Everyone remembers their first time with their mother, right? Jerry Falwell sure didn’t. In fact, he was so sure that he didn’t have sex with his mother that he took Hustler Magazine to court.
Back in the 1980’s, Jerry Falwell was one of the most influential televangelists in society. He urged evangelicals to vote conservative and was arguably the father of the televangelism.
In a time before internet porn, men still had to buy magazines such as Playboy. In these magazines they often had to inject professional interviews and political insight for men to be able to justify such purchases to their Missus. One such magazine was Hustler, and in November 1983 they published an explosive article: “Jerry Falwell Talks About his First Time”. In it, there is a mock interview with Jerry Falwell in which the reporter asks him about the first time he had sex. In the interview, “Falwell” reveals that his first time was indeed with his mother. This hammers home that religious men have awkward relationships with their mothers, a joke used over and over again against the current Vice President Pence.
Falwell then took Hustler to court, arguing that they violated libel laws. In the end, the supreme court sided in favor of Hustler Magazine 8-0. The piece, as crude and obscene as it was, isn’t criminal. Hustler Magazine advanced the legal rights of freedom of speech by proving that satire is most definitely a form of freedom of speech.
Literature has a right to be satirical. While Falwell wanted to retaliate against an industry he so desperately hated, the rule of law always prevails. It also makes a greater point about literature. Not everything is meant to be taken seriously. In fact, the whole article was a joke designed to be poking fun at the overly religious man. Next time someone tells you that a piece of literary artwork should be banned due to “obscenity” or for a joke taken too far, remind them that the mark of a truly intellectual society is the ability to be able to sift through literature and decide 1. The motive behind the piece and 2. The real message of the piece.
For in the case of “Jerry Falwell Talks About his First Time”, the motive wasn’t to make people believe that Jerry Falwell had sex with his own Mother. Rather, it was to highlight the fact that while Falwell may paint a picture of himself as a devoutly religious man, in reality he isn’t as clean as he says he is.