Infamous pornographer and free-speech activist Larry Flynt has brought about controversy for nearly 30 years. As the editor of Hustler magazine, Flynt has publicized pornographic obscenities in several manors. By doing this, he has challenged Americas interpretation of the First Amendment, insisted that freedom of speech include obscenities and pornography, and made the anti-porn activists and feminists fight for constitutional protection from obscenity.
Larry Flynt was born on November 1, 1942. Coming from a broken home, he later joined the military under false age. Flynt was discharged and after several unsuccessful jobs, went back to serve for five years on the U.S.S. Enterprise. After the Navy he moved to Dayton, Ohio where he bought a bar and turned it into a successful strip club. In the next year, Flynt opened similar clubs in 4 different Ohio cities and sent out newsletters to his clientele. Soon, Flynt set out to make his own mens magazine. In 1974 he released the first issue of Hustler magazine.
Hustler was different from other pornographic magazines. It prided itself on hard core depictions of raw sex, which often included graphic nude photos of disabled, pregnant, and elderly women. One issue featured nude pictures of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, while another depicted a woman being feed into a meat grinder.# Anti-porn activists and feminists started to speak out about the controversial issues behind the explicit Hustler magazine. This is a magazine bought by pubescent boys with untempered curiosity about sexual perversions, and by adults with insatiable curiosity about sexual perversions, adults who would read monthlies serializing the Marquis de Sade, if they were more literate.# Some people tend to disagree with the feminist views of such magazines as Hustler. Women have the right to be free from discrimination not only in the workplace and in the classroom but in the bedroom as well… Women should not be seen as victims in their own sexual relations with men but as equally assertive partners, just as capable of experiencing sexual pleasure.#
With this new hard-core, pornographic magazine out, much controversy came about on whether or not there should be any censorship to pornography. As soon as Hustler hit the stands, Flynt had been bombarded with lawsuits. He was charged with many counts of pandering obscenity and organized crime in May, 1976. The case was significant because it suggested that individual communities had the right to define obscenity.#
These court cases again questioned our First Amendment rights for both sides of the controversy. Should we be constitutionally protected from obscenities? Feminists and anti-porn activists would say yes. To them, pornography is a type of media which degrades women and throws it in the faces of the public. What they are fighting for is that freedom of speech and press allow protection from obscenity in favor of the women and of the innocent eyes. Without this exploitation, published for profit, the male writer feels censored. The woman lynched naked on a tree, or restrained with ropes and a ball gag in her mouth, has what? Freedom of what?#
Others would argue that freedom of speech and press should not have boundaries or limitations. They have a strong opposition to the censorship of pornography. Many feel pornography is portraying women as equals to men with their sexuality, while some feel pornography is an expression, like art. Larry Flynt, pornographers, and those who are anti-censorship feel as if their freedom of speech is being challenged. Flynt said, I realized that freedom of expression could never be taken for granted.#
Over the years, the controversy has still been debated, but Flynt has set his sights on a recent headline. Since the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Flynt has sided with Clinton. He has offered up to $1 million to anyone able to provide evidence of illicit sexual relations with a congressman, senator or other prominent officeholder.# Flynt received over 2000 replies to his offer, in which two stories were of strong interest to him.
His first story included Bob Livingston, a Republican in line for speaker of the house. Livingston resigned from his position, making a vague admission of marital infidelity, Livingston complained about having been Larry Flynted, but a full-on Flynting promises to be a far more excruciating experience — one supported by embarrassingly specific evidence for which Flynt is paying nicely.# There are several opinions toward Flynts harsh tactics against politicians. Some see him as a pervert saint, sacrificing his freedom for our liberty.# The opposing believe that, there is no place in America for his despicable, brutish politics of blackmail.# Flynt has his own reasons for exploiting politicians like Livingston and defending Clinton. You can have a front-page story published about oral sex in the newspaper, but you put a photograph of two people making love out there and you can go to jail. That says a lot about a society that condones violence and condemns sex. So I think the problem is not just the politicians, it’s the country as a whole. It’s got to come to grips with sexuality.#
Nearly 30 years ago, Larry Flynt became the notorious pornography martyr, responsible for Americans questioning the meaning of the First Amendment. For years to come freedom of expression will be argued, should there or should there not be censorship of pornography? Court case to court case might tell but, some believe that we will never agree on anything for sure and it may depend on what the case is directly ruling on. Majority rule only works if you’re also considering individual rights. Because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper,# says Flynt. He believes that, Its not money, it’s not politics–it’s who controls the *censored* that controls the world.#
# Works Cited
Larry Flynt, Biography.com, January 26, 2001, (January 29, 2001).
Buckley Jr., William F., The Honored Guest, National Review, June 14, 1999, vol. 51, issue 11, 58.
Strossen, Nadine, The Perils of Pornophobia, in Conversations, ed. John Selzer (Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, 2000) 595.
Dworkin, Andrea , Reply to John Irving, in Conversations, ed. John Selzer (Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, 2000) 592.
Richardson, John H. , Larry Flynt, Esquire, March 1999, 116.
Strauss, Neil, Checking in with Larry Flynt, Rolling Stone, February 18, 1999, 41.