Playboy Bunnies and the Chamber of Secrets

Have young women today inherited a rape culture that is still ingrained? When will we as a society come to reject this legacy and what will it take?

The playboy bunny logo outlining a skull over a pink background.

Glistening luxury pools and fountains, hand carved sculptures (not to call out any cover models), polished marble floors, chandeliers hanging from tall ceilings that cost more than your tuition. The barbie dream house- or castle, rather, garnished with cute bunnies cheerfully hopping around the paradise playground, dancing [banging] with their shot at fame in their birthday suits. Clearly, the Playboy mansion was nothing short of modern day’s Garden of Eden.

The playboy mansion pictured at dusk.
Come on Barbie, let’s go party.

Holly Madison, former playmate, reality television star, and Hugh Hefner’s ex girlfriend contrasted the mansion’s deceitful cloud nine appearance with the reality of it feeling like a “life sentence” in the exposing tell-all interview with the “Call Her Daddy” podcast in April of 2021.

Playboy magazine cover of Holly Madison.
The real “naked truth” is pictured below
US Weekly magazine cover of Holly Madison titled "Playboy Mansion Hell"
You don’t even have to read the cover title- you can just see it in her eyes…even through the smile :):

“Then the reality hits: you’re in a bed with an 80 year old man with seven other girls. If I just f***ed this dude, I’m gonna get something out of this…I can’t just now go home, I have to keep fighting.” Alex Cooper, podcast host, emphasized with the former playmate. Madison responded, “Even though that wasn’t a sexual experience that I would have organically wanted to do, in a way not being comfortable with it made me want to push more to get the part of the experience I wanted out of it.” 

The Hollywood “it” hotspot was the perfect magnet for young, vulnerable women seeking security and fame…but at what cost?

An arts and crafts image of a spider with two flies trapped in the web.
Hefner pictured with two of his beautiful Playboy girlfriends, colorized circa 2006

Madison dives deeper in her juicy New York Times best selling memoir “Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny” about the twisted ongoings at the Playboy mansion where she recounts Hefner’s painful emotional abuse she endured. She admitted that the mansion’s toxic environment led her to become suicidal and went to Hefner about her ideations of taking her life. He discouraged Madison from obtaining professional help, knowing she’d be encouraged to leave his mansion. He eventually had her put on an antidepressant and explained she was merely having anxiety due to the pressures of the new show “Girls Next Door.” (A reality show where the housemates were forced and manipulated into the unpaid contract that included nonconsensual nudity of them.)

A cover of DVD "Girls Next Door" Season 2.

Holly Madison also provided a personal background on her suspicions of falling on the spectrum. Growing up she was hesitant to accept having Aspergers’s, she just identified herself as an introverted bookworm. She explained her struggles to make connections with people and lacked any closeness in relationships, all of which would never last. 

Madison premised the tell-all interview with her relatably busy life at 21 while living in LA; juggling between waitressing, bills, keeping grades up, and acting auditions. “I was kind of failing at everything because I was trying to do too much at once.” She continued, “I was in this desperate place of sleeping on somebody’s couch, and going to these parties at the playboy mansion and seeing the community where everyone seemed happy on the outside…everybody loved Hef, and he seems like such a nice, generous person.”

A comic of a woman "No good deed goes unpunished."

After a year of attending Hefner’s pool parties, the groomed Holly Madison accepted her invitation to move into the playboy mansion where she lived for seven years.

Madison told podcast host, Alex Cooper, “the mansion made a sorority house look like bible study.” I thought to myself, “Duh? But go on…”

She clarified that sleeping with Hefner was a prerequisite to moving in with him (for every housemate), contrary to what some other playmate’s have dishonestly claimed. 

“I don’t remember a time in that bedroom I wasn’t wasted,” Madison told Cooper, alleging that Hefner offered her Quaaludes, what he called “70’s thigh openers” before they had sex for the first time…ick.

Kendra Wilkinson (below in yellow), former playmate and Madison’s roommate revealed that she slept with Hefner when she was 18 and he was 73. Ew! “I had to be very drunk or smoke lots of weed to survive those nights- there was no way around it.” Wilkinson also shared “It was like a job. Clock in, clock out. It’s not like I enjoyed having sex with him.” Shocking…

The big bad wolf and the three little pigs cartoon.
Hugh Hefner and three playmates on the red carpet.
Can you spot the difference?

Madison explained that not everyone would have sex every night, if someone had their panties on that meant it was “their time of the month,” and girls would milk the avoidant opportunity by wearing them as much as possible, but would cause Hefner to pressure them. He’d also get angry if somebody wasn’t freshly shaved. Not to mention, it was no surprise to hear from Madison that pleasuring women “wasn’t his thing.” A true idol, ladies and gentlemen.

Leonardo da Vinci quote "Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master" with a dirt road in the background

Like the old saying goes, “the student becomes the master.” More specifically speaking, prey often adapt by taking on predatory tactics as a survival loophole in order to avoid traumatic experiences. Madison shared how playmates, especially Hefner’s ex-girlfriend, “Vicky” was a self-proclaimed “lesbian.” Not that she was actually attracted to women, but rather to winning Hefner’s favor and taking pressure off herself by consistently recruiting women into the mansion. 

Madison described how the manipulation and her own shame kept her from leaving the mansion’s cult-like atmosphere. She detailed the rules of the mansion, including a 9 P.M. curfew and having group sex with Hefner twice a week. They were only valued for their looks, and would get in trouble if they stepped out of place. The abusive relationship controlled women underneath a plethora of constant fear that Hefner would yell at and embarrass them in front of others, get sabotaged by the other housemates, or get kicked out. 

Holly Madison pictured and quoted from her book "Down the Rabbit Hole"

She explains her frustration with people assuming she knew what she had gotten herself into. “People imagine it being like 50 shades of grey where a woman is given this long contract, and you’re told exactly what’s going to happen, what you consent to, and what you do not. It’s not like that at all.” 

Cooper further highlighted the wacky dynamic of how playmates would glamorize the lifestyle to outsiders in order to lure more women into the mansion; so the less they knew the better. On top of that, it was every bunny for herself. No bunny wanted to help anyone else due to the intense competition and drama Hugh Hefner perpetuated in the house over living arrangements and appearances. Madison confirmed, “Everyone wants a centerfold, more money…”

A mouse trap with a block of cheese on it.
Not even the lactose intolerant can resist a nibble of some cheese #yum

Madison brought up their $1,000 weekly allowance strictly funded for party clothes. Some girls would try to save some of the money for student loans, or in prospects of moving out, but would get snitched on by the other housemates who would point out “her outfit wasn’t that expensive,” and would consequently receive less money since they “didn’t need it.” 

She detailed the humiliating ritual that the Playmates had to go through once a week to receive this allowance. They had to wait while Hefner “picked up all the dog poo off the carpet” before they could put in the request.

“We all hated this process. Hef would always use the occasion to bring up anything he wasn’t happy about in the relationship. Most of the complaints were about the lack of harmony among the girlfriends – or lack of your sexual participation in the ‘parties’ he held in his bedroom. If we’d been out of town for any reason and missed one of the official ‘going out’ nights he wouldn’t want to give us the allowance. He used it as a weapon.”

The “lavish Playboy mansion” should have been autocorrected to “nasty Playboy frat house” (they didn’t have that luxury back in the day!) She described the living conditions as contrary from those depicted by Hefner in the media. “Although we all did our best to decorate our rooms and make them homey, the mattresses on our beds were disgusting – old, worn, and stained. The sheets were past their best too.”

Spongebob and Squidward on strike
Krusty Krab is unfair! Mr.Krabs is in there! Standing at the concession! Plotting his oppression!

The playmates took advantage of Madison’s shy, submissive personality and were friendly [fake] towards the noobie due to her engagement with Hefner that temporarily lessened his criticism on them. When his main girlfriend moved out, they “pushed” Madison into that position nobody wanted, so they weren’t burdened with the scrutiny of having to sit next to him, order his drinks, and sleep in his bed every night.

A classically naive, freshman mentality ‘Me? I’m the chosen one? Aww they think I’m special 🙂 <3333’ Homegirl didn’t realize she was getting buttered up as a sacrifice to a so-called “God.”

“Imagine having sex with somebody in a room full of women who all hate you and you know they’re all talking sh*t about you. How terrible? It was gross.”

-Holly Madison
Conflict metaphor of ant jar
“I learned Hef was the manipulator and that he pitted us against one another.” 

The cat fights never quite fizzled out, Izabella St. James, another former playmate and roommate of Madison of two years, wrote her own memoir in 2006, “Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion” and is contemplating suing Madison for the similarities in their books…or perhaps because she’s salty that hers didn’t reach the same fanfare. Ma’am, should there not be any resemblance having dated the same man and lived under the same roof for two years together? Girl, please.

Marilyn Monroe quote
Tell it like it is, Marilyn

James confirmed Madison’s role as Hefner’s main squeeze, but with a harsh tone, “She had to take one for the team, and she always did, and we have seen her do some extremely humiliating, nasty things sexually and her pathetic bitterness and vengefulness comes from that. It is a way for her to justify the things she did to get to where she is today.” James…how about a thank you, maybe a hug, or a sportsmanship award for the girl who you say “took one for the team,” instead of filing suit against her? Who’s the real sour puss here?

Morton salt logo "Don't be a salty b*tch"
Women should be teaming up to encourage and elevate each other’s voices…not tearing each other down. Why are we always competing? For WHAT?

Madison reflected on being known as a couple in love and feels that it was “Stockholm Syndrome.” She explained, “Here was this man who had accomplished so much, and seen so much, and he’s telling me that I’m really special? It’s hard not to buy into that, because you want to.” she said.

Holly Madison with Hugh Hefner.
Patricia Hearst, is that you?

*Insert psychological annotation here:

Everyone’s parents advise their kids to decline a strange old man’s invitation to his “candy shop” van, but they neglect to further expand this warning in regards to the more common, cunning predators. It’s always “don’t accept candy from a stranger,” never “don’t accept an invitation to that old rich and famous guy’s mansion party that’s exclusive to A-list celebs and Hollywood’s most beautiful women.”

White van with "Avocados: 5 for $0.99" spray painted on the side.
Say less

One of the biggest, most dangerous misconceptions is that predators appear frightening: a gross, ugly, weird stranger we’d run away from if we saw them lurking in the street. In most cases, they’re not hidden in a dark ally, but in our homes, offices, schools, or churches. Those you’d not expect; like a friend or someone trustworthy who is often well respected, popular, charming, etc. People we would hesitate to accuse of any untoward behavior, let alone of assault. They cultivate an aura of unbelievability around them to protect themselves from the voices of the victims they coerce. 

Graph representation of "Perpetrators of Sexual Violence Often Know the Victim" statistic
According to the Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, determined from a 2010-2017 national crime victimization survey #ExpectTheUnexpected

“Using the tools of influence, trust, authority and social prestige as weapons to coerce victims to submit to the demands of a perpetrator is much more common than an assault perpetrated by a stranger. The victims do not cause the assault and most people have some weapon that may be used against them to perpetrate an assault. The weapons most likely to be used are not threats of physical harm but threats to emotional, societal or financial well-being.”

-Ken Followell, author of Sexual Predators Use Trust and Authority as Weapons

When Madison finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, she left her relationship with Hefner in the rearview, which then proctored the Playboy founder in an attempt to buy and bribe her into staying with him on the promise of devoting $3 million to Madison in his will, given that she still lived in the mansion.

Holly Madison pictured in a bunny costume looking down.
“I woke up one day and it was as if the spell was broken. I had to run.”

The most disturbing piece of this bombshell is how it’s a bit closer to washing a window than blatantly exposing what went on “behind closed doors.” We didn’t know the exact deets, but we dialed into enough of the 411 to tell that there was obviously some pretty shady schemes brewing in the playpen. Hugh Hefner didn’t just manipulate the bunnies, but also the world’s perception of idealized sexiness…who cares if it’s messed up? Devoted fans find it attractive regardless…and therefore perpetuates the subconscious mentality of “if loving this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

On the surface, it’s all about sex. But what lies underneath and drives the brand’s image is the formidable desire for power via wealth, popularity, and control over women. 

A comic mimicking the elephant in the room metaphor.

It’s not as if we didn’t know the brand glorified the patriarchy, objectification of women, and rape culture. We saw a man who capitalized off the glamorization of degrading and abusing women, and society still celebrates his legacy today. 

Cher from "Clueless" gif saying "Ugh, as if!"

It was happening right in front of our faces. Hugh Hefner clearly wanted the world to be perfectly aware of the fact that he slept with every Playboy bunny; they were his property. Hefner even kicked a playmate out of his mansion because she denied sleeping with him in an interview.

A newspaper illustration of "The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs!"
Hef would huff, and puff, and blow your house down

It was interesting how Cooper theorized that if the peak of Playboy’s reign occurred nowadays, the brand would fall under the umbrella of cancel culture, as it would be deemed completely unacceptable for objectifying women, and Hugh Hefner would be labeled a step down from Harvey Weinstein. 

Hello…Earth to Cooper? Society still praises his name and brand despite being six feet under for the past four years. Why’s that? “The Babe” in The Sandlot explains, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Babe Ruth's ghost gif "Legends never die, kid"
…But they should via the wrath of cancel culture…what’s the hold up?

To this day, we see the harmless little bunny logo prospering in every corner. From halloween costumes, to Kylie Jenner’s Instagram, and the entirety of Pacsun’s merch, the symbol of women marginalization remains cute and trendy.

Lord forgive me for my sins…I may be guilty of sporting a playboy bunny mask about a year ago before I put any thought past it just being a tiny vintage logo- cringe. (If you saw me wearing that…at my waitressing job…no you didn’t!)

Spongebob and Squidward aged while on strike.

3 thoughts on “Playboy Bunnies and the Chamber of Secrets

  1. This post is absolutely amazing. The images in here had me cracking up and the content had me absolutely upset about how these women were trapped and treated. I have long knew that there was definitely an issue with Playboy and the bunnies, but I would never have seen this expose without this blog. Thankyou for illuminating us with this post!

    Like

  2. WOW! This post is incredible. The content you’ve added is so humorous and also very true. Holly Madison has always been one of my all time favorites, I have always thought she was so gorgeous! It always pondered my mind that the Playboy bunnies were definitely mistreated but this post brought light to the topic and made me understand further. Thank you so much!

    Like

  3. This post was insanely insightful! I will admit I always thought the concept of Hugh Hefner and his mansion was a little “icky” but I never really took the time to reflect on how gross it actually is. I like how you connected the mansion to the ideas of cancel culture and sexual assault, when reading through your post all of the ideas came together very nicely. And I will admit I too have sported the playboy bunny logo and dressed as one for Halloween not really seeing anything wrong with it but this post has left a sour taste in my mouth and you won’t ever catch me repping this “brand” again!

    Like

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