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U.S. Sex Magazines

"The recent history of pornography in the United States is a history of its magazines," writes Bernard Arcand in The Jaguar and the Anteater. Mens magazines attract the most attention and it is often around them that debates about the nature of obscenity revolve. 

"Magazines are the Canaries in the mineshaft that test the state of censorship by following the evolution of the contents of the three or four principal American magazines [Playboy, Penthouse, High Society and Hustler]. Their importance also stems from that it is only the major magazines, Playboy in particular, that have attained a level of respectability that allows them to introduce pornography into the ordinary life of middle America, while the rest of the pornography industry, despite the success of two or three genre films in the early 1970s, has always been and remains the unrecognized interest of a public that keeps it private and discrete. Through monthly print-runs of four to five million copies, Playboy and Penthouse have acquired the power to represent the standard of what is current and admissible. These magazines have therefore played, sometimes consciously, the role of spokesperson in the struggle against censorship, which explains why critics of pornography choose them as targets, even if, in their own eyes, there are much more offensive examples." 

The United States publishes about 50,000 different 'porn' magazines. "As with other special-interest magazines, porno mags confine themselves more and more to illustrations of sexual orientations and preferences as narrow as they are exclusive. And finally, to the hundreds of magazines that appear each month must be added the hundreds of other tabloids printed locally which serve regional markets with information about prostitution, escort services, massage parlors, and so on." (Jaguar, p. 39) 

Strictly speaking, American sex magazines sold in newsstands are not porn in the sense that this book usually uses that word, as they almost never show penetration. Hustler, Penthouse and Playboy are softcore. Europe's leading sex periodicals such as Private, by contrast, explicitly show penetration and cum shots. 

As the number of persons watching sexually explicit films increased through the 1970s, a specialized media developed to cover the industry. Within a decade, the sex flick and the sex mag industry virtually merged, with common use of the same talent. An attractive woman featured in a mens' magazine is soon approached to do a video. And covering porn fills increasing space in the sex magazines. Many rely for their photo spreads on free stills of coming flicks. 

Some periodicals like Playboy, Penthouse and Screw release their own sexvids. 

The sex magazine with the highest circulation, Playboy, is the least sexual with voluminous space devoted to non-sexual topics and a smaller proportion of nudie photos to copy. A total sex publication contains no non-sexual advertising while Playboy by comparison has far more non-sexual advertising than sexual. 

Playboy still attracts the most famous women to uncover for it, but along with Penthouse, its dominance in beautiful women compared to what other sex mags boast has almost disappeared. Proportionately more beautiful women are willing to disrobe today than ever before. 

Playboy's circulation is half what it was in the '70s and its format remains unchanged since then. Hugh Hefner still edits the most profitable part of the declining Playboy empire. His daughter Christie runs Playboy Enterprises. The corporation has never realized its dream of becoming the Disney of Sex. 

Playboy and Penthouse devote limited coverage to adult films. Penthouse, the more explicit of the two, runs a page or two of reviews most issues by Screw Editor Al Goldstein. 

A year after Deep Throat, Penthouse went pink by becoming the first major men's magazine to reveal female genitalia. Playboy followed, then reversed itself in 1977 because Hefner thought such exposure unromantic. 

Hefner's private tastes are far raunchier than his magazine. He owns a large collections of porn films and perhaps the world's largest collection of bestiality flicks. Linda Lovelace describes Hugh's fascination with human-animal sex in her book Ordeal. The star of Deepthroat frequently performed sex with animals such as dogs for the edification of Hefner and company. 

"Playboy dehumanizes women to the plastic," says Penthouse photographer Earl Miller. "They just don't look real or portray personality. Hustler dehumanizes women to the brutal. Penthouse, at its best, celebrates sexuality. It's a joyous thing. It's not a nasty, dirty thing. And I always wanted to be part of the joy, not part of the guilt." 

In contrast to Hefner's public life, Penthouse Publisher Bob Guccione, 70, lives quietly though luxuriously with his third wife, Kathy Keeton, 57. She's fighting breast cancer. The former nightclub dancer runs the Penthouse media empire - the privately held General Media International Inc.. 

Since he founded Penthouse in 1965, Bob Guccionie has become one of America's richest men. 

While working as a journalist in England, Bob decided to do a version of Playboy for the British with raunchier material. His women weren't Bunnies, they were Pets. 

Four years after launching Penthouse in England, Guccionie moved to New York to challenge Playboy on its home turf. "Stunned Playboy executives opened up their morning paper to see an ad showing the familiar Playboy rabbit in the center of a gunsight, above this headline: "We're Going Rabbit Hunting." (W.S.J. 3/22/96) 

By showing pubic hair and couples, Penthouse circulation shot to its high of 4.7 million in 1979. While its total circulation never past Playboy, it got close while earning about $20-million a year in net income. 

"While his archrival Mr. Hefner courted publicity with wild parties populated by buxom playmates, Mr. Guccionie remained shy and almost reclusive, living and working out of his apartment. He awoke at noon and worked well past midnight, rarely taking in Manhattan nightlife. He didn't smoke and rarely drank. He obsessed over every detail of Penthouse, laying out the pages, choosing the models an snapping the photos of the Penthouse Pet of the Year himself." (W.S.J. 3/22/96) 

In 1986, the Meese Commission damned pornography prompting thousands of convenience stores to pull Penthouse from its shelves. U.S. circulation plunged 25% to 2.4 million. Playboy suffered a smaller decline because it relies less on newsstand sales. Also, its softer image makes it more palatable to advertisers. 

To get Penthouse back on the newsstand, Guccionie in 1992 took women off the cover and replaced them with macho men such as boxer George Foreman and actor Claude Van Damme. But the circulation slide continued and within a year women returned to the Penthouse cover. 

It's circulation is now one million. 

Guccione began painting again during the 1990s. He had an opening of his work in late 1997 at the Las Vegas Art Museum. 

Earl Miller is the most published photographer in Penthouse history. The former actor got a hefty tax refund in 1968 and bought a camera. Two years later he picked up an early issue of Penthouse. In 1972 he met Guccione and his career took off. 

"I don't think of it as tits and ass," Miller told the Spring 1998 edition of Exotic Dancer Bulletin. "It's the feminine mystique. Women have a special magic quality that is a never-ending source of inspiration. 

"I really do love women. There are a lot of people who don't who shoot them and are rude to them. You can see it in their work. They present women in a brutish way. I just don't see women that way. What stimulates me is to try to deal with their vulnerability and their sensitivity, not just exposing themselves, showing their pussies. I love pussy shots. I think a woman's vagina is one of the great places of the world. It's the birth canal. It's the way we create life. 

"I'm constantly searching. The minute I see a girl that's photogenic I know it. It all starts with the face… It's through her face that all her feelings get expressed. 

"Every time I shoot a girl, I try to discover the girl through the process of photography. There's no technique to that except you have to know how to listen, and you really have to know how to feel people so that whatever is being communicated, whether it's verbal or non-verbal, that you're receiving it. If you do that, then you inevitably portray each woman as a very specific individual." (Exotic Dancer Bulletin, Spring, 1998) 

Following the lead of Hustler, Penthouse began publishing explicit pictures of sexual penetration in 1997. In the 7/98 issue, regular columnist Alan Dershowitz wrote: 

Though Oklahoma law defines obscenity to include "sexual penetration," the Supreme Court of the United States requires that for material to be considered obscene it must - viewed as "as a whole" - be "patently offensive," appeal to "prurient interests," and lack "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values." 

Penthouse is a serious publication that has contributed important literary, political, and scientific material to the marketplace of ideas. It has helped to change attitudes on a number of important issues, many of them not related to sex... 

… There is no scientific evidence that the degree of explicitness of a photograph - whether it merely suggests or actually shows "penetration" - has any bearing on the alleged "evils" of obscenity. Even the Reagen-era Edwin Meese anti-pornography commission acknolwedged that there was no evidence to support the view that the promotion of sexist attitudes "varies with the extent of sexual explicitness…" 

..Penthouse's decision to publish more-explicit photographs of couples having sex is a political decision. It is a form of visual protest against longstanding artificial tabooos on publishing such photographs - just as convention earlier tabooed photographs of full-frontal nudity, before Penthouse broke that absurd convention. Complaining about Penthouse's decision to publish these photographs of sexual intercourse is to express hatred of the politics and protests of its publisher. Were the state to try to prevent such publication, it would be censoring a substantive viewpoint, presented pictorially (as well as in written form). This would fly in the face of the First Amendment's strong prohibition against any such censorship." 

In 1976, Cheri magazine debuted, showing fingers poked inside vaginas and other raunchy material. Puritan went further, showing full penetration and cum shots, becoming the first newsstand hardcore mag. It didn't last long on the stand and now sells in adult bookstores. By toning down, Cheri remained in the public eye. 

By the mid '80s - less than ten years later - Cheri, along with other raunchy mags like Hustler and High Society, began showing increasingly erect cocks, cum shots, and hints of penetration. Before then, all male organs fit to print in newsstand mags stayed soft. 

Since the Supreme Court's 1973 Miller decision, the United States has left obscenity guidelines to local communities. Thus big cities like New York and Los Angeles tolerate raunchier porn than more conservative areas in the South. 

Theoretically, sex mags could've shown erect cocks inside gaping assholes in the 1970s but it would've provoked expensive lawsuits. Instead, sex mags slowly experimented with more explicit material. To see the difference, compare Hustler and High Society today to five, ten and fifteen years ago. 

Now some leading sex mags like Chic show explicit penetration. 

Hart Williams fell into writing for sex magazines in the late '70s. "It was not so much that I wanted to be in it, as that I didn't mind doing it. I began writing audio-cassettes (we called it XXX radio) and wrote about 50 at 15-30 pages each. I ended up at Hustler, which ended my first marriage. She didn't mind the $200 each script brought, but Hustler was too much…" 

Hart says most pornographers do not like their work. "Complaints were universal. But that's what customers wanted, so that's what we had to do. An old joke asks: "Is sex dirty? Only if you do it right." America has this assumption that sex must be dirty to be good. I don't feel that way. Not many did. It is the very act of 'illegitimacy' that creates the industry. If sex were viewed as natural and normal, porn would not be profitable. Indeed, the profitability of the industry declines in direction proportion to its legality. Europe found this out. Porn reflects the Collective Obnoxious. The same prophets who decry porn create its 'dark' appeal. 

"I remained in the industry because I was fascinated from a young age by how 'sex' drove people insane. They screamed if you talked about it, they decried it, and, at the same time, they destroyed their homes and families trying to get more of it. They withheld it, they gave it, they spent all their time obsessed with it, but living an equal and opposite anger at it. So, I thought, "here's an unparalleled opportunity to see what all the fuss is about, and go where everyone secretly dreams of exploring: sexual nirvana." Boy! What a letdown! 

"Actresses are usually from California and are rebelling against their background. They have a "bad boy" boyfriend. They desperately need money. They are in the business for an average of one month and are gone. Most actresses are Roman Catholic school girls and most of the actors were Jewish. 

"The average starlet was a high school dropout [like Sindee Coxx, Brandy Alexandre], or just barely made it. An inordinate number drove Chevrolets. The industry learned to pander to their fantasies by making them into "stars" for awards shows and conventions. The average starlet has a strange boyfriend - one who gets off in some way, on watching her screw other men. Few boyfriends make the transition. Few starlets come into the business alone, or, if in, remain alone for long." 

Hardcore magazines sold in sex shops rather than newsstands have shown penetration and cum shots for decades. While mainstream porn movies increasingly censor themselves to avoid getting sued in some hick town like Buttfuck, Georgia, newsstand sex magazines grow wilder. Overall, however, circulation and dollar figures show mags losing big to vids. Moving pictures get men off better than still pictures, just as pictures get men off better than words. 

There's only one sex magazine for women, Playgirl, and mainly gay men buy it. 

Adult Video News (AVN) and I rate High Society as the best sex mag. It gives more bang for the buck by showing more erotic photos of more beautiful and famous women along with more horny copy than its competition. 

Hustler is the most respected reviewing source in the business next to Screw. Alan MacDonnel, born around 1946, edits Hustler. For years he wrote scathing reviews under the pseudonym Christian Shapiro, particularly irritating Vivid Director Paul Thomas. 

Alan is single, once-married and another well-placed member of the porn media, like Michael L. Albo the Editor of Hustler Erotic Video Guide, Morgan Hagen the Editor of Busty, Tim Connelly and Jared Rutter, the Editors of Adam Film World, and writer David Aaron Clarke, who is friends with director Gregory Dark. These guys usually give sterling reviews and plenty of publicity to the dark pornographer. 

"People who had a very religious background or had some inappropriate sexual thing happen to them when they were young, frequently hate porn," says MacDonell. "These people do not like sexual entertainment. They do not see sexual and entertainment belonging in the same sentence. They have a reaction to it that they cannot control. It's not a mental reaction nor a reasoned opinion, but a gut reaction. Many attitudes to pornography are based on these gut reactions. They're not rational. 

"[At Hustler] We try to put together an interesting and funny magazine. We have a lot of serious stuff that's not about porn. We try to get people thinking for themselves. We try not to insult the intelligence of the reader by rehashing the accepted public relations of the business. Many magazines are just PR releases slapped together." 

Alan reads many magazines, particularly enjoying Harpers and Hot Video, a French porn mag. Though Alan can't read French, he enjoys looking at the pictures. 

"One of my favorite mags ever was the mid '70s National Lampoon. The writing quality was consistently high. We strive for that kind of quality. 

"I'd like to get more pages in to Hustler to make it a bigger magazine. Our main challenge is to maintain our standard. 

"All the urinating, defecating jokes are just basic humor. They are the first jokes many of us learn. Cavemen probably made jokes about that stuff. 

"Hustler is getting more hardcore with the photo sex. No one is sure what you can do because there are no laws about it. You put it on the market and see what happens. We feature cum shots every issue. Other magazines like Penthouse are also heating up." 

"If a chick's picture is the primary visual of a porn-tape box, or if her name is emblazoned across it, most dicks in the market expect her to get royally and variously fucked on the film, by the more dudes the better," points out Allen, in his pose as Christian Shapiro. "Her allure is being used to sell the product. Yet, more and more these days, richly-paid stabled smut holes are appearing in flick after flick and taking either no dick at all or only the choad of a boyfriend or husband. In Pussyman 3, Julia Ann pretends to be a porn princess. Don't believe it." 

Chilly Maricone is an imaginary smut scribe in Christian's article. "Some of the ladies of the adult industry are more empowered than others. It's a question of self-esteem. If an actress doesn't care about herself, she'll perform with any old wart-dick tramp the producers throw at her. As these women mature into a healthy sense of themselves, they become more selective, eventually confining themselves to doing only girl-girl scenes. Some of the better positioned females are awarded the privilege of picking their male partner and allowing only the member of their husband or significant other access to their nectar pits. These women have a more refined set of values." 

Don't tell Bill Harris about values, says Christian. Before Bill got laid off, he used to work hard for his money, and he doesn't have much left. He'd like to think he knows value when he sees it, but he keeps feeling he's paid too much for what he gets. 

Harris: "Porn movies should be the top buy for any entertainment dollar, but many times they are not. If I don't see penises - emphasis on plural - penetrating every pussy, then I feel like I haven't got my money's worth." 

The manager of Vapid Valley Video where Bill rents his tapes, is Hirsooth Agleetian. He says Bill's problem is that "he is a sucker. 

"This Harris, I can see him come in. He can look no real woman in the eye. This is his dilemma. Real women he knows nothing about. All he knows is porn women, and he only knows shit about them. He thinks he knows, but he makes it all up. The whole porn business is a fantasy and Harris thinks his fantasy is reality. He wants to think these porn star women are making these fuck movies so losers like Harris will be happy. That's not their motive. They couldn't give a shit about losers like Harris, and they don't have fun making the movies. If they enjoyed it, how come most of them quit before they do it a year? All these women care about is money. The less they do to get the money, the better they feel about it." 

Christian Shapiro loves porn, and not just because it pays for "my Italian loafers, my exotic muscle car and my tastefully appointed, Beverly Hills adjacent swing bachelor pad. Some professionals, their values inverted by a deluge of dollars, grow contemptuous of their given field. Not me. I'd be watching splooge TV even without the big bucks tossed my way. Women adore me - they're all over me - but I'd rather get it on tape." 

Christian says that several million hand-humping men feel as he does. "We are the future! A brave army of one-armed zealots, boldly beating to the cadence of our own internal psychosexual drummers. We salute and annoint the times which are to come and which most assuredly are a-changing. 

"Real life is much more intimidating. Any equation that includes one's fellow human beings is ultimately unsolvable... But with porn, one can arrive at Destination Spurt refreshed and alert and free from the sort of entanglements that accompany any activity involving more than one individual. 

"Legend and fable tell us of women who are so sexually powerful that they could make dead men cum. With immortal preservation now afforded by video porn, the inverse is true: Dead women can make living men cum. Have you jerked off to a Savannah tape lately?" (Hustler Erotic Video Guide) 

Women's magazines like Mademoiselle, Glamour and Cosmopolitan feature occasional articles on X-rated movies and their effects on relationships. 

In May 1995's Mademoiselle, a young lady recounts the time her relationship with her boyfriend encountered a dramatic difference between them. 

"He put one of those videos into the VCR. He said it was a homemade tape, not a professional one. That made me feel more at ease. I figured it wouldn't be something hardcore. I was expecting some new positions, a vibrator, maybe some baby oil. I was getting really interested and curious. I had slept with only two guys before Larry, and they were strictly conventional. 

"Well, I have never seen anything so repulsive in all my life. I was completely grossed out by the video. There were three guys and one woman. First, the guys were having oral sex with each other, and they were masturbating near her face. When they came - well, you get the picture." 

Scott Mallory recalls: 

She and I were talking about pornography. 

"What's the first thing that comes to mind when I tell you I want to watch a fuck film?" I asked. 

"I would hope that you would have more interesting things to do with your time," she said. 

"But, baby, it's just such a spectacle to see a woman penetrated by giant cocks in all her holes. That's a sight you can't find anywhere else." 

"I'm curious about the pathology of having every orifice of your body filled," she said. "I don't understand that." 

"It feels good," I said. "That's the pathology. Except a lot of times, the girl gets a couple of hundred dollars to do it." 

"To be honest with you, I don't think anal sex feels all that fucking great. It also brings up questions about your sexual-gender preference." 

"It does?" I said. "You mean that me wanting to fuck you in the butt means that I may want to fuck boys in the butt?" 

"Possibly," she said. 

"I think it's just putting my dick wherever the woman's body can accommodate it. Philosophically, it's not that deep of a concept. It's ownership, baby. Dick as a weapon; get the dick in every part of the woman's body." 

The porn industry has tried for over twenty years to attract female customers without much success. The first big venture was Playboy's launching of Playgirl, which remains the only sex mag for women. Those women who enjoy looking at naked bodies seem to prefer looking at naked female bodies than naked male bodies. Female bodies are more interesting, with more curves, variety and mystery. 

Magazines like Playboy and Penthouse provide an excellent guide to what female body types attract men. While magazines for women such as Vogue, Seventeen (Calvin Klein ads) and other fashion magazines seem obsessed with skinny women, the pictures that men buy to fantasize over portray voluptuous women. 

Jewish theologian Dennis Prager advocates showing a copy of Playboy to a woman obsessed with being skinny. "This is what attracts men. Not the boyish girls in Calvin Klein ads." 

To attract female customers, porn theaters tried cleaning up their act. "Pornography" became passe and "erotica" in. According to Ron Sullivan in the late 1970s, the key to bringing in women was "running erotic films in clean well-lighted theaters complete with soft drinks and popcorn." It didn't work. 

Cable TV became the most successful way for the porn industry to reach females but they had to cut out penetration and cum shots, and add stories. Women prefer developed characters who have sex for emotional reasons. 

"The biggest complaint we get about our adult films is from women, who say they're not female-oriented enough," said Andrew Wald, the senior vice president for programming at ON-TV. "They don't want pornography; they want sensuality and eroticism, films where something is left to the imagination. There's a major shortage of product now [1981] which fits that mold. But the home audience - men and women - are going to demand much higher quality entertainment than has typically been available in an X-rated film." 

Actor Richard Pachecco told Playgirl how pornographers tried to attract women. "Instead of seven out of seven sex scenes being brutal and exploitative, only one will be. The sex is more real. You'll still see arbitrary fucking scenes - it's a shotgun blast meant to attract everyone. 

"As more people [i.e. women] watch these films at home, they'll get better. The bedroom is the environment in which adult films will become adult, instead of portraying male sexuality arrested at the age of 13." 

The porno presses also seek female customers. Chic resembles Cosmopolitan in content but with explicit pictures. Penthouse publishes Forum which includes articles oriented towards women. Unlike skin mags, Forum doesn't include nude pinups of women but rather matches stories with softer illustrations. 

While Forum includes nonfiction articles on sexually related topics, Penthouse also offers its reader a more lurid magazine called Variations. Devoted almost exclusively to first-person narratives describing almost every sexual experience imaginable, Variations editor, V.K. McCarty, who is referred to in the industry as "the grandmother of kinky sex," insists that all the letters are genuine. 

Unlike the more discreet Forum, Variations offers photographs of men and women in all sorts of strenuous poses, but McCarty believes the magazines is something "any American housewife would find palatable." As women began to show up in their rising circulation figures, the business department told editorial "to soften the graphicness of the sexuality." McCarty took "bare nipples off the cover," and dropped "incest and bestiality" from the magazine's menu of sexual dishes. 

S-M was one form of sex that Variations didn't have to drop to broaden its circulation. The editor was a notorious "dominatrice," a female expert in sexual dominance, who told all in a 1982 article in Penthouse called "S&M for Beginners." A year earlier Variations devoted an issue to bondage, female domination, female submission, humiliation, the gay leather scene, branding and more. It contained everything anyone wanted to know about S&M, supposedly from the mouths of typical married women. (Re-Making Love p.116-117) 

The mainstream media usually portray porn negatively for most coverage only occurs when there's a scandal like a Savannah suicide. Newspaper and magazine editors, particularly feminists, shy away from portrayals of sex as sport or entertainment. 

Los Angels Times media critic David Shaw backs up that point in his book The Pleasure Police. "Newspapers and magazines - the New York Times Magazine in particular - routinely publish photographs that depict scantily clad women, women whose heaving bosoms are fairly bursting out of their bras, women who sometimes appear sexually aroused. But those photos only appear in advertisements. Never mind Mapplethorpe; neither the New York Times nor any other mainstream newspaper would consider publishing these lingerie photographs in their news columns, not even to illustrate a story in which the woman's attire is absolutely critical to the story. The (immoral) moral: using sex to make money is okay; using sex to tell a story is not." 

Magazines like Esquire avoid coverage of porn for fear offending advertisers such as car companies. 

Books on porn by mainstream publishers are rare, unless the books are so academic that few will understand them. 

Pat Riley used Dr. Linda Williams' Hardcore "to combat insomnia. Impenetrable prose, references galore to her mates in academia - there's really only one sociologist here doing any work out there, the rest are just quoting each other - and lack of a clear direction put this in the top ten of the most boring books to have even the slightest connection to the porno industry. 

"With Hardcore, you know you're in trouble by page three when she starts quoting Foucault with the phrase "Foucault reminds us..." as though he were the great god from whose lips all wisdom falls. You don't know who Foucault was? He was the father of deconstructionism, a method of generating psychobabble that is much revered by academia. But he's not quite so revered by the homosexual intelligentsia (although they don't talk about it) because, when he found out he was HIV positive, he hopped on a plane to San Francisco (he was French) to make a tour of the bathhouses and thereby infect others. Totally unrepentant, he justifies it in his diaries with more of the usual psychobabble."


The Internet has sounded the death knell for 'skin' mags. With falling circulations, reports MARY K FEENEY, the likes of Penthouse, Hustler and Playboy now seem like quaint indulgences of a bygone era.

The adult-entertainment industry is estimated to bring in US$8 billion (S$14 billion) to US$10 billion a year - with Internet sites contributing US$2 billion. But the fortunes of adult magazines are falling. Penthouse, for example, fell from a total paid circulation of 1.1 million in June 1996 to 851,000 last June (down from a high of 4.7 million in 1979). Playboy's circulation slipped from 3.3 million in December 1995 to 3 million last June. Single-copy sales for both publications also declined steeply in the past few years. Another sign of the times: Al Goldstein, porn pioneer and editor-publisher of Screw magazine, is considering selling his publication assets, an assistant in his New York office said. ''The idea has been tossed around,'' she said, partly because Goldstein wants to retire.

Dan Capell, editor of Capell's Circulation Report, says the decline in adult magazines began even before the Internet was born. ''I would point more to cable television than the Internet,'' he said. Also, it's tough for men's titles, with the exception of Maxim and Men's Health, to grow because it's primarily a female marketplace. ''It's tough to succeed at the news-stand,'' Capell explained. This is particularly true at a time when all magazines are facing difficult times, with news-stand sales down 30 per cent, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Increasing costs, including postage and paper, are also responsible for this trend. One gauge of the decline of so-called skin magazines is the number of new titles launched each year. Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi and the creator of www.mrmagazine.com , said they've dropped from a high of 110 new titles in 1997 to 48 in 1999. Of all the magazine-launch categories he surveys, Husni said, the sex category, although still in the top five, is the only one that's dropping. ''I think it's the one category that the Internet has affected,'' he said. ''People who are the readers of such magazines feel more secure and more at ease if they're watching their Internet screen'' than going to the store and asking for a copy of Hustler.