So old man Tommy upstairs finally died a few months ago and, as he had no family left except an equally ancient and doubtlessly equally arthritic brother in Japan, my dick landlord hired a company to clean out his apartment. His whole life went into a dumpster. I could write a whole essay cycle on just that, but I won’t now. Anyhow I got to go in his thoroughly pre-internet, archival apartment and tried to get whatever I could that caught my eye.
He had a voluminous shelf of Chinese and Japanese cookbooks, tons of 1980s-1990s TIME-type jingoistic/uncritical photographic folios that we all pored over as kids looking for answers that weren’t there, ring binders full of local history and newspaper clippings (a post on that coming soon), city and county pamphlets on health and aging and disaster preparedness and shit, and sundry stuff such as what you see below.
Above is the cover of Sense Magazine. This wasn’t the metrosexual men’s Cosmopolitan of the current decade, but “the portable marriage counselor,” a “sociological” publication by Academy Press of San Diego, volume 1 issue 2, from January 1971. I’m not sure how much WordPress cares about nudity and stuff so I might not scan in pages. In any case, it’s basically a hardcore full-penetration etc. skinmag BUT with clinical explanations for everything –you can practically hear the voice of Art Gilmore reading it –adjacent to the photos, and you had to really want it, because in 1971 it cost $5 when for that you could see Zeppelin and remain to learn firsthand about fellatio, cunnilingus, fetishes, orgasm, lesbianism and male homosexuality.
Without scanning photos, we can say that the fun part is not the repetition of sex photos but the weird Marin County tone of self-whatever and openness (the woman’s biting her nipple with a fucking fake skull and what’s more that NEVER gets explained) that pervades the magazine. It swings between matter-of-fact, which is good, and a certain uncomfortable distance; you know, that avuncular voice from the mid-20th century of a middle-aged guy hired to sound smart about this shit who privately wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
There is ample mention of totally hipster-level trends of the time such as “What is the ampallang?” and “Are these really adequate substitutes for the male penis?” It quotes experts as much as possible, such as obviously Kinsey as well as Sexual Actions and Reactions by Burch Robbins.
What’s more, a certain photo of two women using a vibrator shows a huge battery pack on the back of the thing obscuring the one woman’s privates, like you’d see today on an orbital sander, and the metal label is hard to read but I thought it said Sylvania or Swingline. What logo is that??? At least I found out in the research for this little blog post that there is a vintage vibrator museum on Polk in SF that I’ve shamefully never visited. I’ll get my life in order in 2017 yet!
The only really heavy part is the series of fuck photos dedicated to incest, which are of course staged, accompanying the straight-faced explanation of that phenomenon. However there are awesome payoffs, such as the headings “Isn’t the Bible full of incest?” and “And what about incest among the Borgias?” If this is a question that anyone on the street would’ve asked on the topic of incest in 1971, that is proof that our current education system is catastrophically off-track.
Oddly enough, we can’t find a dang thing about this magazine on the internet. It appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth, not that this is surprising. All we can hope is that couples looked at the pictures to get in the mood to do it, and that the shameless swingers who must’ve started this silly magazine helped prevent some people from getting divorced or whatever, though it’s more likely that they used it to attract people who were into throwing power-orgies of epic proportion.
If anyone wants this magazine, please comment and I’ll gladly mail it as I’ve already read it for its historical import and am over it. If you want it and you are Thomas Pynchon, you can count on my discretion.