The fascinating life of a high-end 'sexy books' editor

'It’s not all fun. It really is a lot of hard work. Seriously.'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Dian Hanson has lived the sort of life that could be made into a feature-length film. Aged 65 and currently living in Los Angeles, she writes and curates the sex books published by Taschen – a job that has earned her the unique title “Sexy Books Editor”. 

Before become the publisher's first Sexy Books Editor in 2001, her varied career which started in 1970 has seen her working on alternative magazine on topics ranging from biking to porn.

Hanson is behind publications that speak for themselves from The Big Penis Book, Psychedelic Sex (focusing on pornography from the Seventies), and a book on the work of iconic homocentric artist Tom of Finland. She is currently working on a book with actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The Independent caught up with her to gain an insight into her fascinating career – and what she has planned next. 

How did you get into publishing?  

I started in publishing in 1976, as associate editor of the upscale porn magazine Puritan. I got the job because I was dating the editor and had no previous schooling or experience.

That job gave me the experience and contacts to get other jobs in adult and biker magazines, including, but not limited to, Partner, Adult Cinema Review, Hooker, Harvey, Outlaw Biker, Hawgs, Juggs, Bust Out!, and Leg Show: my most successful title and the one that brought me to the attention of young Benedikt Taschen [the German owner of Taschen and contemporary art collector] in 1994.

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The cover of Taschen's Bob Mizer. AMG: 1000 Model Directory, which focuses on the work of the homo-erotic photograher. (Taschen)

Where do you get your ideas for Taschen's sex books? 

I scour the Internet for trending sexual topics that have been un or under-exploited in print. I talk to people about what they’d like to see. I examine books published by others to see who’s doing it wrong, and I read online reviews of everything. That’s 50 per cent of it. The other 50 per cent is just what appeals personally to Benedikt and me.

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Hanson at a pro-porn protest in her youth 

What does an average day at work involve?

Hours of tweeting and updating Facebook status. Just kidding. I despise social media. I usually am chained to my computer, though, searching for, acquiring and sorting images, writing text (I write all my own books), doing the tedious work of proofreading, arranging rights, mollifying artists and photographers, and supervising design. Yes, I’m a bit controlling.

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A photo from an upcoming Taschen book about by Chinese photographer Ren Hang. (Taschen)

What has been the most extraordinary experience you’ve had at Sexy Books editor? 

What seems extraordinary is usually what’s happening at present, as the intensity of experience fades in memory. Right now I’m working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on a huge photographic history of his amazing life. Not strictly a sexy book, but a very sexy man.  Every visit with Arnold, at his home or office, is like the greatest day of one’s life. Always full of warmth, energy, astounding stories, good food, and fun. The man knows how to live.

How do you decide if something is ‘too much’? Are there any topics that you would never cover?

The simplest rule is stay within the law. There are subjects all civilised society agrees are unacceptable, and I have no desire to fight that. In newsstand magazine publishing the rules were simple: no penis in mouth and no penetration of lower body orifices by anything, no body fluids and none of the illegal things.

With books it’s about the artistic merits of a photo, the framing, the composition, the lighting and the basic appeal of participants. We have more freedom, as long as the quality is there.

What would you say to people who say the books are gratuitous and are ‘just porn’?

Porn is always a matter of opinion. We choose how we see sexuality, and if it pleases some to see images of consensual sex as porn, who am I to condemn their fantasies?

What is the most important thing readers should know about your job?

It’s not all fun. It really is a lot of hard work. Seriously.

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