and Education Fund and supported the ERA; Hefner personally hosted a fundraiser for it at the Playboy Mansion. ‘I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism!’ Hefner has said. A mutual friend even tried to set him up on a date with Gloria Steinem before she became famous.”

(Arguably the piece that made Steinem famous was an undercover exposé on the hostile and sexist conditions at New York City’s Playboy Club, including immediate dismissal for accepting a date with a customer.)

Just because someone calls themselves a feminist, does it make it so? Sarah Palin and Tony Abbott have done so, but their public policies and conversational faux pas would indicate that they are anything but.

The same could be said of Cosby’s respectability politics. On the surface it might look like Cosby is championing his race, but really it’s about minorities policing their own behaviour in an effort to prove how “good” and worthy they are of fair treatment by the powers that be. Cosby has done such an expert job of portraying himself as black America’s father figure that defenders like Raven-Symoné (in whose case Cosby literally played her grandfather on TV) are still in his corner.

In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Levy quotes from a 1967 interview with Hefner that the self-professed feminist does “not look for equality between man and woman… I like innocent, affectionate, faithful girls.” Perhaps that’s why he challenged Madison’s post-Playboy life as not being “happy, healthy and productive”: because she, like the 41 women who kept Cosby’s secret for up to 49 years in the earliest reported case, didn’t play along with the socially prescribed rule to put up (or out) and shut up when it comes to powerful men.

Related: The Year of the Stalker.

Elsewhere: [Gawker] Who Wants to Remember Bill Cosby’s Multiple Sexual Assault Accusations?

[Vulture] A Timeline of the Abuse Charges Against Bill Cosby.

[HuffPo] Hugh Hefner Responds to Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations.

[Jezebel] The Connection Between Bill Cosby’s Alleged Crimes & The Playboy Mansion.

[Facebook] Counting Dead Women.

[The Cut] “I’m No Longer Afraid”: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby & the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen.

[ET] Bill Cosby’s Accusers: A Timeline of Alleged Sexual Assault Claims.

[TV Line] Bill Cosby Sitcoms Yanked from Centric, Bounce TV’s Schedules.

[WNEP] Bill Cosby Statue Removed from Walt Disney World.

[Us Weekly] Holly Madison: Hugh Hefner Offered Me Drugs, Tried to Buy Me in His Will.

[Rolling Stone] Rolling Stone & UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report.

[Feministing] Rape, Rolling Stone & the Radical Notion That Women Are Trustworthy.

[ABC The Drum] Disability & Murder: Victim Blaming at Its Very Worst.

[The Guardian] Elliot Rodger’s California Shooting Spree: Further Proof That Misogyny Kills.

[The Hairpin] Life Lessons from the 1968 Playboy Club Bunny Manual.

[WaPo] The Fake Feminism of Sarah Palin.

[The Guardian] Tony Abbott Says His Three Daughters Helped Him “Turn Into a Feminist”.

[ET] Hugh Hefner Responds to Holly Madison’s Tell-All Book: She Has “Chosen to Rewrite History”.

Image via HuffPo.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Kim Kardashian Rolling Stone

Kim Kardashian’s Rolling Stone cover story:

“… [The Kardashians] also exhibit an attitude toward their bodies that can only be called revolutionary. Women have long asked for fair vagina representation in media, for their vaginas not only to be sexual objects but to smell and bleed and pop out babies, and on their show, Kardashian vaginas do all that and more, which is very different than other pop-culture vaginas.”

Speaking of Kim, is she becoming more political? [Fusion]

And Kanye West could actually be the best president the United States has ever seen. [The Guardian]

How SlutWalk Melbourne has evolved in the past four years. [Spook Magazine]

HIV on HTGAWM. [This Ain’t Livin’]

“I Feel Bad About My Nose.” [Broadly]

“How Political Was N.W.A., Really?”

“When asked if racism existed outside of Compton by SPIN magazine in 1990, Eazy-E replied, ‘The black police in Compton are worse than the white police. Chuck D gets involved in all that black stuff, we don’t. Fuck that black power shit; we don’t give a fuck. Free South Africa; we don’t give a fuck…We’re not into politics at all.’” [Talking Points Memo]

You can’t decry Straight Outta Compton for its misogynoir while also consuming Tyler Perry products. [The Root]

Move over #DivasRevolution: WWE is in the midst of a black revolution and it’s been right under our noses this whole time. [Uproxx]

Disability advocacy campaigns need to be inclusive of the people they’re claiming to help, not pitying of them. [Junkee]

Is Justin Bieber’s new song a pro-consent anthem? [The Cut]

In praise of gender-neutral public bathrooms. [Daily Life]

Women can be pedophiles, too. [Broadly]

Image via Rolling Stone.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


“Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk?” [The Cut]

Why women shouldn’t change their names in the internet age. [Cosmopolitan]

After Jackie: What’s changed since “A Rape on Campus”? [Media Matters]

Matt McGorry is the poster boy for how to be a male feminist. [HuffPo Women]

How to deal with the green eyed monster that’s eating you up inside. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

What happens when two men create a podcast about Gilmore Girls? Gilmore Guys. [NYTimes]

Why we shouldn’t judge Go Set a Watchman so harshly. [The Guardian]

Image via I Love Wildfox.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

greys anatomy you are the sun

Following on from last season’s “lean in” motif, this season on Grey’s Anatomy it’s all about its women taking time for themselves, whether that’s personal or professional. [Bitch Flicks]

Personal space is a feminist issue. [Sociological Images]

Loving football (and, indeed, wrestling) doesn’t make you a bad feminist. [Kill Your Darlings]

How will you know when you’ve made it? For me I think it will be when I’ve been published a) on Daily Life and b) in the American market; headhunted for something; verified on Twitter; and when those I admire in the same industry see me as a peer. How will you know? [The Hairpin]

And Rachel Hills ponders what it means to have made it, and ways to pass the time while you’re waiting to. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Young, single and successful women are increasingly living alone in affluent cities. [Daily Life]

In defence of Amber Rose:

“Amber Rose is hot. Amber Rose is also a mom. Amber Rose was also a wife. And if T.I. can be a convicted felon who’s rapped about sex, guns, and drugs and still be ‘father knows best’ on The Family Hustle once a week, why is a sexy woman suddenly an unfit mother just because she posts photos in her lingerie? If you don’t like what you think she represents, make sure you’re just as vocal about these less-than-angelic men raising children while bragging about one-night stands and trappin’. If they’re just entertaining and expressing themselves, then so is she. If they’re just living up to an image and a brand, then so is she.” [The Daily Beast]

And while we’re at it, in defence of Rihanna. [Buzzfeed]

Can World Wrestling Entertainment #GiveDivasaChance to be in the main event of WrestleMania 32? [Between the Ropes]

It wasn’t Jackie’s responsibility to get the details of her rape correct; it was Rolling Stone‘s. [The Guardian]

Stop calling women crazy. [Birdee]

ICYMI: the ties that bind us in menstruation and do you ever feel like you’re trapped behind a screen?

If these links haven’t sated your appetite for feminist goodness, the 83rd Down Under Feminists Carnival has arrived featuring much more from Australia and New Zealand. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The star of that Hollaback! New York City catcalling video, Shoshanna Roberts, speaks. [NYTimes]

What if there was a Bechdel test for movies featuring Native American people? [Mic]

How TV is getting smarter about sex. [WaPo]

A harrowing report on rape in college fraternity houses prompts the question: should frats be banned? [Rolling Stone, Gawker]

FCKH8 is back with their “potty mouthed princesses”, this time proselyting on domestic violence. [Junkee]

Is Mockingjay‘s message getting muddled by the (real and fictional) media? After all,

“We like Katniss, so we want to believe she’s important. But she isn’t a politician. She’s not a military strategist. She’s not a revolutionary thinker. She’s a survivor, and can handle a weapon, but that’s true of most soldiers. The only real value Katniss Everdeen has to the revolution is the fact that people like seeing her on television. She’s a weapon of mass sympathy; if she believes in this war, people at home will join it. And then they will die.”

And in wider, actual society:

“Taylor Swift… recently opined that ‘so many girls out there say “I’m not a feminist” because they think it means something angry or disgruntled or complaining. They picture like rioting and picketing, it is not that at all.’ Actually, it is that—rioting, picketing, and complaining, the synonym for all of these being ‘protesting,’ are pretty darn essential—but hey, who am I to stand in the way of mass appeal?” [In These Times]

Does rap have an immaturity problem? If so, Eminem’s its poster boy. [Grantland]

Katy Perry & Cultural Ignorance.

Katy Perry is pretty well known for her cultural insensitivity. When she’s not spurting whipped cream from her breasts in a Teenage Dream, she’s appropriating Asian, black and Middle Eastern culture, and the video for her latest single, “This is How We Do”, is no exception.

In a candy coloured world so similar to much of Perry’s other work, “This is How We Do” features cornrows, baby hair, bleached eyebrows, watermelons, “Japanese-y” manicures, “big hoops, maroon lips” and “throw[ing] up peace signs and cock[ing] her neck in a bubblegum version of chucking the deuces”, as Jezebel puts it, all of which are not necessarily positively associated with the abovementioned races in one way or another.

When asked in a recent Rolling Stone cover story about her penchant for cultural appropriation, Perry feigned indignation at being left behind in a political correct era. She responded thusly:

“I guess I’ll just stick to baseball and hot dogs, and that’s it… I know that’s a quote that’s gonna come to fuck me in the ass, but can’t you appreciate a culture? I guess, like, everybody has to stay in their lane? I don’t know.”

Perry hasn’t managed to “stay in her own lane” when it comes to her Prismatic world tour. For her performance of “I Kissed a Girl” she surrounds herself with big-bootied, big-lipped and dark-haired mummies in what looks like a half-assed homage to Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” or Miley Cyrus. Perry says, “As far as the mummy thing, I based it on plastic surgery… Look at someone like Kim Kardashian or Ice-T’s wife, Coco. Those girls aren’t African-American. But it’s actually a representation of our culture wanting to be plastic, and that’s why there’s bandages and it’s mummies. I thought that would really correlate well together… It came from an honest place. If there was any inkling of anything bad, then it wouldn’t be there, because I’m very sensitive to people.”

Because if something comes from an honest place, it can’t possibly be racist, right? (Not to mention the fact that whether or not the white privileged lady thinks something she did wasn’t offensive is irrelevant.)

Recently I pointed out on a friend’s Facebook comment thread that an exchange about Khloe Kardashian and her ex-husband, Lamar Odom, could be construed as racist. There was some back and forth about how that wasn’t the intention, but in the end the defence was very Perry-esque in nature. Cultural ignorance shouldn’t be an excuse for cultural insensitivity.

To use an example I heard spewed from the mouth of a colleague, just because you personally think Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes looks like a monkey, doesn’t mean the young fan who called him this at a game was right in doing so. Sometimes the harmful trajectory of terminology—that black people were compared to monkeys and thought of as less than human throughout history—is more important than freedom of expression.

As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in a recent interview with Katie Couric (which you can watch here), “You can exercise your right to free speech until it is affecting other people”.

While Perry’s at her cultural appropriation game, maybe she can take a page out of Notorious RBG’s book…?

Related: Whipped Cream Feminism—The Underlying Message in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video.

Is Gwen Stefani Racist?

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Katy Perry Almost Managed to Make an Inoffensive Video.

[Rolling Stone]The Unbreakable Katy Perry: Inside Rolling Stone’s New Issue.

[Jezebel] Why Do Katy Perry’s Dancers Have Fake Butts and Big Earrings?

[Jezebel] Yikes: Clothing Company Pairs Black Child’s Face with Monkey Body.

[Yahoo!] Katie Couric Interviews Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

[Notorious RBG] Homepage.

Magazines: Covers Worth Talking About.


The first cover listed here to grab my attention was Hillary Clinton for New York magazine, but then Miley came along and blew that out of the (pool) water as she is wont to do.

The accompanying interview for her Rolling Stone cover was done in the days following her much-talked-about MTV VMAs performance, which is discussed at length inside. And rest assured, there are lots of scantily clad shots to compliment her tongue-thrusting on the cover.

Next comes Chris Brown for Jet, a cover which doesn’t necessarily grab the eye as the others do, but it’s what Brown says inside, a snippet of which is captured on the cover, that’s noteworthy. He who is a perpetuator of violence himself identifies with Trayvon Martin, the teen who was shot dead a year and a half ago in Florida in an alleged self-defence. His killer, neighbourhood watchman George ZImmerman, was acquitted of his murder in July this year, and was involved in an apparent domestic violence incident with his estranged wife earlier this month. His wife later refused to press charges.

Now, I’m not saying that Brown can’t identify with a fellow young black man who has been victimised, but equating murder with justified criticism for intimate partner violence and a lack of remorse for said violence is a bit rich.

Finally, in the wake of the mall massacre in Nairobi which, it is believed, had a woman at the helm of the terrorist operation, Pakistan’s Newsweek has a cover story on the rise of female terrorist. I think alternative cover art would have conveyed their message just as well as explosive-tampons…




Images via The Hollywood GossipVanity FairNY Daily NewsYahoo! Finance.