Friday, November 11, 2016
How I Learned About Sex Through Hustler and Heavy Metal Magazines
K, so I just finished reading Heavy Metal magazine # 281, the dubbed "Sex Special" from this past summer. Yeah, I'm behind on my reading, this considering Heavy Metal's "Fear Special" just dropped this week. With Grant Morrison at the editing helm, Heavy Metal just may be riding their own new Renaissance, and his riotous "fukk" story, "Option 3" in issue 281 had me roaring, particularly the roundabout fate of his dick-swinging lead. What a punchline!
The "Sex Special" had me reeling in the years (cue Steely Dan) toward 1981, a golden year for me at age 11. While I was a year shy of the harshest days of my youth where I was forced to slug my way out of continuous persecution (that day I finally lost it and trashed five kids being a visceral vision in my head all these years later), 1981 was boss.
Those were sticky nights conjured from my subconscious slumber cinema, projected images of front-and-center band majorettes flashing me and space nymphs prancing around naked while I took their pictures with an old Polaroid Instamatic. I can still hear the fun cough-sneeze sounds of those antique cameras that were instant gratification if you didn't feel like waiting a week to drop film rolls off at your local supermarket's film developing kiosk. If you've ever owned a Polaroid and had sex, you well-grasp (no pun intended) the intertwined value.
I was getting away with the crime of century, on a microcosmic scale, anyway. At age 11, I was reading both Heavy Metal and Savage Sword of Conan on a regular basis. To the average person, what does this mean? Probably not much, since this material is bred for and consumed by a subculture audience. Granted, a large percentage of Heavy Metal readers are intellectuals, much in the same manner surveys have revealed surgeons and finance wizards are secretly listening to Slayer.
Heavy Metal magazine caters to fans of hard sci-fi, futuristic action, pulp, high fantasy, otherworldly noir...and copulation with species not of our own. Before the pumping dildo machine you see on HBO's Real Sex, that gonzo idea was fleshed out long before in Heavy Metal. While never a true hardcore rag, Heavy Metal has historically pushed sex as far as conventional society will permit without summoning a right wing cotillion to shut it down. The fact Heavy Metal has survived this long and still maintains relevance is truly remarkable.
With this explanation, you better understand the significance of how an 11-year-old boy was able to procure something boldly labeled "The Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine." To hell with Willy Wonka's golden tickets and chocolate factory tours. This became my candy. Rock hard, at that.
At age 9, I'd first learned about sex in the following fashion: My parents had divorced and my father had visitation rights each Saturday. For a long while, he hopped from bachelor pad to bachelor pad and eventually, he got careless. Post-divorce, my dad was a regular reader of Hustler magazine. It never really occurred to me I was about to break into forbidden manna when I spotted the following cover peeking out from underneath a stack of newspapers and racing track forms:
Yes, I knew the word "boobs" and I knew women carried them to feed their newborns. Amazing amidst the sexual revolution of the 1970s there was still far more conservatism in what kids were taught about sex, much less when. As a father, I'm mortified by how early the schools teach children about drugs and sex, and I have a feeling my personal kid-year sins are about to haunt me in due time.
I'm being honest when I say it was the American flag that first drew my attention upon spotting the August, 1979 issue of Hustler. I really had no idea what I was in for once I slid it out while Dad was taking a crap. My eyes literally bugged out. It wasn't enough to see naked women spread full-frontal. Hustler depicted sexual acts (or at least the predication of intercourse) with men's bulking cocks aimed toward the epicenters of their model partners. I was, frankly, scared out of my mind, still a child, to see that a wee-wee could grow to something so huge and intimidating.
Suffice it to say, my father fell ghostly white upon spotting me with that magazine cracked open. Poor dude, he was forced into teaching me about sex through a fuck rag. Once he assured me all was natural and one day I would be that guy with the raging penis (my phrase, not his), I felt better about it. Of course, I had to listen to my mother rip into Dad over the phone over the whole matter and felt incredibly guilty at the time. The Hustler mags disappeared until I got older and the sex-obsessed tween in me (we boys are incurable pervs from ages 12 to 15) went on a scavenger hunt in his house to nick a handful for my personal use.
Now from ages 8 through 10, I was blowing my allowance on baseball cards, Star Wars cards, Kiss cards, candy bars, root beers and comic books. You youngbloods would shit your pants to know what you could score for a mere buck back in the day. I was reading Amazing Spiderman, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spiderman, Uncanny X-Men, Detective Comics, Action Comics and Jonah Hex religiously in this time frame.
My introduction to Conan the Barbarian came via Marvel Comics and that soon became added to my must-grabs from the long-ago spinner racks. Of course, you can imagine where my hormones were heading with the cavalcade of Conan's scantily-clad female characters (usually defiled and portrayed as helpless unless gifted with sorcery or a progressive swordsmanship teacher). As my reading skills developed, I soon grabbed the Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp's pulp novels featuring Conan. You betcha there was a lot of fornication involved behind the goring and adventuring, and I was stoked, for lack of a better word. I was brokenhearted I couldn't see Arnold Schwarzenegger's first film romp in Conan the Barbarian since it was an R-rated orgy of blood and sex, just the things I craved at the time. To my joy, however, I soon had access to Savage Sword of Conan, the black-and-white Marvel offshoot spilling just a little more grue and titillation than they allowed in the regular Conan comic.
I won't directly name the chain as they're still today a leader in the convenience store industry, but if you remember their old jingle, oh thank Heaven... I'm sure slight obtuseness played a part in it, but more than likely, the cashier I normally confronted at this store empathized with what a heterosexual 11-year-old boy mystified by the female form felt like.
I tried my luck first with Savage Sword. Keep in mind, Savage Sword of Conan and Heavy Metal magazines were never kept near the comic book racks or spindles. They were shoved toward the front of the store, mingled in with Newsweek, Time, Field and Stream, Popular Mechanics, all the normal trade mags. If a store proprietor was on the ball, Heavy Metal magazine was usually sitting between Playboy and Penthouse, practically as a dare.
Well, I dared and I won--repeatedly. Only once did I catch a smirk upon that cashier's face as he rang up two bucks plus five percent Maryland sales tax and off I'd walk with Heavy Metal, happier than if Red Sonja had given me a lap dance without the chain mail. I began cutting back on a couple of my other books and swore off trading cards so I could save up for Heavy Metal and Savage Sword of Conan. Fate soon played conspirator in my favor as my grandmother eventually skinned me a dollar every Saturday when we'd come by since I hated Pepsi and that's the only soda she'd stock. I was then able to continue reading all of my favorite comics, so long as I came back with a Dr. Pepper each time to justify her sliding me the Washington every week. In an indirect manner, Grandma contributed to my Heavy Metal and Savage Sword sprees.
Such glorious times. The ironic fact was I would buy Heavy Metal and Savage Sword of Conan on Saturdays from said store, which was within walking distance of my dad's apartment. I'm sure he knew I was pulling a sham since I would wait until I got home to read those magazines in the privacy of my bedroom. If he'd leafed through and scouted even one page of Den's fuck-fests while I was away peeing, he never let on. It would've been a great get-back. He never narcked me out, God bless him.
Only because I was underage I was unable get in to the Heavy Metal movie that same year. So close to the threshold since I was a regular reader who shouldn't have been, but fate again accompanied me three years later as I got myself and my horde of buddies into Friday the 13th, Part IV. By the time I got the Heavy Metal soundtrack, those songs from Blue Oyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Devo, Nazareth, Donald Fagen, Riggs, Don Felder and Cheap Trick became part of my DNA, as a music journalist and fantasy fan. Before I ever owned Black Sabbath's Mob Rules album, I associated the song with Heavy Metal, the magazine and film. There are certain bands, of the past and even today (such as Baroness and The Sword) that I simply must have spinning while reading Heavy Metal magazine. They fit like a, well...you know.
With older eyes and a tighter control over my sexual urges, I get tons more out of these wonderful sci-fi yarns, even when going back and reading the now-outdated 15 Years of Heavy Metal compendium. When I read Den, Sunpot and Valentina today, I feel my teeth grit giddily. This was my higher school of learning and as one of the children of the future (to pull from Eleuteri Serpieri), I am blessed more than the average of my fellow Gen Xers.