FEMINISTS THREATEN LARRY FLYNT: MY PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION
Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita of Sociology
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.
In 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
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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