by | February 21, 2021 | General | 3 comments

The last year or so has seen the passing of many prominent public figures: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Diana Rigg, Sean Connery, John Le Carré, Chick Corea and Tony Rice, to name a few. (Not familiar with Tony Rice? Neither was I, until a music-loving friend sent me links to his amazing bluegrass performances.) It’s enough to start a senior citizen like me musing on mortality, but I imagine that wouldn’t make a very entertaining blog post.

One very recent death that you might have missed was the demise last week of porn mogul Larry Flynt. I don’t know how many ERWA readers will mourn him. He was, based on reports, an irascible troublemaker who gleefully promulgated the crudest and most inflammatory sexual imagery imaginable and who made a fortune doing so. Unlike Hugh Hefner, whose Playboy empire sold a fantasy of wealth, power and high class erotic indulgence, Flynt purveyed unapologetic smut aimed at the sort of guys he grew up with in small town Kentucky. Calling his publications sexist and exploitative would be kind. Feminists despised him – Gloria Steinem described him as a “violent, sadistic pornographer”. Meanwhile the cover of the 1974 Hustler issue that included the first-ever photos of women spreading their legs to display their genitalia promised “down to earth sexy girls”.

I’ve never been a Hustler fan. The few issues I’ve seen struck me as quite tasteless. Nevertheless, I hold some admiration for Larry Flynt. He was honest about what he was doing and even more important, willing to fight for his right to do it. Over his lifetime, he engaged in multiple court cases involving First Amendment rights as they applied to so-called “obscene” material, winning some and losing others. He seemed to enjoy battling against authority, and spent significant money and time trying to expose the sexual peccadilloes of conservative Republicans and born-again Christians. Furthermore, he paid, very personally, for his stubborn insistence on his right to publish porn. In 1978, a would-be assassin shot him as he was on the way to argue an obscenity case in court. The attack left him partially paralyzed and in constant pain, and he spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. Still, he didn’t stop disseminating smut – or stirring up trouble for people who opposed him.

How many of us erotica authors can claim to have sacrificed that much for our art? (Not that Flynt would ever have dignified his products with that term…)

Anyway, I’d like to suggest a few minutes of silence to recognize the passing of a colorful figure in the history of the sex wars, “an unseemly man” (according to the title of his autobiography) who to the very end of his life maintained that what kind of sex people have or what kind of pictures they look at is none of the government’s business.

The world will be a bit more boring now that Larry Flynt is gone – a bit tasteless.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Larry Archer

    In my book, Larry Flynt was a saint. He fought for the rights of people in his crude raincoat and bag of candy ways. I never looked at the pictures but only bought the magazine for the articles, snicker. To me, Hustler is a little too crude and I am more of a Penthouse type person but as you point out, he fought for our freedom of expression. I wonder when he got to the Pearly Gates, was it thumbs up or down?

    • Lisabet Sarai

      I just hope when he got there, he was able to walk. He paid for his “sins”.

      According to Wikipedia, he was a big supporter of LGBTQ rights and gay marriage, too.

      I’m glad I’m not the only person who’ll remember him with respect.

      • larry archer

        I hope the movie about him is available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. It’s pretty good in my estimation.

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