Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, bestselling author of "Kosher Sex," seemed apt to lose his yarmulke as he passionately argued that technology, specifically porn on the Net, makes sex suck. With him on a dais in a Beverly Hills theater was a stony Larry Flynt, debating the rabbi about pornography, sexuality and the Internet.
Flynt's signature gold wheelchair never moved an inch in protest, even when Boteach contended, "The average man is downloading [porn] while his wife sleeps. When it comes to sex, we've foregone the experiential for the visual." Instead, the Hustler publisher flatly retorted in his cautious and sometimes garbled speech, "There are two kinds of people who oppose porn. Those who don't know what they're talking about and those who don't know what they're missing." Boteach, Flynt said, belonged to the latter group.
Monday night's debate wasn't the old-hat porn argument about why it's bad and should be banned. A more philosophical discussion emerged as the participants tried to distinguish between what Boteach described as "F'ing and love." Boteach isn't fanning the fire that porn is sinful but merely urging people to give up two-dimensional eye candy and get down with a human being they love. Flynt, of course, argued that there's nothing wrong with getting it on online as well as in the flesh.
Organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the Sephardic Education Association, the debate will be available beginning May 3 on the religion portal Beliefnet.com, where Boteach is a contributor. It was moderated by Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer who is best known for his Jimmy Carter interview where the former president admitted he had "lust in his heart." The surprise presence of Roseanne -- proud to be a feminist Jew, proclaiming that she is both fat and sexy -- spawned Boteach's confession that yes, he fantasizes about women other than his wife and yes, sex toys are a good idea.
Roseanne, who continually put on and took off her dark brown wraparound sunglasses, stretched Boteach's point that porn spoils sex further than the rabbi ever imagined, saying: "When American men watch pornography that's what they think they're supposed to do. That's why no one gets laid or, when they do, women don't have orgasms. This is why men can't fuck their way out of a paper bag."
At this point, Boteach turned to the audience and told them what he mistakenly believed was some kind of a revelation. "Roseanne," he said, "is a piece of work."
Scheer, ever the evening's straight man, pointed out that the Internet is the great democratizing force of pornography. If you like fat women, you can find fat women. If you want erotica, you can find Susie Bright. "One of the incredible things about the Internet is the diversity of (sexual) experience available," he said. "We no longer have to take a narrow view of pornography."
Flynt then felt compelled to give the audience a pornography history lesson noting that the first evidence of what he calls the "greatest art form" was found etched in stone by cave men. "Today," he continued, "the video store, the book store and the Internet are the poor man's art gallery." Regardless of whether people take the rabbi's advice and sate their desires in a carnal way, pornography's not going away. "With technology, the genie is out of the bottle and no one, including the government, is going to be able to stop the flow," Flynt said.