Meghan Murphy, a writer in Vancouver, British Columbia, who founded the website Feminist Current, called Mr. Hefner a “billionaire who profited from women’s subordination.”
Peter York, a leading British cultural commentator and the author of “The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook,” said Mr. Hefner’s death marked the end of an era for many Britons, who viewed Playboy as a potent symbol of a swaggering and liberated America.
Mr. York said that Mr. Hefner was a promoter not only of pornography but literature too. Playboy, he noted, had influenced popular culture in Britain by promulgating the idea that men’s magazines could show skin but also publish great writing, as it had by publishing writers like Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow and James Baldwin.
While Mr. Hefner launched Playboy as a magazine that would not “solve any world problems or prove any great moral truths,” some tributes recognized his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Hefner gave the comedian Dick Gregory one of his early breaks, signing him to perform at his flagship Playboy Club in Chicago in 1961, at a time when black artists were sometimes barred from white-owned venues.
On Twitter, the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson noted Mr. Hefner’s contributions to the movement.
Mr. Hefner’s last tweets were about the death of Mr. Gregory in August, and a request that followers donate to the One America Appeal, a hurricane relief effort promoted by several former presidents.