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Psychedelic Sex: Porn Legend Dian Hanson on her Beautiful New Book

Psychedelic Sex: Porn Legend Dian Hanson on her Beautiful New Book: Taschen

Taschen

Art book publisher Taschen will release a new book called Psychedelic Sex next month, a hyper-vivid look back at the 1960s and early 1970s, easily one of the sexiest eras in American history. The pages are filled with technicolor spreads that practically hum and throb with sweat and sex and the scent of incense and lots and lots of hair in every place imaginable. The book also boasts a smart collection of essays examining the social trends that coalesced to create those sexy Sixties. Authors, Dian Hanson, Eric Gotland and Paul Krassner, frame the era through various sociological lenses. The resulting collection slyly comments on nearly every curve and contour of American culture: money, power, sex, race, advertising, religion, technology, youth culture, freedom, and individual liberty.

One of the authors, Dian Hanson, is a legend in the worlds of porn and publishing. In the 1970s and 1980s, she worked at old-school hardcore magazines, like, OUI, Outlaw Biker, Adult Cinema Review and Big Butt, and made her name as the editor of Juggs and Leg Show. Under her leadership, Leg Show became the most widely-read fetish magazine on the market, earning her legions of devoted fans. These days she has one of the coolest job titles possible, as “Sexy Books Editor” at Taschen.

We sat down with Dian Hanson to chat about her new book and her legendary career. She recalled the drug-fueled, free-loving sexiness of the time, and shared her opinions of sex on acid, why men have panty fetishes, what Oprah’s butt is telling America, and why her friend once fucked a stranger in Central Park in the middle of the day.


Why did you feel it was important to publish this book? Why now?
It’s an offshoot of my series on the history of men’s magazines. When I got into researching magazines from the Sixties and early Seventies, I started turning up these incredibly weird hippie-looking magazines made by regular old porn companies. And I said: what exactly is this? Turns out, they were done as an attempt to replicate the “sex-and-drugs” experience for straights who were just driven crazy with fantasies of hippie sex that they were not part of.

The artwork is incredible, and so subversive, yet, it’s also really fun, and witty even for today. Who are your favorite artists featured in the book?
There are no known artists in there. These were people who came in to work every day at the magazine, sat down and hand-drew layouts. They cut out girls from photographs and pasted them in. I worked in men’s magazines, starting in 1976, so I was one of those hippie pornographers. Back then, we didn’t have Photoshop. Everything was done with scalpels and scissors and glue and wax, and it was put down on boards. Those guys were hand-drawing layouts. It was a labor of love for them—hippies who believed in sexual freedom.

(courtesy of Taschen)

(courtesy of Taschen)

Did it ever feel like hippies were reinventing sex?
We thought we were. (laughs) The reality is that by the time humans first hoisted themselves up on their hind legs they were doing everything everybody’s doing today. I think we were certainly part of the sexual revolution. We were bringing things out into the public forum, and often, into the public square, and having sex that people kept hidden and we were talking about it. But no—we didn’t reinvent anything.

These days, with online porn and the current mainstreaming of kinkiness, do you think sex is getting better than it was back in the era of free love?
You know, having lived in both times I would have to say it’s more conservative now, from a woman’s perspective. We hadn’t lived through AIDS yet. At that time, the biggest fear that anyone had was herpes. Everyone was terrified of that. Everything else could be cured by penicillin. There was very little worrying. You could walk through the park and some guy would come up and say, “you wanna ball?” And you felt you should. And you did.

Vanessa del Rio, my old porn-star friend, said a guy walked up to her on the street outside Central Park and asked her if she wanted to fuck and the two of them went into Central Park, laid down right behind the retaining wall, fucked in the middle of the day, got up and went their separate ways. People just don’t do that today. We now have fears.

(Taschen)

(Taschen)

One of the first things you notice in Psychedelic Sex is how much the representation of bodies has changed over the years. What never changes—what remains evergreen in the world of sex media?
If you look in this book you will see bodies that existed in the Sixties—natural female bodies, more shapely than bodies today. The female body has gotten streamlined, has gotten thicker in the waist and narrower in the top and bottom. You don’t see any artificial breasts in the book. All the breasts are real. Fortunately, we are moving towards a time when women in the sex industry are less likely to get a big, ugly, misshapen boob job than they were in the 1990s. It’s not that things stay the same, as much as things are going back to the same.

(Taschen)

(Taschen)

Like, people have pubic hair again. This book is rife with pubic hair. If you’re uncomfortable with hair, this is not the place for you. But if you’re a cutting edge person who thinks shaving is your mom’s approach to pubes, then you’ll appreciate Psychedelic Sex.

Due to feminism, the invention of the Pill, an embrace of non-Western religions, hippie culture allowed women to act out their sexual fantasies, at least more often than in the past. Do we overlook how radical it was for women to feel sexually empowered?
We have forgotten. Fortunately, you have an old hag like me to remind you. (laughs) The wave of feminism that came up in the 1960s was completely sex positive. You had Germaine Greer who was a leading feminist and author who posed in a European magazine called Suck with her heels behind her ears, showing her big, hairy pussy. This was a feminist act at the time. Women were expected to lie there and spread them and take it from their husbands, and get pregnant, and raise the children. They were not expected to have orgasms. There was debate about whether women could even have orgasms. And you had the artist Betty Dodson, teaching classes in New York on vaginal self-awareness and masturbation.

But yes, it was a big deal for women to come out and demand their sexual rights. And I gotta say that a lot of guys sorta took advantage of that during the Sexual Revolution. They started pushing women to do things that maybe they didn’t want to do, like, have sex with their sister while the dude got to watch. C’mon, it’s natural—we’re all bisexual. So that led to the next wave of feminism which was pretty radically anti-sex.

(Taschen)

(Taschen)

In the book, there’s a chapter about LSD. I have to ask, have you ever had sex on acid?
Oh yeah! (laughs)

Would you recommend it?
Um, recommend? I recommend that we shouldn’t be afraid of experience, and it is an interesting experience. But I never found it to be great sex. I think smoking weed is much, much better for sex. From the perspective of a woman, weed kinda heightens your awareness in every direction and it makes everything more interesting and fun. Whereas, when you’re having sex on acid you can forget that you’re having sex. (laughs) Like, you kinda stop paying attention. And then remember you’re having sex and you start to visualize that his penis is jabbing around inside your liver, or going god knows where. Acid overwhelms everything else; it’s kinda hard to concentrate on the things that are going to give you a good orgasm. Even if you have an orgasm, on acid that can be scary, too. (laughs)

I’ve read in old interviews that you think sexiness is all about what protrudes: breasts, butts, dicks, balls—do you still think we lust after the bumps and curves?
Oh yeah. Look at those big, big booties at the Oscars. And it wasn’t just Oprah. Everyone was trying to get that big butt out there. We are America. We like it big. We like it exaggerated. We’re not into subtleties. There are cultures that compare a woman to a gently bending willow. They want her to be slender and discreet. There are cultures that say a woman’s breast should fill a champagne glass. And we’re like, “Fill up the brandy snifter, and then bring in the punch bowl.“

(Taschen)

(Taschen)

You’ve edited numerous porn mags like Juggs and Tight, as well as one of the most popular fetish mags ever: Leg Show. As a woman, editing a fetish mag, what’s that like?
When I first got into porn we thought: anything is possible. We’re gonna discover an audience for all these odd things. But then we found that most guys were fairly consistent and simple about what they wanted to see—they wanted to see a curvy, young woman, usually with blonde hair. And so, you could make a very successful magazine just by repeating this formula over and over. When I started with the company that had Leg Show and saw the letters that people were sending in—reading how specific they were about what they were interested in, I wanted that magazine. I went to the publisher and inveigled him to give me the magazine to edit. I began reading those letters, and going by the letters. Immediately, the sales went up. The appreciation from the readership was enormous and fawning. I would get fifty to a hundred letters a day. I’d get photographs of guys with my name written on their dicks. (laughs) They were masturbating with my name on their dicks.

Was that complimentary?
Oh yeah! Absolutely. One of my readers started a club called "Masturbating to Dian Hanson Club.” On my birthday, they all got together and planned to masturbate at the exact time I was born. It was all invigorating. It was great fun. I was their goddess. They obeyed my commands. It wouldn’t be the same for a man.

(Taschen)

(Taschen)

Al Goldstein, the editor of Screw, once said, “I fight for free expression. You ask me about someone who wants to keep quiet? That’s like asking Martin Luther King about blacks who want to pass as white. Dian Hanson is gutless, a coward. I tolerate her like a mosquito bite on the ass!” Why all the anger from Goldstein?
Oh, Goldstein—it’s because I wouldn’t let him eat my pussy. Goldstein was a very devoted and determined cunnilinguist. And he tried to charm me through the years, and I wasn’t interested, and therefore, he was pissed off. I had this success, and specifically, a success with my readership that he could never achieve because he was a guy.

Hanson poses with another Taschen release at their Beverly Hills shop

Hanson poses with another Taschen release at their Beverly Hills shop

I respect everything Al Goldstein did for us and for the business. He was the guy who fought. He was the guy who was willing to pay his lawyers to try and change laws. He was a guy who was willing to go to jail. But I was not going to let dear old Al eat my pussy—I still respect and honor him—and he could say what he wanted.

After a lifetime of studying sex, selling sexiness, promoting sexuality, what’s the best advice you’d give a virgin, or someone making their way into the bush as a beginner?
Figure out who you are. Figure out what attracts you. Don’t be afraid to enjoy what you like or pursue what you like. Don’t wait until you’re sixty years-old because you think it’s weird to wanna suck toes, or dress up like a little girl, or whatever it is you like to do. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get out there and express it. If you never try, if you never let someone know what you like because you’re afraid they’re going to laugh at you. You’re never going to enjoy the greatest pleasure you can have.


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