Let me preface this by saying that I have still immense respect for Larry Flynt as a pioneer in pushing the envelope of the First Amendment and for stand ing up for sexual expression.
Problem is…his magazine’s political and humor senstitvities sometimes lose their moral compass, and this time it blew up in their collective grills…HARD. With potentially damaging effects.
In this month’s print issue of HUSTLER magazine, their “Celebrity Fantasy” segment — which is normally used to parlay some lighthearted sexual humor towards some known celebrity…well, at least “lighthearted” as an explicit sex mag can be — decided to take on a conservative female columnist named S. E. Cupp, who mostly writes for the New York Daily News and has done some political commentary for FOX News and MSNBC. Cupp is essentially considered to be an up-and-commer on the female wingnut scene; she’s young, pretty attractive, and more than literate in the classic art of Palinspeak.
It was that youth and attactiveness that whomever wrote that segment was concentrating on when (s)he wrote this:
S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.
That would not be too bad, except that the accompanying photo of the “method prefered here” amounted to a Photoshopped pic of Cupp in one of her interview segments…only modified with a male penis being inserted into her mouth. The follow pic is from the full article of the controversy that was posted over at Mediate.com.
In other words, as far as the readers of Hustler are concerned, S. E. Cupp just might be a woman who only needs to STFU and stick a cock in her piehole.
Now, this isn’t the first time that Hustler has attempted to glam themselves into liberal criticism of right-wing personalities; one recalls the now classic Supreme Court case of Flynt v. Falwell, in which the original founder of the Moral Majority sued Flynt and his magazine for libel when the latter satirized Falwell as a male slut whom had sex with his mother. The ruling in Flynt’s favor established the foundation for First Amendment protection for satire of political and public figures.
Plus, Flynt has been for many years attempting to move his magazine more towards progressive political thought, only to be thoroughly rebuked and rebuffed by antiporn feminists and most established liberal/Left activist leaders who still have vivied memories of the wide-open “misogyny” of the early days of Hustler. In particular, they quote the infamous “woman through the meat grinder” issue of the 1980’s and the overall general explicit tone of the magazine as proof that the only viable position on the Left on porn is to be against it as “possession and degradation of women”.
But if Hustler thought that it was simply being humorous, most right-wing women simply weren’t laughing. In fact, they rose in unison to blast Flynt and Hustler for blatant “bullying” by “sexualizing” a conservative woman in a damaging fashion (because depicting a woman with a penis in her mouth is, in their minds, inherently degrading and demeaning, I guess). They also raised the point of liberal hypocrisy in calling out the alleged bullying of Sandra Fluke by Rush Limbaugh (he called her a “slut” who was simply using taxpayer money for birth control to sustain her “insatiable sexual appetite”, and even called for her to make porn videos he could watch), while allowing an supposedly even more “vile” pornographer to attack conservative women at will.
And it wasn’t just right-wing women coming to Cupp’s aid, either. Feminist women long critical of Flynt and porn in general arose to pile on Flynt and Hustler for the “bullying” of a woman for her political views. Naturally, antiporn feminists were the first to lead the charge, saying that this behavior justified and proved everything that they had always spoken about pornography being the centerpiece of degrading women. But even less strident liberal feminists were very critical; witness this comment by In These Times’ Lindsay Beyerstein:
This is beneath contempt. This time the victim is a conservative pundit who is being humiliated for her outspoken views on reproductive rights, but this kind of bullying can happen to any woman who speaks her mind. Remember when tech blogger Kathy Sierra was harassed with “satirical” images of herself in pornographic poses?
I’d like to think that the scumbag(s) behind this feature hate reproductive rights as much as they hate outspoken women. How better to tarnish two objects of contempt at once? The more disturbing possibility is that the creators think of themselves as feminist allies.
The fight for birth control isn’t just about freeing up women to service men, as the guys at Hustler fervently hope. It’s about freeing women to participate fully in all spheres of life, including the public arena. We value women’s reproductive freedom because we value women’s freedom in general, including the freedom to express unpopular, offensive, and just plain ignorant views. Using sexualized attacks to silence women is antithetical to the struggle for reproductive rights.
[Excerpted from We Are All S. E. Cupp (In These Times)]
I could care less about what Gail Dines or Julie Bindel says, but if we alienate genuine progressives like Lindsay Beyerstein by allowing gratituous assaults on women using their sexuality, then we are truly lost.
Regardless of whatever you may think of S. E. Cupp’s political views — and I’m no more in love with them than I would be with any wingnutter conservative, which is to say, I DESPISE them — her personal sexual choices are her choices alone and none of our Goddess damn business….and not fit for even satire or political attack. Rush Limbaugh should be condemned to the highest for his slander of Sandra Fluke…and in this case, so should Larry Flynt and whomever dreamed this nonsense up. NO woman, not even a wingnut fascist like S. E. Cupp, deserves this kind of abuse.
And…consider the fact that this has done more to undermine years of progress for people in the sex media in selling themselves in the mainstream. The Religious Right and their Radical Feminist allies now have one more hammer which to beat down on porn and progressives like me who have infested time and even money to reclaim sexual expression as a human right. Gail Dines and Shelley Lubben are practically creaming themselves in preparing to write essays proving that they were right all along about The Great Porn Conspiracy Against Women….and they will get far more support from conservative women now to divide and conquer progressives on issues of sexual speech.
But even worse, the blowback from this episode will give the forces of sexual reaction new ammo to further weaken sexual expression by detaching it from core progressive issues of reproductive freedom and women’s autonomy, by appealing directly to the emotions of women scorned and insulted by Flynt’s ambush of Cupp (and the presumed assaults on other conservative women like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter), distracting people from the legitimate criticism of their stated political views and policies.
And most ironically, this episode will simply further the slut shaming of women who have always been the prime victims and byproducts of sexual shaming, because the right-wing women who have far more political power will merge with the radfems and neoliberal feminists to isolate and contain explicit sexual speech as “slander” against women; effectively doing what the “patriarchy” has wanted to do all along.
Heck of a job there, Mr. Flynt. Way to set the cause of sexual freedom and consensual sexual expression – and progressve politics – back for a long while.
There are legitimate ways and tactics to criticize conservatives and right-wing women and remain true to progressive sex-positive values. This is simply NOT one of them.
Update: TheBlaze.com now has recorded the official response to the brohaha from Larry Flynt, and it is short and sweet.
Hustler magazine has responded to the faked explicit photo of S.E. Cupp with a two-sentence statement to The Blaze from publisher Larry Flynt.
“That’s satire. I’m able to publish this because of the Supreme Court case I won in 1984, Flynt v. Falwell,” the statement said.
Hustler Magazine v. Falwell was a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that the First Amendment protects parodies of public figures as long as they could not be reasonably taken as true.
The case arose after the magazine published a piece in 1983 that claimed Rev. Jerry Falwell had engaged in a drunken incestuous sexual encounter with his mother in an outhouse. It was was decided 8-0.
And reactions are continuing to filter in from other venues as well.
As expected, the Right is making the maximum political hay with this, as seen in this Glenn Beck video from his online show:
From the Left side of the spectrum, there is this from The Young Turks:
And finally, here’s my own personal cracked view of the whole episode: