Never one to shy away from attention or find some way to get his two cents into public debate, porn mogul Larry Flynt is at it again. According to CNN the dirty old man and Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis--who you may remember as the standup guy (that's sarcasm people) who spent some time in prison a few years back for tax problems--have asked the government for a bailout for the porn industry. A $5 billion bailout, to be precise.
Of course, as the smut peddlers admit, the industry isn't doing too badly, but hey, if there's money out there these two certainly want to get their hands on it.
While it's mostly a ridiculous publicity stunt it does raise an interesting question about government involvement in the sex industry. Truthfully that might not be such a bad thing. More involvement, theoretically, means more regulation and less abuse. There are, of course, already laws in regards to age limits but if the government can make some rules about the treatment of people in the industry to avoid exploitation (beyond the argument that porn itself is exploitative) and health (mandatory drug and STD testing), it might not be such a bad thing.
Not that $5 billion to an industry that already rakes in loads of cash is a good investment. It's not like the sex entertainment industry is going anywhere. In fact, it seems to thrive during downturns. I'm not so sure I buy Flynt's line "With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind." Seriously, can't afford to go to the movies, stay home and relieve some stress the old fashioned way.
In his 1991 book Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage and Sex in Contemporary Japan journalist Nicholas Bornoff goes through the history of Japan's sex industry and points out that innovation and change occurs most when people have the least. But the industry never goes away. After World War II the geisha culture was largely lost but the remnants of it trickled down to the mainstream to create a variety of entertainments, some more similar to the geisha than others, that were accessible to many and allowed the workers to continue to support themselves. When the economy picked back up the industry remained just as strong, but didn't seem to grow or change much.
So Mr. Flynt and Mr. Francis have gotten the attention they've wanted, knowing fully that they won't get a dime, but other than the barroom banter and a few people forwarding the joke to their friends, the saddest part of the whole thing, and that which makes it not funny at all, is that their actions will be seen only as a joke, rather than a way to open up a dialog about an industry that resides tucked away, undiscussed save for a few moral judgements here and there.