Archive for June 19th, 2007

Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita of Sociology
Mills College
December 2005

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler and numerous other pornography magazines, has finally honored my decades of anti-pornography activism by naming me “Asshole of the Month” in Hustler, February 20051. Several other feminists have achieved this accolade, including Andrea Dworkin, Dorchen Liedholdt, Gloria Allred and Catharine MacKinnon. Gloria Steinem appeared on a “Most Wanted” poster in Hustler accompanied by Flynt’s accusation that she “should be considered armed with false propaganda and dangerous to the rights of all Americans” for her anti-pornography views. 

diana russell hustler magazineIn every issue of Hustler, Flynt names one of his enemies “Asshole of the Month.” Along with a photograph of his adversary’s face emerging from a donkey’s rectum2, Flynt provides three quarters of a page of crude, mostly defamatory, text. I believe Flynt may have finally decided to target me in this way because he seems to have been particularly riled by two public statements that I made, i.e., “I wish that Flynt’s would-be murderer had been a better shot,” and, “I wish Larry Flynt had never survived his mother’s womb.” One or both of these pronouncements are referred to in three articles in the February issue of Hustler. Missing from two of them, however, is my rationale for making these inflammatory assertions, i.e., that Flynt’s many pornographic enterprises that have made him perhaps the most notorious pornographer in the world today, have been responsible for an immeasurable amount of sexual violence against women and girls. Had Flynt been aborted or miscarried by his mother or murdered in 1978, a great deal of suffering would have been avoided.

Following are a few examples of Flynt’s slanderous statements about me in the “Asshole” article in which he describes me as “a bitter shrew”:

“So poisonous is Russell’s vile rhetoric that it begs the question: Where did this Ms. Pol Pot come from? …

“By the end of the turbulent decade [the 1960s], Russell was teaching at California’s Mills College, helping build its women’s-studies department — an accomplishment akin to Joseph Goebbels launching a communications department at Berlin University.

“Russell’s personal history of relationships with men seems shrouded at best, although the educator has made passing references to a brief marriage that she bemoans as a ‘crash course in sexism.’ This is likely code for ‘Hubby wanted a hummer when he got home from work,’ which to Russell is the moral equivalent of Dachau’s ovens.” ….

“Diana Russell is a sick and dangerous woman, one who peddles her diseased philosophy of men-hating as a template for resistance to the Patriarchy.”3.

This hyperbolic vitriol reveals how threatened Flynt is feeling — a sentiment he cops to in his editorial titled, “The Feminist Threat.” This phrase is also on this issue of Hustler’s cover under a logo stating “HUSTLER GOES TO WAR.” Implicit is the fact that Flynt’s war is against anti-pornography feminists. He has singled out Aura Bogado, a producer and anchor of KPFK Radio News in Los Angeles, and me as his targets in this particular month. Following are excerpts from Flynt’s editorial:

“Recent events have caused me to once again focus attention on my lifelong opponents on the feminist fringe, those who — however they cloak their rhetoric — are antisex, antiporn and antimale. For too long I have tended to dismiss them on the grounds that they do not represent the majority of the women in this country. However, I can now see that, while this is true, these women have been making inroads into positions of power, especially within those institutions generally recognized as being on the Progressive Left….

“… (M)ilitant feminists seem intent on instituting a new fascism based on their notions of what is right and what is wrong …. This is a particular shame because the fringe feminists’ vicious attacks against healthy male sexuality tend to drive most men out of the Progressive tent….

“Given the foregoing, I have instructed my editors to take an in-depth look at the women of the Left — the good, the bad and the ugly. In this issue our extensive overview includes a look at recent attacks against HUSTLER from the militant feminists,… and a follow-up article about a California women’s college with a troubling agenda [Mills College].

“It is our hope and intention that by putting the spotlight on these militant feminists — who got away with their vile attacks only because the voices of reason are afraid to stand up to them — we will reveal their bankrupt ideology.”4

Similarly slanderous statements are made about me and Bogado in Amy Alkon’s article in the same issue of Hustler. Flynt drafted this foul-mouthed lackey, “a syndicated columnist who has appeared in more than 100 newspapers throughout North America”5, into his war against anti-pornography feminists. She focuses her venom on Bogado and me, referring to us as “Femi-Fascists”. “As a free-expression absolutist,” she writes, 

“I even defend the rights of hate-spewing, jack-booted Femi-Fascists like Aura Bogado and Diana Russell. In fact, I encourage them to speak openly and frequently, if only so their philosophy can be exposed as a fraud, as a lie, as a wrongheaded, nasty-ass steaming pile of Stalinist shit.6

Quoting my statement about wishing that Flynt’s would-be murderer had been a better shot, Alkon accuses me of just stopping short “of putting out a feminist fatwa against Flynt”7. She then proceeds to quote me as accusing Flynt, “through his publications, of ‘causing thousands of rapes, thousands of cases of child sexual victimization, millions of cases of sexual harassment and, very likely, many cases of torturing women and some murders of women.'” Alkon declares my estimates of the suffering perpetrated by Flynt to be “sick, unsubstantiated and unjustifiable allegations”8. In contrast, she quotes Catherine Salmon approvingly for saying that “Pornography is about sex, and not about violence or the degradation of women”9

Despite Alkon’s arrogance, I’ll wager that she knows next to nothing about research on pornography, whereas I have been studying this form of misogynist oppression of women for over 30 years and I’ve written three books on the subject. Nevertheless, Alkon feels entitled to endorse the validity of Salmon’s conclusion that pornography has nothing to do with violence and is not degrading, while she dismisses as “Stalinist shit” my views that the women involved in its production are degraded, that the portrayals of women in pornography are degrading, and that pornography plays a significant role in causing sexual violence and abuse. [Footnote: This does not mean that pornography is the only cause of harm to women.] Perhaps this is not surprising given that Alkon [and Susie Bright] was hired to wage war against Bogado and I, not to seek the truth about the harmful effects of pornography.10

The picture illustrating Alkon’s article shows a bald tough-looking woman dressed in what appears to be a Nazi uniform with a lesbian symbol on her armband. Standing upright on a rock with a riding crop in one hand, she looks like a giant dominating a large army of docile-looking men all of whom wear armbands displaying a male symbol, and all with their hands chained together. Presumably the intimidating-looking lesbian is supposed to represent Bogado and/or me.

An unflattering photograph of me appears in a third article in the February issue of Hustler titled “Smear & Loathing at Mills College.” This same photograph of my face was used for the “Asshole” picture)

I was a professor of sociology at this private all-women’s liberal arts college in Oakland, California, for 22 years. The caption to the photograph of me reads, “Teaching and Preaching Hatred: Mills Professor Emerita Diana Russell boasts of her desire to see Larry Flynt murdered.” In the text, journalist author Thayer Walker repeats my two now oft-quoted statements about my wishing Flynt’s murderer were a better shot, and that he had never survived his mother’s womb. The context of these quotations was Walker’s claim that the few male students at Mills had experienced considerable anti-male sentiment from female students. In addition, Walker documented some of the many angry and threatening statements made by students following the publication in Hustler11 of a scandalous and salacious article by Sam Ospovat, a former male graduate student at Mills, about a Fetish Ball he had attended on the campus in 2002. My participation in this fracas was to write a harsh criticism of the Fetish Balls as “pornographied” events where pornography was shown and many of the students were partially naked and/or dressed like sluts). I also castigated the President of Mills for allowing such events on the Mills campus12.

I believe Flynt was also enraged by my participation in a protest at the official opening of his new Hustler Club in the sleezy red-light district of San Francisco on February 20, 2002. Indeed, this is where I told reporters that I wished that Flynt’s would-be murderer had been a better shot. It is virtually certain that Flynt was aware of my presence that evening because a photograph of me behind a very large protest sign appears in an article about the opening of the Hustler Club.13

Not only was I protesting with other members of Women Against Pornography because we opposed the opening of Flynt’s new topless dancing club; we were also there to express our outrage over the blatant child pornography advertisement that was published in local newspapers and used to lure men to the opening of the Hustler Club14. Although spokesmen for the club maintained that the girls — who looked no older than 14 — were of legal age, the young women were obviously chosen to appeal to men who are turned on by underage girls. In addition to the sign showing a giant enlargement of this ad that we used for our protest, we displayed another equally large sign that read “HUSTLER CLUB: FOR MEN WHO NEED CHILD PORN & ABUSE TO GET IT UP!” Pictures of two flaccid penises appear on this sign. 

The second sign so enraged a man hanging around the entrance to the Hustler Club that he assaulted me while attempting to destroy the sign I stood behind. He failed to achieve his goal (the sign was made of vinyl), but succeeded in wrestling me to the ground. It took three male bystanders to break my assailant’s ferocious grip on me. Although I could have orchestrated his arrest had I thought fast enough before he hurriedly left the scene, I was appalled that none of the three journalists who quoted me in their coverage of this event saw fit to mention this assault. I guess they consider violence against women too trivial to warrant mentioning. Additionally, the fact that those of us from Women Against Pornography were the only ones to protest the use of what looked like child pornography to advertize the opening of the Hustler Club suggests that the use of increasingly young — and young-looking — girls is becoming more acceptable to the public. This is precisely the way pornography succeeds in transforming what used to be confined to pornography into mainstream images.

We need to mobilize increasing numbers of feminists to fight against pornography. The formation of a new organization tentatively called the National Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement in Boston in July 2005, is a promising sign15. This article shows how being attacked by our enemies is a sign that we are making progress in our struggle against the pornography warmongers who want to silence us.


1 p. 13
2 see illustration
3 Emphases added. Hustler, Feb. 2005, p. 13
4 p. 7
5 p. 36
6 Emphasis added. p. 34
7 p. 35
8 p. 35
9 p. 35
10 I have focused on Alkon’s attack on me because Aura Bogado has responded to the attacks on her made in this issue of Hustler [See www.HustlingtheLeft.com].
11 September 2004
12 Russell, 2004
13 the spectator website 
14 see photo
15 FeministAntipornographymovement.org


Amy Alkon. Fire in the hole. Hustler, February, 2005, pp. 34-36.

Asshole of the Month. Hustler, February, 2005, p. 13.

Aura Bogado. Hustling the Left. http://hustlingtheleft.com

Larry Flynt. The Feminist Threat. Hustler, February, 2005, p. 7.

National Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement website: …

Sam Ospovat. Hustler, September 2004.

Anthony Petkovich. Hustler Club opens with a touch of class: Flynt’s newest club comes to Babylon by the Bay. Issue 1226, April 4, 2002. http://www.spectator.net/1226_spot.html. Retrieved 12/5/2005. 

Diana E.H. Russell. Letter to the Editor

Diana E.H. Russell. San Francisco should say no to child porn: New Hustler Club opening reflects poorly on the city. San Francisco Examiner, March 28, 2002, p. A 11.

Thayer Walker. Smear and loathing at Mills College. Hustler, February, 2005, pp. 62-65.

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By Jackson Katz, Copyright 2003

The Friar’s Club of California is set to honor Larry Flynt with its Lifetime Achievement award in an “X-rated roast” in Los Angeles on July 13.

The Friars are famous for hosting raucous testimonial dinners, frolics and roasts in New York and Los Angeles. They used to be all-male events; the Friars first admitted women in 1988. Some of the biggest names in show biz have taken part in Friar festivities, starting with Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan in the early twentieth century, all the way up to Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Chevy Chase in the modern era.

It is well known that Friar’s events often push the boundaries of good taste and propriety. Many Friars revel in the “politically incorrect” nature of their entertainment. Over the past century the Friars have had other controversial moments, including the incident in 1993 when Ted Danson came out in blackface to introduce his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg.

But honoring Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is a low point in the venerable institution’s colorful history. Why? The Friars take pride in their irreverent humor, and honor it in others. But like Holocaust “humor” and lynching “jokes,” what Larry Flynt has wrought is not funny. His achievements and personal triumphs have come at a huge cost to women and girls – and to the men who care about them.

It is willfully naïve to dismiss Flynt’s pornography as harmless “adult” entertainment. How can it be considered harmless to consistently portray and talk about women and girls in a sexually demeaning and degrading manner? From the infamous Hustler cover portraying a woman’s body going through a meat grinder to countless racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic jokes and cartoons, Flynt has made his name (and fortune) by passing off old-fashioned misogyny and bigotry as somehow sexually liberating. Is this the “achievement” the Friars want to celebrate?

Larry Flynt’s defenders often argue that his porn is for “consenting adults,” and that therefore no one is hurt by it. But the effects of porn are more complicated than the phrase “consenting adults” implies. How?

Whenever we discuss the effects of pornography – and regardless of how we feel about people’s right to produce or consume it – we have a responsibility to acknowledge the social context in which it exists. Flynt hasn’t built his porn publishing empire in a vacuum. Our society has some of the highest rates of gender violence in the world. The numbers are staggering: one in four women will be raped or sexually assaulted. One in five teenage girls have been in a physically or sexually abusive relationship. Most women won’t even walk alone after dark.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of these crimes is how often children are the victims. 67% of all sexual assault victimizations reported to law enforcement are people under the age of 18. Child sexual abuse used to be shrouded in secrecy.

These days it’s in the news all the time. Consider last summer’s horrific series of abductions and rape-murders of young girls. Or the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal. Are we supposed to believe that all of these incidents are “isolated,” that the broader culture within which they occur plays no role whatsoever?

When men are arrested for sexually abusing young girls (or boys), feverish media coverage of the crimes often includes reports that police have found an extensive collection of child porn videos, magazines, and downloaded pictures in the suspect’s apartment.

Most people are rightly outraged about such crimes and repulsed by the men who commit them. But here’s where it gets tricky. Realistically, at least some of the men who are genuinely outraged by sex crimes and would never purchase child pornography have likely purchased Hustler Magazine, or rented Hustler-produced porn videos. In other words, they have financially contributed to the Flynt empire.

This is an empire — let’s be clear — that actively participates in the crude sexualization of little girls. Among his many magazines, Flynt also publishes Barely Legal, an online porn magazine whose raison d’être is the commodification of young girls’ bodies. The male consumers of Barely Legal would likely insist that naked 18-year-old models with bows in their hair, spreading their legs wide for the camera, are technically “consenting adults.” But everyone knows that the intent is to create the illusion that they are much younger.

For years a popular feature in Flynt’s signature publication, Hustler, was a cartoon that followed the exploits of a fictional serial sexual abuser of young girls, Chester the Molester. The cartoon was discontinued only when the cartoonist, Dwayne Tinsley, was convicted of sexually abusing his real-life daughter – who claimed the art was a chronicle of her actual victimization.

Granted, it’s not possible to draw a linear causal chain from the purchase by hundreds of thousands of men of a magazine like Barely Legal to sexual molestation of eight-year-old girls by middle-aged men. Nonetheless, is it credible to maintain that there is no relationship whatsoever between our society’s pandemic of child sexual abuse and the widespread availability of products like Barely Legal, where adult men can purchase pictures of young girls’ bodies for their masturbatory pleasure?

You don’t need to argue that legal porn causes illegal activity in order to assert that it contributes significantly to a culture where younger and younger girls are made into sexual playthings, and hence set up to be the objects of adult men’s sexual desires and pathologies.

We can take comfort in the idea of child sex offenders as horrible aberrations. They’re monsters. We’re nothing like them. And in fairness, purchasing and masturbating to images of “consenting adults” posing as young girls is not criminal behavior. But one need not be a criminal accomplice to share some moral responsibility, or feel – if we’re honest with ourselves — a certain degree of moral complicity.

For years, Flynt’s apologists – in Hollywood and elsewhere — have sought to portray him as a First Amendment hero, courageously battling the likes of right-wing Christians like Jerry Falwell and other forces of puritanical hypocrisy. It’s a brilliant – if highly misleading – PR strategy. Framing Flynt not as someone to be shunned but as someone to be respected has effectively silenced many of his would-be feminist, progressive and liberal critics, who don’t want to be seen as being on the wrong side of a “free speech” issue.

It has also silenced a lot of men who detest Flynt but are uncomfortable criticizing him. But it’s time for us to break the silence. It’s time for more men to stand up and say “not in my name.” Tolerating Flynt’s misogyny in the name of free speech is one thing. But when our cherished institutions go so far as to honor such a man, we not only send an unmistakably sexist message to our sons and daughters. We also dishonor ourselves.

Jackson Katz directs the United States Marine Corps gender violence prevention program. He serves on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women.

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