Author and publishing maven Dian Hanson, 60, is that rare combination – a cerebral, feminist, soft-spoken and arty pornographer. As the Sexy Book editor at hip art-house publisher Taschen, Hanson is one of few women in the world who can skillfully segue from psychology to squirters in the same sentence. She’s living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Born into an “uncool” Christian sex cult in 1950s Seattle, the shy but oversexed young Hanson rode out an awkward childhood by immersing herself in filth and Freud. After a brief stint in medicine that gave her a taste for “the giblets of it all,” she moved to New York in the early 1970s and broke into the booming hippie porn scene.
The self-styled first-wave feminist spent the next 25 years building a successful career out of giving men exactly what they wanted, cranking out a string of cult fetish magazines such as Juggs, Leg Show, Bust Out! and Tight. Brainy, ballsy and fiercely commercial, Hanson also has a good sense of humor, which is essential if you’re going to hang out with hustlers, date Robert Crumb and helm a hardcore title called Puritan.
It’s this wry, edgy intellect and eye for what sells that caught the attention of renegade publisher and longtime Leg Show fan Benedikt Taschen. In 2001 he asked Hanson to develop a Sexy Book list out of Taschen’s Los Angeles office. Never one to pass up on a golden opportunity, she agreed. After teasing us with the likes of America Swings and Tom of Finland XXL, she followed with the bawdy body part series, which channels her genius for specialization. Cue The Big Book of Breasts, The Big Book of Legs, The Big Butt Book, The Big Penis Book and last November, her irreverent homage to the vagina, The Big Book of Pussy.
She says she was a gawky little girl who “just wanted to fit in,” and yet she wound up at the top of the brash world of adult publishing. How did it happen?
Note: The lead picture of Hanson was shot by Helmut Newton