The Sex Icon Behind the Porn Books We KNOW You’ve Read

Dian Hanson is the porn connoisseur behind TASCHEN's sexiest books

Dian Hanson photo © Helmut Newton

Dian Hanson loves porn. It’s just as well — she’s the “Sexy Book Editor” for publishing tycoon, TASCHEN. Standing at six feet tall, with blonde locks falling to her waist, Hanson is without a doubt the most glam 65 year-old I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. More than that, she’s composed, she’s wise and she’s very, very familiar with the naked body.

Hanson’s fascination with sexuality is one she describes as “innate”. “I was just always very interested in it”, she explains. At 14, she became obsessed with Kraft-Ebing’s Psycopathia Sexualis, at 18 she spent her birthday money on pornography. “And it was hardcore pornography,”  she stresses. It wasn’t long before Hanson got her foot in the door and started working in the porn industry. “It was a hard door to find,” she tells SLEEK, but the rest is history. Her life since has been boobs, bums, legs — dicks and pussies galore. Even her CV is NSFW. “That was my life goal. I wanted to be a pornographer.”

Elmer Batters, Sylvia with Yolanda’s feet, circa 1980, image courtesy of TASCHEN

Hanson’s bibliography boasts a lot of hardcore work, and most famously the fetish mags Leg Show and Juggs. She didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to work at TASCHEN. “I didn’t want to go into books,” she explains. “I love magazines. I love the fact that [they] disappear after a month… If you make a crap issue, next issue you can reinvent yourself.” But Benedikt Taschen had other ideas. “One day I got a phone call in my office from a woman with a German accent,” she recalls. Mr. Taschen was taking her for dinner. “I was like what the fuck!?” No amount of wining and dining could persuade Hanson, who was decidedly loyal to her fetish audience. But when Hanson’s publisher died and the mob took over the magazine at the end of the ‘90s, she left. “I just knew the time had come, and I contacted Benedikt.”

The transition to books wasn’t easy for Hanson – “the permanence scared me,” she admits. “I felt like I had to do it different; I had to do it better; it had to be artistic; I couldn’t be a pornographer any more.” But Benedikt was quick to ease her worries, affirming the TASCHEN ethos Hanson echoes today, “We publish good art and we publish good pornography, and we do not publish bad art or bad pornography.”

Copyright: Charles Hovland,, from The Little Book of Big Penis, image courtesy of TASCHEN

“OK, really. That’s a 6 and a half inch penis. That is NOT big enough.”

Hanson’s start in magazines meant an intimate relationship with the female form. As a heterosexual woman, her vision could be objective. “I could be pragmatic about it,” she asserts. “I could look and I could see what was alluring about a woman… I could see whether she exuded a kind of sexual welcome.” Jumping in at the deep end, “The Big Penis Book” was Hanson’s first wild venture into the male form. “I found myself getting distracted!” she admits. “I would find myself attracted to certain men and want to overlook the fact that their penises didn’t measure up,” she explains. “I was always having to pull back and talk myself out of it, like “OK, really. That’s a 6 and a half inch penis. That is NOT big enough.”

While TASCHEN’s sexy books might be known for their more than risqué photographs, Hanson does extensive research for her insightful written contributions. “If people take the time to read them they will actually learn something – that’s my goal.” Her intelligent commentary delves into the psychology of sexuality and the interrelation of sex and human behaviour, though it’s not always appreciated. “It discourages me when I see an Amazon review about the writing and another person will comment, ‘oh, come on.. who reads these things?’ I’m like ‘oh, you bastards!’” But on the bright side, she says Arnold Schwarzenegger is a big fan.

Ren Hang, p. 01, image courtesy of TASCHEN

After 40 years in the industry, you’d assume Hanson had met some crazy people in her time, and you’d be right. From “topless shoeshine girls” to “bottomless pet groomers”, Hanson has seen it all, but she’s desensitised to the sex industry and its professions — it’s her normal. “There aren’t that many unusual occupations,” she emphasises. “The people I meet, they’re porn actresses, they’re models, they’re prostitutes, dancers, you know. It’s not like the people back in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” she reflects, “ when censorship first fell and people could make money doing anything sexual.”

At this time, when Hanson entered the porn industry, first-wave feminism was taking hold. “It was a sex-positive feminism,” she explains. “We were fighting for women’s rights to buy sex toys and have orgasms and demand sexual satisfaction.” When she started to receive letters from the men reading the magazines, she expected them to be objectifying women, but this was far from reality. “I would get letters from men that would start, ‘this wont be like the letters you usually get.’ They would go on to describe their love and respect for women and their desire to find a sexual soul mate, who would also become their soul mate in every other respect.” Most of her readers just wanted a happily-ever-after.

Inside Araki, photo by Nobuyoshi Araki, image courtesy of TASCHEN

It’s these kinds of experiences, as well as her deep understanding of sexual psychology, that cause Hanson to defend claims of misogyny in porn. “Porn is a masturbatory aid,” she explains matter of factly. “Porn is not used to fire people up to go out and commit sex crimes.” The truth is that the big consumers of porn are less sexually active. “Guys who are having a lot of sex don’t need to look at a lot of pornography.” Hanson’s conclusions about sex are largely influenced by the idea of “nature’s purpose” — to improve the species through each generation being genetically stronger. “So if a woman just had one drink and then slept with twelve guys the way a man would, it wouldn’t work.” She also attributes the high level of fetishism of men (rarely seen in women) with the innate understanding that if nature’s purpose is served, only the “fittest possible male specimens” will see any action, with the rest left behind. “That’s of course a tragedy,” Hanson explains, “so those other men have to have other outlets — like masturbation.”

What have her years of exposure to sex and porn have taught her about relationships? Confidence. “Somehow I always believe that men are going to be truthful with me sexually and faithful to me,” she reveals. “I suppose because I feel comfortable in knowing what male sexuality is about.” Hanson’s open-mindedness and receptivity to porn have afforded her a level of comfort and understanding of male psychology that’s made her feel closer to men.

“PORNOGRAPHY MADE ME LIKE MEN!”, she shouts. “There you go.”


Dian Hanson’s latest books, Elmer Batters and Eric Stanton are sexy as ever and available to purchase now.

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