Pros: broad focus on women's voices and issues; shows actual penetration
Cons: sometimes gross and tasteless, might sick some women out
(Note: this review contains no warnings about content on the grounds that I'm not here to parent your children, and moreover, they already know all this stuff anyway from watching HBO. Furthermore, I think content warnings are stupid and insulting to the intelligence. And on top of that, if you're so hung up about this sort of thing, what are you doing reading reviews of Hustler anyway, you prevert?)
I feel better.
I think it's time for a fresh take on certain popular magazines. For example, Cosmopolitan is manifestly not a women's magazine: it is a men's magazine. All the articles seem to focus on men and men's opinions and needs: "Seventy-three (count 'em!) deliciously kinky secret Aboriginal sexual tricks that will leave him panting like a Labrador Retriever in Nouakchott!" "What he REALLY means when he says he needs to fart!" "How YOU can become the object of his cloying, cloddish affection--even if he just bought a new fishing rod!" "Do you have a cliitoris? How to help him find it... and teach the clown to stop cranking on it so hard!" "Take our new survey, and find out why your self-esteem shows up on your sewage bill! (It's HIS fault!)" "Why he's afraid to ask his doctor about Viagra... strange though it may sound! Our findings will stun you!"
And just as Cosmo is focused heavily upon males--being attractive to them, manipulating them, comprehending them, getting loot out of them, and teaching them how to get your rocks off ("hint: he's a cretin!")--my take on Hustler is that it is a women's magazine. It focuses almost exclusively on women. There's hardly a picture of a man to be found. Mentions of women's body parts are everywhere. Therefore, I present to you my review of this classic women's publication, and encourage you to keep an open mind.
The reference issue in this case is the April 2002 magazine. But before I start, I want to comment upon the stupid hypocrisy of Epinions' language filter. How the hell do you expect me to accurately portray Hustler without using a remotely risqué term? I'll defeat the filter, of course, thus calling more attention to it, but here we are at the nadir of its silliness.
Cost: Hustler cost me $8.00 at the newsstand. The subscription card enclosed tells me that I can begin taking the magazine for only $39.95 per year. A small price for today's woman to pay to keep abreast of current events that could affect her world! The card notes that all magazines are shipped in sealed, unmarked polybags, which will help you to keep your husband's 'dick-beaters', as my beautiful bride refers to them, off your magazine.
Cover: clear proof of feminine focus. A photo of a young woman with her breasts concealed behind her hair and her pubic region hidden behind a skateboard. She looks as though she isn't very intelligent. Here are some of the cover stories, all of which are clearly of vital interest to women:
DEAD HEAT--digging up the truth about necrophilia. (Do you want to worry about your naked corpse being violated by your funeral director someday?)
HIGH-TECH SEX DOLLS--will they make women obsolete?
So you want to DATE A STRIPPER--how to land one & when to run! (Of obvious interest to all 'sex workers', who are clearly at risk of being used by clients with a fear of commitment.)
PLUS--12 hard-line video reviews, twisted reader confessions, and lust-life advice from Jeanna Fine! (See? A woman's perspective!)
Advertising: much of Hustler actually focuses on career opportunities for women in the area of adult entertainment catering to pedophiles. I say this because there's a great deal of 'Live one on one schoolgirls, only $0.95 per minute... school's out, and I'm ready to come!' The photo is usually of a female lacking in pubic hair (let's hope it was shaven and that she doesn't suffer from alopecia) and with a generally immature appearance. However, most of these ads take pains to point out that 'all girls are at least 18 years of age'. A 1-800 number is included. The perfect job opportunity for SAHMs and single moms hoping to pick up a little extra evening cash.
I did some counting. There are 168 pages in this issue, not counting the centerfold's extra flap but including the covers. 53 are entirely covered in ads for phone sex with varying types of partners, including males who otherwise appear female if it weren't for the penis hanging down. That's almost a third. So a third of the magazine is pure advertising.
Table of Contents: easy to follow, and divided up into pictorials ("Girls Spread"), 'Monthly Features' (clearly a reference to women's periods), and 'The Issue's Standards' (feedback, opinions, ratings, columns). On the ToC page alone I count sketches or photos of no fewer than ten women (if you count the dead one with the abdominal stitching and the silicone doll) as compared to five men (counting a drawing of a male beaver on the toilet, and a picture of Osama bin Laden).
Bits & Pieces: a section including the award of the title 'A-s-shole of the Month' to Lynne Cheney, whose face is pictured as the rear end of a not-too-bright-looking donkey. There's a now-dated section on the 2002 Terrorist Olympics, a 'Most Tasteless Cartoon' depicting a Taliban member in a cave sexually assaulting a woman, an Osama bin Laden tampon, and 'Porn from the Past' showing a nun sucking a guy off. Clearly at least equal representation for issues specific to women, such as menstruation, sexual submissiveness and violence against women.
A humourous set of 'Celebrity Courage Awards' rounds out this section, along with a short critique of the IRS using sex to depict the hosing we get from said agency: a man in a suit with briefcase, sexually penetrating a SAHM (as determined by the curlers in her hair and the harried look in her eyes) in the rear entry position. One thing that has definitely changed about Hustler: it's gone hardcore. The surf and the turf are depicted in full penetration. This definitely isn't your Uncle Vern's Hustler. I see this as better meeting women's sexual needs, on the grounds that in past pictorials, the sexual activity never actually seemed to occur. Now, here in Hustler, women can truly be 'fun, fearless and female' from a sexual standpoint. Gone is the silly Puritan perception of the woman as somehow immune to the need to get laid.
Feedback: three pages of letters, mostly from men, complaining about aspects of the content. The fact that no women are writing in to complain is highly significant: obviously they have no complaints, and it is meeting their needs.
Humour: Hustler has lots of this. Samples include a depiction of sex between two elderly people (the woman's gravity-afflicted body proudly on display) and a two-page foldout suggesting that Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Gary Condit, O.J. Simpson and several others should have been in the WTC on 9/11/2001. While I think their proposal is a bit extreme, I do have to note that a good number of those depicted have records of being hostile toward women's issues in some way (murdering them, for example, or encouraging them to remain barefoot and pregnant).
A 'Hustler Humor' section brings to mind the topical humour sections in Reader's Digest, only with a less stiffnecked bent: "How do you spot an Amish redneck? There's a dead horse on cement blocks in his front yard."
Pictorials: one clearly explores women's fetishism in a bold way by depicting a young woman voiding her bladder behind a dumpster. She proceeds to engage in several sex acts with a crew-cutted young man. In the final picture, in which he has apparently ejaculated on her face, one can see where this pictorial is aimed: at helping women learn new postures for oral sex. This makes sense, as I'm told that it can be uncomfortable for women until they acquire the technique.
Another depicts 'Wood Nymph Abigail', a cookie-cutter blonde who clearly feels liberated about her body. In the third, 'Anita & Anita' engage in lesbian relations without managing to smile even once. 'Monique' skinny-dips--again, breaking traditional taboos for women. It is also worth noting that Monique's genitalia are quite prominent (and prominently displayed), which touches on another key issue for women: genital acceptance. Many women think their vaginas are somehow weird, ugly, or otherwise not delightful; Eve Ensler has become somewhat famous simply by being willing to discuss them. It's nice to see Hustler offering women some affirming, candid reasons to realize that their genitals come in many different shapes and sizes, and that this diversity is to be valued.
'Anne', from the Czech Republic, is shown in light bondage with a caption that explains why she finds it liberating to be tied up. She is the centerfold in this issue, and like 'Monique', this photo set should go far to help improve the self-images of women who have unconventional-looking vaginae (pronounced 'WAG-uh-nye, obviously, never 'vadge-EYE-nee', for those of you lacking in classical education).
'Nikita & Reno' engage in conventionally graphic lovemaking and here, again, Hustler deserves credit for using its pictorials to help women better accept their own bodies. 'Nikita' has a small and slightly droopy bosom, nothing like the silicon sisters you find in other magazines less resonant to women such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. She is wide-hipped and her hair is messy, for example, and looks to be perhaps thirty.
'Shaundra' demonstrates several angles at which a woman can use a dilldo to stimulate herself. This could be of value to women who have habitually just lain there on their backs and poked that sucker up there in the same fashion every time without ever getting creative.
Hot Letters: here, spread over three pages, are two short stories called 'Bukkake My Wife' and 'Tater Twaats', qualifying as women's erotica just by the titles. In the first, a prim young dope-smoking matron explores her interracial, extramarital fantasies. The second tells the highly arousing story of a young woman getting it on with another woman in the women's can of a bar using a baked potato. Hustler is never afraid to explore same-sex love between women, making it a great publication for lesbians and bisexual women as well as the straight mainstream.
Erotic Entertainment: a movie review section evaluating about ten classics of erotic film with names like The Sopornos and Kung-Fu Girls. Hustler has long been known for its hard-hitting movie reviews and its willingness to brutally downrate any movie it considers lousy. This is a good deal for women who may feel inhibited about browsing the movie section of their local pornateria; by helping them to make Better Buying Decisions, this magazine enables women to get in, porn up and get out with minimal likelihood of having their car spotted in the parking lot by their friends in the Relief Society, Ladies' Aid, Soroptomists or such.
Features: 'Guys and Silicone Dolls' raises the issue of how some heterosexual men are beginning to prefer rubber dolls to real women for sexual gratification. A strong piece on what it means to be a woman: for some men, obviously, a woman's primary function is to give them sexual stimulation, and apparently the manufacturers are making the dolls more lifelike and sophisticated every day. Alternatively, this article could appeal to women who collect dolls and are sick of buying yet another plastic Geppeddo photocopy of Jon-Benet Ramsey.
'Dead Lays' reveals, to my shock and probably to many women's mortification (or, perhaps, relief), that many states have no laws against necrophilia. Most others have weak laws only. Did you know that only in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Rhode Island, Ioway and Arizona is it actually unlawful to have sex with the deceased? Much of the article looks at the matter from the perspective of two women, Karen Greenlee and Leilah Wendell, who consider their fetish misunderstood.
'Save the Lap Dance For Me' discusses the fact that many erotic entertainers are in fact pretty dysfunctional when it comes to relationships, often the result of molestation or other sexual abuse at a young age. It touches upon the lies, the drugs, the infidelities, and the diseases issues that pervade the lives of strippers, and how those sordid-1 details affect their romances (such as they are). A strong case is made that being a 'sex worker' screws up women's lives. Based on most of those I've met, I can't disagree.
Beaver Hunt: it wouldn't be Hustler without offering average, everyday women of varying ages the opportunity for a little bit of exhibitionism. Other than that the vast majority of the women depicted seem to depilate their vulvae, they look like Real Females, no airbrushing here, and they all seem to be having fun. Considering the historic double standards applied to women in terms of 'indecent exposure', in which a woman can (for example) be arrested for feeding her baby as she was designed to do while topless males walk by with impunity, it's my opinion that anything that encourages women to defy the oppressors and break the manacles that are the 'indecent exposure' laws is a positive and highly feminist step.
Overall: it's clear to me that Hustler has gotten a bum rap. This despite the fact that it provides a new and frank perspective on many issues important to a broad spectrum of women. It's also a provocative read for men, but it seems no accident that a respectable percentage of the credited staff is female, including two of six senior executives and the entire network systems and production staffs. I highly recommend Hustler as a welcome change from the dull, airbrushed, namby-pamby "women's" magazines. In fact, gentlemen, you might consider it as a birthday gift for the lady in your life. If she questions you on it, show her this review and tell you I said it was ok.