February 08 2018

Dian Hanson, "the Queen of Sex," on #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Speaking Up

Los Angeles-Stand Up

A little while back, we first spoke with Taschen’s LA-based “Sexy Book Editor” Dian Hanson about Trump’s first few months in office, reflecting on past presidents and their drastically different approaches to sexual censorship. A lot has happened since then (to say the least). We went back to the “Queen of Sex”  for another take on the sexual harassment scandals that have plagued the media circuit over the last six months. 

© Helmut Newton / Courtesy of TASCHEN

© Helmut Newton / Courtesy of TASCHEN


THE STANDARD: Since we last spoke about the president, how has censorship increased? How have views on sexuality shifted culturally?
DIAN HANSON: He hasn’t done much about censorship and sexuality, except support Roy Moore, who represents the absolute worst of the hypocritical evangelical Christian movement in America. I was so buoyed up by his defeat, and that was mostly due to the mobilization and action of black Americans. It showed me the power of the black voters in America, and that these supposedly “all red” states are only that way when the white people come out to vote.
 
As someone that has had a long career as an editor of pornographic content, what’s your experience with sexual harassment in the workplace?
Any of the glamour industries draw attractive young women, because that is their product, to men who have attained power, and partially worked to get there so they could have this access to these attractive young women.
 
When I first moved to New York City, my boyfriend pushed me toward fashion modeling. I went around asking these photographers to help me build my portfolio, and the game was to charm them because, like most young women of that era, we didn’t have the money to pay them. They needed to think there was something else to gain. I was asked to have sex with them, their friends, come to a party in the Hamptons and have sex with God knows who. It was an older photographer that really spoke honestly with me and told me that women that succeed in this business are the ones that have such a maniacal interest in it that they will do anything to get through the gauntlet. He then said if I wanted to have money and nice clothes I should just become a prostitute. “You’ll be having sex for money as opposed to having it for hopes of something in the future.” I was horrified.
 
I was fortunate to go into a porn magazine because it’s akin to prostitution. Everything is out in the open. Nobody had to manipulate. We knew what kind of content we were making.
 
“I could teach a high school class on this.”
That photographer told you to either play the game or find a new job. Harvey Weinstein’s victims said the same, that this interaction, or their lack of participation with him, is what caused their career’s demise.
And I’m sure that is correct, especially when you look at what he has routinely done to the careers of men. He is known to have crushed their careers, physically and verbally abused them. He is a monster to everyone, male or female.
 
Asia Argento, 21 years old, gives him the massage, and then he wants to perform oral sex on her. She was terrified. I can imagine. She repeatedly asked him to stop. He didn’t. They stayed in touch after that and became friends. He introduced her to his mother. He paid for her nanny. They had consensual sexual relations for five years. She says that just the sight of him brings her back to being the little girl she was when she was 21. She feels stupid and weak.
 
There is so much valuable information there. Women at that age of 21 struggle with saying no. They don’t know how to control men. They don’t know how to deal with men. I myself was 21 and I did things like this. I didn’t want to make a man dislike me. I didn’t want to make a man angry.
 
Do you really think these men in power are as unaware as they’re saying in their apology statements?
My long career working in men’s magazines and as a sex researcher tells me wealth and fame are to women what beauty and youth is to men. I’ll bring it to Aziz Ansari. Meets a 22-year-old woman. The brain is still developing. (It’s the one that is making a dent in this movement.) This man has clearly been incorrectly educated by women’s response to him. She’s not the first young woman who has accepted a date, gone back to his apartment willingly and engaged in sex, because that is what happens when you’re famous, rich, and recognizable. If this movement hadn’t been going on, she probably would have seen it as a bad night with regrets of going out with him. I had those same reactions, almost exclusively with men who had some type of fame or money attached to their name.
 
So, you’re saying these men who push these boundaries don’t think of it that way?
No, and it’s not that they are chuckling to themselves and saying, “Ah, my wealth and fame have worked again.” They really think this is what women like. They become blind to a reality that other men know all too well through a series of rejections. All these things can be easily taught. I could teach a high school class on this.
 
The Ansari article broke it down that we are not communicating to women about all the choices they have, about how to interact in sexual situations that make them uncomfortable. We continue to push the idea that women should not be having sex freely and ignore every part of the equation about what leads to sex.
Clearly “just say no” is not working. We need to use our hands, our feet. The thing that really stood out in the Ansari article was the text response after he said it was great to meet her. She responds, “It might have been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me. You ignored clear non-verbal cues.” Non-verbal cues are not going to cut it here. You’re drinking. You are out with a stranger that comes from a totally different life experience than you. It’s the second time you’ve ever seen them. Growing up in the first wave feminist movement, we seemed much more aware that non-verbal cues do not get you anywhere. Open your mouth. Speak up.
 
There has been passing comments in all these conversations regarding if there are any good men left. Women look around afraid at what most men are either harboring in their past, or in their desires.
I’ve yelled and spoken up. When I was a young woman in New York for the first time, I remember my first summer. I was used to wearing these small dresses back home, and I didn’t understand what kind of attention that was going to garner during that time period on a subway.
 
The first time, it was a man in a business suit. We’re crammed together. He just shoved his hands between my legs. I scuttled away. He came forward and did it again. I moved again, and he came back. Finally I whispered, “Take your hand away!” He ran. I saw that actually worked. I have seen good men come to my aid in a lot of situations like that. This distrust is founded as a way to protect ourselves, but women don’t get that the majority of men will help.
 
It makes me feel really bad for the good, well-meaning and stand up men. Porn taught me how romantic and protective men wanted to be. They want to please women. They have paternalistic instincts that can be helpful. The average man doesn’t want to victimize and terrorize women.
 
Where do we go from here?
When these things come out we don’t have a considered discussion, a back and forth regarding what happened. This reinforces the idea that women are helpless and hate sex. We don’t want it to be that. We want real instances of abuse and manipulation reported, and I think [abuse] happens so much more prevalently to women on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Those are voices we need to hear now. That is what we need to fix the larger issues. If all we hear from is wealthy, privileged white women, it might not stick or change.
 
What is the protocol that creates a lasting change outside of what you’ve already discussed?
If you have experiences, go tell somebody. Do it now. Don’t fester. We have to teach women in school on how to handle men. There are dominatrix in New York charging women for classes on how to control men verbally. We should not need that. 
 
I want women who hear something sexist to come back right away with a deflection that makes them aware that what they said isn’t going unnoticed.
Writer
Megan Laber