Hey, How ‘Bout That Darned Larry Flynt?

While the Republicans are issuing dire warnings about “government by Larry Flynt,” I’ve been amusing myself with a compare/contrast project — you know, like they used to ask us to write in school: Compare and contrast Flynt and the Republican party.

I know some of you may think that Clinton is a dog who shouldn’t be President, though the things that irritate me about the man have little to do with the impeachment process and Monicagate. My view: If we haven’t hounded past presidents about their sexual activity, we shouldn’t start now. Oh, it’s about lying, not sex? Well, Starr and the Republican party surely gave the man something to lie about, and, as Dale Bumpers said this week, quoting H. L. Mencken, “If someone says, ‘It’s not about money,’ it’s about money — and if someone says ‘it’s not about sex,’ it’s about sex.”

So there’s our first big contrast. At least Flynt always says it’s about sex — except when it’s about the First Amendment, and the First Amendment’s been all about sex for the last forty years or so. Certainly it was about sex, among other things, when Flynt argued before the Supreme Court for the right to sexually satirize public figures (in his magazine Hustler he tended to satirize folks who weren’t big First Amendment boosters — or Larry Flynt fans).

How about a comparison next? The spectacle of Flynt advertising for women who can document adultery or other non-Republican behavior with members of Congress (especially Republican ones) is, of course, what has the Henry Hydes of the House and Senate all upset, though Hyde was outed not by Flynt but by our online friend Salon. But you know, when I squint, it looks an awful lot like the search undertaken by the Special Prosecutor’s office and anti-Clinton activists in and out of Congress as they searched for any and all women who could testify to sexual contact with Clinton.

Quick, that brings us to a contrast: Flynt is paying, the Republicans were (in at least some of the cases) issuing subpoenas and threatening jail time! But Flynt doesn’t need subpoena power: he has a magazine and a lot of cash, and — looking carefully at his life these last twenty-some years — what better thing to spend it on than taking well-publicized potshots at hypocrites in high places? (Comparison: certain anti-Clinton players have magazines, too.)

Speaking of money, though — do all the math, and the Starr report will probably have cost more to produce than Flynt’s special Washington edition. Big spender Larry isn’t the only one who acts like he has money to burn. So that’s a comparison, isn’t it?

And when you dig through all the hype, posturing, and excuses, the impeachment proceedings are a political exercise in power. And what’s political power tend to be about? Money, that’s what, and all the social issues that devolve from it. Flynt is clearly part gleeful schoolboy who doesn’t stop at crying “The Emperor’s naked!” — he’s pantsing the monarch while reveling in his ability to make headlines. He’s parlayed selling sex into a fortune and uses it to subvert a political process (impeachment, that is) that’s already all about subversion. Considering Flynt in light of American political history, it seems to me he fits right in with scores of other big-money interests who’ve used their wealth to influence the political process. He’s only unusual in that he’s doing it in the spotlight.

It all reminds me of what the magicians used to say: “Don’t call up what you can’t put down.” Flynt is the perfect demon for this surreal drama. The people can’t trust the politicians — why shouldn’t we trust the pornographer? Contrast: His agenda is clear as day. Too bad we can’t say that about the ones we elect.

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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