For nearly a century in the U.S. it was illegal to send anything through the mail considered obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious. That included certain novels now considered classics (hello, Ulysses), educational material on birth control and female reproduction, and, yes, pornography and erotica. Anyone who broke these laws faced federal prison time and hefty fines. Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner was on the front lines of getting these so-called Comstock Laws overturned, risking his own liberty to challenge them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Starting in the 1970s, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt started another round of challenges to obscenity laws that applied not only to his much-maligned pornography empire but also to wide swaths of artists and writers. Love him or hate him (many people still choose the latter), Flynt was among the only people with the guts, stamina, and money to stand up to those in government and religious institutions whod criminalize anything that runs astray of strict Christian morality. Tonight the publisher speaks alongside David Eisenbach, a history professor, and coauthor with Flynt of a book, One Nation Under Sex. The men have documented illicit goings-on at the highest levels of U.S. government going back to Ben Franklin and the American Revolution. Other subjects of their exposé include Eleanor Roosevelt and Presidents James Buchanan and Woodrow Wilson. Flynt has long decried political hypocrisy from any quarter. By shattering the marble statues that some of these historical figures have become, Flynt and Eisenbach aim to show the truth behind much of U.S. public policy, and that the principal of love him or hate him (or her) can apply to a lot of people besides publishers of pornography.
Wed., May 18, 6:30 p.m., 2011