Monday, 4 May 2009

STH - Putting The Graphic in Pornographic


Porn Mags aren't usually very aesthetically pleasing. They can be invaluable for retro style tips (handlebar moustaches and terry toweling shorts, anyone?), and if you're a big Jeff Koons fan, you might find something artistic in their super saturated tawdriness, but when people talk about 'graphic' pornography they're usually not discussing the designer's layout skills.

These copies of cult gay porn zine STH (or "Straight To Hell", as it formally known) buck that trend. Subtitled variously as "The Manhattan Review Of Unnatural Acts, The American Journal Of Cocksucking And Current Affairs, The US Chronicle Of Crimes Against Nature, The New York Review Of Cocksucking, The American Journal Of Revenge Therapy and The American Journal Of Dicklicking" - STH was founded in 1973 by "Reverend" Boyd Macdonald - its simple mission: to share dirty and depraved true life stories of gay sexual experiences. 

Like the work of Robert Mapplethorpe and Kenneth Anger, STH plays with the line between filth and art - articles by William S Burroughs sit happily alongside highly descriptive passages about truckers engaging in watersports. Gore Vidal was a fan, and Mapplethorpe himself contributed images to the magazine - but there's nothing highbrow about its contents - it's pure, unadulterated smut.


The covers of these issues, from the mid-Eighties, perfectly illustrate the magazine's high/low mix. They seem to be equally influenced by Russian Constructivism and the 'vice cards' that advertise prostitutes services in phone booths. Whether it's art or pornography (or something in between) - it's extremely stylish.

I'm glad to report that STH is still going, after 35 years - it is now available at all good bookstores, or via its website

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