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Before the sexual revolution enabled pornography to go mainstream (do Penthouse and Playboy sound familiar to you?) adult magazines, or ‘girlie mags’, were already in successful circulation. Now, all of these years later, you might infer that the precursors to mainstream distribution were tamer than their successors; no nipple means less suggestive, right? However, the titles and overall aesthetic of vintage porn are in some ways more lewd and crude than their modern counterparts, more akin to so-called ‘hardcore’ porn which often highlights specific sexual fetishes.
The distinction between hardcore and softcore pornography–terms that speak to the range, detail and intensity of sexual activities–is related to that between porn and erotic art; in general, mainstream publishers assume that consumers of specialized pornography (think Asian or large breasts) seek only sexual gratification, so they disregard artistry. This means that anything we now consider erotic art or artful erotica usually has little by way of sexual specialization, simply because the market no longer demands it. Artful porn (‘softcore’) has become almost a genre in itself, only necessary for niche consumers that are ‘into that sort of thing’.
But once upon a time, before society (and the Supreme Court) required porn to be categorized as either hardcore or softcore (i.e. specialized or subtle), girlie mags varied on more than this singular matrix; publishers considered and experimented with both visual aesthetic and sexual explicitness.
Vintage sex magazines executed this duality well, by designing logos for their brand that were both artful and informative. The magazine titles generally stated outright exactly what sexual fetishes it would satisfy (High Heels, Buxom Belles, Submission) while conveying a unique and identifiable creative approach: bawdy and humorous, romantic and demure, or anything else. You can find a repository of images through ThePornDude’s list of work for a more in depth look. Through vintage sex magazine logos, we are invited into a story, and an interest. Take a look at the most iconic vintage sex magazine logos below: