HUSTLER's Bruce David takes another look at the militant feminists enthroned at Pacifica's Los Angeles affiliate.
I'm driving to work, my car radio tuned to Uprising, Sonali Kolhatkar's show on listener-sponsored KPFK, which KFI's John Kolbalt refers to as "the Communist station." There are some Communists working there, no doubt, but it's a Progressive voice on the Southern California airwaves, a place to get news free of corporate spin.
That's why I was taken aback when I heard Kolhatkar's guest, Robert Jensen-a journalism professor at the University of Texas-say that the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners could be traced, in part, to the prevalence of pornography in America. Magazines like HUSTLER, he said, helped make Abu Ghraib possible.
The radio host failed to challenge Jensen. Indeed, it soon became apparent that she agreed with her guest. I reached Kolhatkar on my cell phone just after Uprising went off the air. She agreed to let me debate Jensen the following week. I had no idea what I was getting into.
Those of you who have been following the KPFK/NION/HUSTLER dispute already know what I was about to find out: Robert Jensen is not only against pornography; he is against masculinity as well. He believes the very attributes of maleness need to be redefined. He doesn't want you to watch football or play it either. He thinks it makes men too aggressive. He thinks porn and sports are at least partly responsible for child and spousal abuse.
"The traditional traits associated with masculinity in this culture are control, domination, toughness, hypercompetitiveness, emotional repression [and] aggressive violence," Jensen wrote in 2002. "My approach to all this is simple: Masculinity is a bad idea, for everyone, and it's time to get rid of it."
Did I mention Jensen is gay?
It wasn't until I debated him on KPFK that I realized just how much Sonali Kolhatkar was in his thrall. I complained about this in a polite e-mail to her after the show. Here's part of the exchange:
"I definitely think he is credible," Kolhatkar responded to my criticism of Jensen. "I have read many books and articles by him and immensely respect his work."
I wrote back: "I'd submit that Jensen is a deeply disturbed individual at war with his own masculinity."
"He said he was against the definition of masculinity, which justifies domination over women," she countered. "I agree with him. That doesn't mean he was 'at war with his own masculinity.' Just with the current definition of hypermasculinity in our popular culture."
At this point I asked Kolhatkar if she would be open to an on-air debate, which could include two of the most influential women currently working in the adult industry: photographer Suze Randall and Dr. Sharon Mitchell, president of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. I wanted to debunk Kolhatkar's notion that women working in this industry have been co-opted or beaten down by their male counterparts.
"Honestly, meeting two women who are in the pornography industry will do little to change my mind," Kolhatkar replied. "It's like if I met two women who are antiabortion, it wouldn't make me change my mind on the sovereignty of a woman's body. … My beliefs don't hinge on the existence or lack thereof of groups of believers or nonbelievers in the same ideology. It's based on my own principles and assessments of a concept or value."
There you have it: No willingness to debate or examine the issues.
Some months later, with the Kolhatkar/Jensen business all but forgotten, Robert Corsini of Not in Our Name L.A. called to ask if HUSTLER would post information about a NION antiwar rally on our political (nonsex) Web site, Larry Flynt.com. We agreed. Then all hell broke loose. KPFK producer Aura Bogado fired off a vicious anti-HUSTLER e-mail:
"I am outraged that NION L.A. would use an endorsement from a misogynist like Larry Flynt. … Sexism and racism are a flagrant part of Flynt's capitalist exploitation. … For these reasons and more, remove me from NION L.A.'s list, and take a minute to consider who 'Our' stands for [in] 'Not in Our Name.' To me, 'our' stands for the People, not the Pigs like Flynt."
This set off a flurry of hostile e-mail exchanges between HUSTLER, Bogado and her cronies, which can be found at LarryFlynt.com. The e-mails were followed with Uprising devoting at least one entire program to pornography, during which Kolhatkar and Bogado blasted HUSTLER, Flynt and two HUSTLER editors (one of them being me) by name. Kolhatkar brazenly referred to our previous e-mails as "abuse" and claimed we had "threatened" Bogado.
Our e-mails were no more abusive than the ones coming from Bogado and her camp. The claim that we threatened Bogado is simply a lie. Included on Kolhatkar's antiporn program was militant feminist Diana Russell, who has said, "How I wish that Flynt's would-be murderer had been a better shot!" Does anyone think that such a statement isn't a suggestion that militant feminists commit violence against Flynt, and thus is clearly threatening?
At no time were we contacted or asked to participate in the discussion. Our follow-up requests for equal time were ignored. As a longtime subscriber to KPFK and the father of two teenage boys who live and attend school within its broadcast signal, I was particularly disturbed at being tagged as someone fostering rape, child abuse and the battering of women. We responded with a series of articles in HUSTLER, the only forum available to us.
Kolhatkar has continued to mention me, Larry Flynt and HUSTLER on subsequent shows, especially when her guest is Robert Jensen. She has, among other things, accused me of launching a series of vicious, degrading, misogynistic and racist attacks against Aura Bogado in the pages of HUSTLER. I deny that they were vicious, misogynistic or racist. They may have been degrading, and they certainly were verbal attacks, equal in tone to the attacks made against Flynt, HUSTLER and its editors. They can dish it out, but they can't take it.
Recently our Features Editor, Carolyn Sinclair, approached Kolhatkar (at a Pacifica-sponsored lecture), holding out an olive branch. The KPFK host responded by telling Sinclair that HUSTLER's attacks on Aura Bogado had terrified the woman, who consequently feared going home alone at night. Sounding like a born-again evangelist, KPFK producer Alan Minsky told our staffer that she would have to live with the karma she was creating.
A few days later, by e-mail, Kolhatkar continued her attack, citing an article Sinclair had written in the April '05 issue. Titled "HUSTLER Strikes Back: Attack of the Femi-Nazi Drones" (available on LarryFlynt.com), the piece focused on the whole flap.
Via e-mail, Kolhatkar compared our own resident feminist's writings to "right-wing racist and sexist attacks on women and people of color." She went on to say that her attack helps place "HUSTLER firmly among the ranks of reactionary, antiwoman, pro-violence, misogynistic, right-wing forces in this country."
Citing a feature in the February '05 issue, Kolhatkar claimed it was "nothing less than an incitement to rape." It's unclear if she was saying the article was an incitement to rape all women or just Aura Bogado, whose name appeared in the following blurb posted above the banner headline: "This One's for You, Aura."
We find this statement by Kolhatkar to be particularly instructive. The article, "Cruise Control," showcased women bound and gagged and tied to moving vehicles. The artist produced the images along with his crew of models, all of whom have a deep love of bondage.
"I don't care whether people like what I do or not," says one of the models in that feature. "I'm very comfortable with myself and with my interest in bondage. I'm really glad we live in a country where we can be the sexual beings we want to be and get away with it."
Robert Williams, world-renowned painter and founding editor of the art magazine Juxtapose, has praised the artist's work: "The integration of modern machine, acquiescent female, fetish accoutrement and the element of motion confirms [his] presumption that a woman in any formal presentation is art."
How does Kolhatkar get incitement to rape? Am I to believe such a conclusion could be reached by anyone who doesn't see a rapist lurking behind every tree, a person who isn't emotionally crippled and living in constant fear? For the record, we stipulated "This One's for You, Aura," believing she and her cronies would be offended because the pictorial showed women as submissives. The sole intent of the barb was to offend, not to threaten. (We freely admit to being tasteless.)
So what is going on here exactly? Let's examine the facts:
Kolhatkar, Bogado and Jensen claim that they are not anti-male, but think men should act like women. They believe in free speech and debate, just not with us. They believe that our attacks on them are vicious, but their accusations of our promoting rape and spousal and child abuse are not. They are Progressives, but they tell others how to act, think and have sex.
They can call us pigs, but we cannot call them anti-male Stalinists. They attack us on their airwaves, but we're not supposed to respond in the pages of HUSTLER. They can invite a radio-show guest who stops just short of calling for Larry Flynt's death, but we are vicious for publishing cartoons that make fun of Bogado. They are pro-sex as long as it's the kind of sex with which they feel comfortable, but we are antiwoman because we believe bondage can be an art form.
Here's my message to Sonali Kolhatkar: You are a deeply disturbed individual, closed to the facts, lacking anything in the way of reflective ability. We observed you, Ms. Kolhatkar, at the recent Pacifica event chastising men who had formed an orderly line (to ask questions of the panelists) because they were being "too aggressive" and somehow preventing women from joining the line.
There were many people in the room who cringed when you said that, Sonali. It showed your hand. It showed your bias. It showed your barely repressed anger. And it fit in quite nicely with your recent "Subversive Thought of the Day" from author Robin Morgan: "...Rape is the perfected act of male sexuality in a patriarchal culture..."
My message to Aura Bogado: Stop calling yourself a pro-sex feminist. If you insist on describing yourself that way, you should carry a proclamation that you can read off or hand out that stipulates which forms of sex are acceptable and which ones you reject. Stop worrying about men wanting to attack you. Therapy might be helpful in that regard.
My message to the KPFK management: Get rid of these people. With Air America moving into the Southern California listening area, you cannot afford to let crazed militant feminists alienate 50% of your audience: the males who, like me, have been supporting you. We at HUSTLER continue to believe that KPFK serves an important Progressive function, and we do not want to see it undone by a small contingent of male-bashers.
We don't really care if you like us or not. But stop lying about us. This constant chant that porn incites violence against women and children is simply not supported by the facts. All credible research into this area supports the exact opposite conclusion. At a time when our very democracy-not to mention the survival of our planet-hangs in the balance, KPFK should have better things to do than attack the one mass-circulation entertainment magazine that has been most dedicated to disseminating the Progressive message.