Hustler’s Explicit Image of S.E. Cupp is Virtual Rape

It takes a lot to piss me off. But Larry Flynt has managed.

Pundit-phobe that I am, I had never heard of S.E. Cupp until I was confronted with a picture of the pretty young conservative commentator with a penis in her mouth. Apparently Hustler magazine created the cleverly photoshopped image and published it with the explanation that “S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.”

More likely, it’s Hustler’s suggested method for getting strong, opinionated women to shut up. As Erin Gloria Ryan commented on Jezebel, “50 years after the beginning of the women’s movement, we’re still trying to silence women with dicks.”


Lest you think I’m resorting to indelicate language for no good reason, let me explain why this photo infuriates me (beyond the obvious vulgarity). This isn’t just a nasty picture–this is a virtual rape, a widely-publicized depiction of a sex act that is NOT consensual. Like most non-consensual sex acts, its primary purpose is not to titillate the perpetrator, but to humiliate and establish a sense of physical or psychological dominance over the victim. It’s textbook emotional abuse, a sick, twisted power-play aimed at intimidation.

The arrow hit its mark. On Thursday, Cupp went on The View, where the hosts unanimously declared their outrage. When they asked Cupp what she thought when she first saw the photo, she replied “I was horrified. It was disgusting. And even though I didn’t really do that, by the end of the day, I felt ashamed, as if I had.” By the end of the interview, Cupp’s lips were pressed together in a way that made it obvious this Ivy League educated, 33-year-old media professional was holding back tears.

Seriously? I bet every American female who has survived junior high can relate to Cupp’s undeserved shame on some level. The whole thing transported me back to the sweat-and-vinyl stench of school buses, where pimple-faced boys tormented insecure girls with taunts about masturbation, menstruation and oral sex, calling them sluts and cunts and lesbos because putting girls down made them feel strong, imparted some sick sense of animal dominance. And the girls? They were expected to laugh it off and go along with it, to be cool about it, because it was “nothing serious, just a joke.” Boys will be boys, after all.

Yeah, sorry, I never DID find it amusing. For some reason depravity never struck me as funny, especially when it was aimed at debasing and humiliating human beings who were created in the image of God. And I never held such a low view of men that I could roll my eyes and buy into the “boys will be boys” baloney.

Larry Flynt has resorted to the junior high defense, claiming that the explicit photo of S.E. Cupp is satire, therefore protected under his First Amendment rights. Just laugh it off, ladies! It’s all in good fun.

Satire my foot. Creating and displaying a picture of a woman engaged in a sex act she did not agree to is sexual harassment, at the very least. It’s humiliating and degrading, a cowardly assault on a woman’s personhood, reducing her to a sexual object that can be manipulated at will for someone else’s pleasure. It’s also a not-so-subtle form of intimidation, a time-tested method of getting women to sit down and shut up. “Disagree with me? Look what happens.”

Put that thing back in your pants, Hustler. (And here’s the self-editing point where I pull an Auntie Em: “For 23 years, I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now, well, being a Christian woman–I can’t say it!”)

I’ve ranted about society’s sexualization of women before. I’ve bemoaned Christians’ lackadaisical response to sexual harassment, and pointed out that you can abuse a woman without ever touching her. Hustler’s disgusting treatment of S.E. Cupp wraps it all up in one neat package, with a flashy neon bow on top.

So, what are we going to do about this? Are we going to roll our eyes, declare that “boys will be boys,” and let it go? Or are we going to begin taking the sexualization of women seriously, calling it out when we see it, teaching our sons to RESPECT women, and giving our daughters the tools they need to recognize and resist the forces that would demean them?

I vote the latter.

21 Responses to Hustler’s Explicit Image of S.E. Cupp is Virtual Rape

  1. Lauren May 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    This is unbelievable B.S. I don’t care if you’re conservative, liberal, male, or female. We desperately need to stand up for anyone who is being treated this way. This should not and CANNOT become the norm in our society. In Flynt’s words, the controversy shows more about America’s “sexual repression” than it shows about his sexism (or downright abuse!). I hope this delusional man meets an existential crisis very very soon, and I would LOVE to be there when at the end of the life he is thinking about what he gave to the world. Sad, pathetic, miserable excuse for a human being.

    • Lauren May 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      What this controversy says to women–“Yeah, you’re smart and you’ve got an opinion that’s not popular? Well, we’ll put you back into your place real quick.”

  2. Valerie May 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    I read this article earlier this week, and ranted to my husband about it for some time. It is beyond me why every educated, well spoken woman in our world can be demeaned, beaten down, and made fun of just because of their sex. This is far from the first time this has happened. Other women come to mind, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinto, and Condoleeza Rice (to name a few).

    I wonder if this had been done to a man, if the same “acceptance” would have happened? How often to people take a stand for the LGBT community, yet do nothing in instances like this? It is such a double standard, and not okay at all.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong May 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      That’s an interesting question–I was actually wondering the same thing. What would the response be if this happened to a man? I’m honestly not sure.

      I think part of the reason we don’t see women talking as much about these sort of issues is because those voices from junior high are still lingering in our minds. We want to be cool, we want to be accepted, we don’t want to be called a whiner. More insidiously, we don’t want to be disbelieved, dismissed, or called liars again after we’ve made ourselves vulnerable enough to talk about what happened.

      I say, shout it from the rooftops, ladies (and men)! Let’s not let misplaced shame keep us silent while this is still happening!

      • Lauren May 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

        It would still not be okay if it was a non-consenting male. Anyone forced into a virtual sex act for the sake of satire is not okay in my opinion. I think the fact that it is a woman plays into the typical sexual dominance of men–sexual assault, molestation, etc. etc. I think generally, women are more prone to fear these kinds of advances and more often endure shame (although I don’t have research on that to back that up), but all those things happen to men and boys as well who also endure fear and shame whether or not they admit it freely. This is not a woman’s issue. This is a human issue.

  3. Gina May 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm #


  4. Larry Shallenberger May 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    First Amendment or not: This can’t be legal. Can it?

    If Cupp decides to sue, I think the Christian blogging community should create a venue to contribute to her legal fees.

    • Larry Shallenberger May 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      And I’d be willing to help that effort.

      • Jenny Rae Armstrong May 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

        That’s a great idea, Larry–I’d be all in! Last I heard, Cupp was not planning a suit–apparently this is not the first time Flynt has pulled this sort of thing, and he’s won similar cases? But I think some sort of sexual harassment charge could and should be brought. Maybe our resident legal expert, Tim Fall, will enlighten us on the deets when he gets this post!

  5. Jim Henderson May 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Many American Christians criticize Muslims for making women hide behind a veil. We call “them” backwards and medieval. Then we get upset because they want attack our individual rights, our freedoms to express ourselves.

    Meanwhile we circle the wagons around men like Flynt and Driscoll who view sexualizing and objectifying women as sport. Then they hide behind the Constitution or The Bible like the bullies that they really are.

    Id rather be a Muslim

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong May 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

      The bullies may dominate the playground for a while, but the meek will inherit the earth. In the meantime, I’m thankful for the monitors who are willing to blow the whistle long and hard. 😉 Thanks Jim.

  6. Shari Dragovich May 27, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    This made my stomach tie in knots – not your writing (: )), Flynt’s disgusting mind – that gets published!!??. How degrading to Ms. Cupp. To your point about raising our sons. I heard a great line at my state’s homeschooling conference, just yesterday… “Teens, you can SKIP adolescence! You don’t HAVE to do it!” – John Stonestreet. What a refreshing concept… yet, I’m afraid, completely unfathomable to today’s culture.

    He also spoke at length about postmodernism, living with no “big story”, this problem of perpetual adolescence in today’s men and how it’s killing our society. I would have to say that Flynt’s photo is a perfect example. The whole “boys will be boys” comment (by the way, how many other mindless comments do we utter without thinking of their damning effects on people groups?) has always turned me inside-out angry. I’ve been entrusted with raising four boys and not one of them do I ever look at after their mischievous behavior and say, “Oh well. It’s okay you: taunt your sister, reek havoc on my furniture, become violent with dolls, etc. – boys will be boys!”

    Great job covering this one, Jenny!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong May 27, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets infuriated by the “boys will be boys” phrase! I don’t mind it in reference to ripped knees on jeans, etc., but the idea that boys are somehow exempt from the expectation to treat people with kindness, gentleness, and respect is HORRIFYING. It’s brushing off sin, and it ISN’T cute.

      I like the idea about skipping adolescence, too. 😀 I think I’ll tell my oldest son…

  7. Marlene Molewyk May 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. Well said!

  8. Tim May 28, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Good job bringing this one to light, Jen. This is abusive and vicious, and I’d be tempted to call it childish except that would be such an insult to children.
    Do you remember back in the late 70s when Flynt professed to have become a Christian? That lasted a year, and never once in even that time did he slow down from his porn publishing.
    P.S. Sorry, but judicial ethics prevent me from giving an analysis of Ms. Cupp’s legal situation.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong May 28, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      I was around in the late seventies, but my repressive parents didn’t let me read much Hustler back then. ;-D No, seriously, I had never heard that–although I will say that after writing this post (and reading my one on Philemon) I was convinced that the most effective thing we can do is pray for Larry Flynt.

      Christians do a lot of dumb things. I wouldn’t venture a guess whether his conversion was real or not, but I bet all that money (and, I would imagine, arousal addiction) would be hard to give up. Spiritual kudzu…

      Darn judicial ethics! Oh well, I’ll quote the wonderful Keri Wyatt Kent: “They’re saying she did something she didn’t.” (Well, they’re not saying it, but they’re SHOWING it, and visuals speak louder than words.) “Back when I was a journalist, that was called slander.”

      • Tim May 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

        Quoting KWK is always a wise move, Jen!

        Hey, by the way, I have another guest post up. This one’s at Leslie Keeney’s theology blog, The Ruthless Monk. It’s about an errant dentist and teh gospel truth. I’d love to get your take on it:

  9. Amanda May 29, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Thanks Jenny for your bold blog post. I am thankful women like you are willing to take a stand and speak out about this. Your words:

    “Creating and displaying a picture of a woman engaged in a sex act she did not agree to is sexual harassment, at the very least. It’s humiliating and degrading, a cowardly assault on a woman’s personhood, reducing her to a sexual object that can be manipulated at will for someone else’s pleasure. It’s also a not-so-subtle form of intimidation, a time-tested method of getting women to sit down and shut up. ‘Disagree with me? Look what happens.'”

    Are perfectly stated and I whole heartedly agree.

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