Holly Madison says Hugh Hefner had a “mountain of revenge porn” at the Playboy mansion

The former Playboy bunny said the tapes were a big reason she stayed at the mansion for so long.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 19: Holly Madison and Hugh Hefner attend Animal Fair's Sixth Annual "Paws for St...
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Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner’s ex-girlfriend of seven years and one of the most recognizable Playboy bunnies, has been slowly leaking information about her time at the Playboy Mansion over the years — especially since Hefner’s 2017 death. It’s complicated information to reckon with: Hefner and his iconic Playboy brand have always signified and oftentimes dictated American sexuality, giving men permission to ogle women and treat them like objects. Its legacy is a mixed one of propelling date rape culture and disenfranchising women, but also one that looked its nose down at prudishness and was celebrated for it. But Madison’s revelations allege what we always should have known: that beneath the bunny-patterned facade was a sick and sadistic environment for women, and Hefner got away with some terrible things.

Secrets of Playboy / Via A&E

Madison revealed on the podcast Power: Hugh Hefner last month that Hefner had a penchant for taking non-consensual photos when group sex would happen during nights of partying. She said, “[Hefner] was constantly taking photos of these women on his disposable camera...And these women were almost always intoxicated. I know I was — heavily intoxicated.” And in a new A&E documentary, Secrets of Playboy, she continues to detail what she went through, while admitting that those photos are part of what made her stay. Madison moved into the mansion in 2001, and became one of Hefner’s girlfriends when she was 21 and he was 75. She remembered, “When I lived at the mansion I was afraid to leave. Something that was always living in the back of my mind... If I left, there was just this mountain of revenge porn just waiting to come out.” Revenge porn is now very illegal in most states, but at the time of Madison’s relationship with Hefner, it was not.

She also spoke about her first time having casual sex, which was with Hefner in a group. “There was definitely no romance or seduction or anything like that. It was dark in the room, but there was a giant movie screen of porn in front of the bed...He was in the middle of the bed, and then the women were surrounding him,” she says of the encounter. She also remarked that it was “really gross to me how Hef didn't want to use protection. The impact it had on me was so heavy. I never expected to be the first person to have sex that night or to be pushed into it.” Madison said she felt “humiliated” the next day, but moved into the mansion anyways where she was quickly indoctrinated into a “cult-like” environment.

Obviously, there was some level of consent in that everyone was an adult and no one was necessarily forced to do anything they didn’t want to. But by today’s standards, considering the skewed power dynamics and the encouragement to drink and do drugs (which Hefner reportedly called “thigh openers”), it’s hard to not see Hefner as a predator. There also are conversations now around whether refusing to use protection, or stealthing when protection is agreed upon, is a form of sexual assault. Hefner’s son tried to defend his late father in a tweet saying, “These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge.” It’s natural to want to defend your loved ones, but you have to ask yourself why did Hefner put so many women in situations they now regret, and since when is the truth “revenge”?