by Linnea W. Smith, MD, 2003
When the media refers to Larry Flynt and his gubernatorial candidacy in California, they tend to mention his advocacy for freedom of the press, but they censor more important information regarding his assault on women and children. Flynt, a self-proclaimed champion of the First Amendment, is a description parroted by media sources uncritically. The legitimization of the publisher of Hustler magazine is alarming, but the distortions and omissions of mainstream media, while unfortunately not uncommon, are even more alarming. I’m not an expert at all on Flynt, and I intentionally limit my exposure to his publications because they are so brutally dehumanizing and degrading, but I can make a few general points why any socially responsible citizen would challenge Flynt’s candidacy for any office.
Since Larry Flynt began publishing Hustler in 1974, the intent of the naked female pictorials has been to bring the “accessible” girl-off-the-street to working class males. The depictions are less glossy, more explicit, gynecological, violent, and degrading than many of those featured in Playboy and Penthouse. These three euphemistically-termed men’s magazines are the three top-grossing in this genre.
Hustler targets juvenile consumers. In Reisman’s content analysis “An unforeseen finding may be the estimated 27 percent of Playboy, 33 percent of Penthouse, and 47 percent of Hustler cartoons and illustrations identified as ‘child magnets.’ Briefly child magnets are features which are generally unique to the children’s world of entertainment (e.g., books and television) and known to attract child readers/viewers. …Since evidence confirms the large juvenile readership of these magazines, the unique quality of Child Magnets may be viewed as a technique both catering to, and attracting a juvenile audience. Therefore the depictions presented in ‘Child Magnets’ may be presumed to be of special public interest and concern.” (Reisman, 1989)
Of these three magazines published between 1954 and 1984, Hustler had the most depictions of children in its cartoons and visuals. In Reisman’s content analysis there were 14 child images per issue or 12% of the total imagery. Hustler was also the magazine most likely to depict the children as nude or partially nude in its visuals. (Playboy had 8 images per magazine or 5% of the total imagery while Penthouse had 6 images per magazine or 4% – all unacceptable numbers!) (Reisman, 1994)
Dwaine Tinsley was a featured cartoonist in Hustler as well as the humor editor for many years. He wrote the “Chester the Molester” monthly cartoon feature until spring of 1989 when he was convicted on multiple accounts of child molestation. He had drugged his daughter, put her on birth control pills when she was 13 years old and sexually abused her until she was l8 years old. She described the cartoon series as depicting much of her experience as a sex abuse and incest victim. After two years in jail, Tinsley was released by an appeals court when it ruled that the prosecution should not have shown the molester cartoons to the jury and “inflamed the passions” of the jurors. What do the cartoons do to the vulnerable juvenile and adult consumers of the magazine? Tinsley returned as an employee of Hustler magazine after his release from prison.
One of Larry Flynt’s daughters, Tonya, accused her father of child sexual abuse. She wrote a book about her experiences and her concerns about pornography. Flynt denied the charges and viciously attacked her in the media, a strategy more common among perpetrators. Another daughter did not support the charges by Tonya, and she reportedly was not disinherited as was Tonya
Larry Flynt is best known for publishing Hustler magazine, but his company, LFP, Inc. puts out about 29 other magazines. He is responsible for Barely Legal, the very popular magazine and video series. The magazine features naked and pornographic pictorials of female models, who are usually described as having just celebrated their 18th birthday.
They more commonly look 12 to 14 years old, and wear pigtails, hair bows, saddle shoes, and younger childish clothing and props. The text usually describes them as “sluts,” etc., with years of sexual activity by the girls or they are virgins who urgently need their condition remedied. This is newsstand pseudo-child pornography. Thsi is a technique to circumvent the letter of the law, while breaking the essence of the law to protect underage youth.
There is a Hustler make-up and accessories line targeted to adolescent girls. More information on these branded products and their marketing is needed..
Big Brother magazine is published by Flynt and is targeted to adolescent and younger skateboarders. The covers are often child magnets and not explicit. Dave Carnie, the editor in 1999 admitted the magazine covers are intentionally deceptive so parents won’t suspect the content, and children can be deceived into purchasing a magazine with a pornographic mindset There are no typical pornography photos, but the raunchy sex talk, etc., is embedded in the text. Interviews with 14 year old boys include questions like, “would you f**k your mother to be as good as so and so skateboarder?” Tips for girls for attention at parties include to “show their boobies,” and to find one, two or three other girls to engage in pseudo-lesbian activities while drinking alcohol, etc. When asked why there was no parental discretion warning labels the editor stated that Flynt wouldn’t allow it because it may affect circulation numbers. (Pettineo, 1999)
Gail Dines addresses the racist content in Hustler magazine. Black males are portrayed in the cartoons and visuals as violent and dangerous, and sexual monsters with oversized penises raping white women. This chapter may be accessed at:
A disturbing reference to Hustler occurred in A & F Quarterly, Spring, 2002. This catalog and lifestyle magazine combination targets adolescents while promoting their Abercrombie & Fitch casual clothing line popular with preadolescents and early adolescents anxious to be like cool college kids. Scattered throughout the sexually explicit publication are interviews with various celebrities popular with youth. The following includes a portion of an interview with MC Paul Barman, a hip-hop performer:
“…I’d like to predict a fashion. …Okay. Have you seen Playboy T-shirts around? When a girl wore a Playboy shirt when I was a teenager, it was the hottest thing ever. Now, you know how it is ultimately, whatever is amazing becomes preppie. They sell ’em in a mall. However, anytime you have something trendy, a branch of it, which is a little bit more obscure and has a little bit more flavor, is the new cool thing. So I once saw a cute girl wearing a Hustler shirt, and I once saw a cute girl wearing a Barely Legal shirt. I’ve seen one of each. And I’m telling you, there are going to be a lot more of them. If we started a company bootlegging T-shirts with the logos for Hustler, Barely Legal, High Society-Black Tail, I think, would be huge-this is how you make money. Twenty-five dollars, plus shipping and handling, on porno****.com. Have you ever seen a flat-chested girl who looks like the stepdaughter of a business executive wearing a shirt that says “PORN STAR’? These chicks are not porn stars. They probably don’t even go down. But they will wear a Nugget T-shirt. And I want to be the person that sells it to them.” (Collins, 2002)
Sean T. Collins, “Mc Paul Barman: The Crown Prince of Rhyme” in A & F Quarterly, Spring, 2002, Abercrombie and Fitch, Columbus, OH.
Dines, Gail, 2002, “King Kong and the White Woman: Hustler Magazine and the Demonization of Black Masculinity” in Gail Dines and Jean Humez, Gender, Race and Class in Media, CA: Sage
Pettineo, David, “Sex and the Modern Skateboarder: Talkshow Host Exposes Larry Flynt Kiddy Porn Scam” accessed March 19, 1999, WorldNetDaily.com
Reisman, Judith A., 1994, “Child Pornography in Erotic Magazines, Social Awareness and Self-Censorship” in Zillmann, Dolf, Bryant, Jennings, Huston, Aletha C., eds. Media, Children, and the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives. Hillsdale, New Jersey; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., pp. 313-325
Reisman, PhD., Judith A., 1989, Images of Children, Crime, and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler Magazines, Lafayette, LA: Huntington House.