Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Chained nudes in Hitler's laboratories of agony"

Men's adventure magazines--or "men's sweat" magazines, as they're sometimes called--were popular from the 1950s into the '70s. The racks were full of them.

I especially remember this style of men's sweat magazines from my Army days of 1966-68. They were lying around in the barracks and guard shacks. I don't remember any of the articles or stories. I thought they weren't worth reading. The provocative headlines pretty much say it all, and in their own way the headline writers were geniuses. I remember the garish covers with half-naked girls either menacing GI's or being rescued from the Nazis.

These three covers that I found for sale on eBay fit the latter description. For many years no one could escape seeing covers of magazines, paperback books, and even movie posters with pictures of women being tortured, threatened, or dead. It was like an all-out assault on women. At the time this sort of image was called "damsel in distress", now it's called violence against women. There are men who hate women and don't have any problem at all in abusing them. I guess for those guys these covers would seem perfect, mixing in a little Marquis de Sade with Nazis, known for cruelty. I admit to having mixed feelings about these covers. I grew up seeing them everywhere, but I don't hate women, and would never hurt any woman.

My mixed feelings come from the funkiness of the artwork. I love the art of illustration. Many fine illustrators worked on these magazines, the same artists who did advertising or paperback book covers, pin-up calendars, etc. The artist probably didn't even think about the subject matter; it was just a job and a paycheck. An editor would tell him, "We need a girl in a bra hanging from her wrists while a Nazi whips her, and there's a GI with a machine gun bursting in the door in the background." The artist got his favorite model, who might even be his wife or daughter if he was saving money, posed her, then took pictures of himself or his buddies for the guys. I believe these three covers, all from the same title, all published in 1963-64, are by the same artist. The Nazi has a monocle on two of the covers, and in the cover with the girl being zapped in that see-through chamber, the Nazi looks a lot like Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko. (You do remember that old television sitcom, don't you?)

The women's expressions seem somewhat benign considering what they are going through. It mitigates the horror of the situations. Maybe it's because the models are posed, just part of a big joke.

Haute couture with swastika.

For years BDSM--bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism for those who might not know--was a forbidden subject, and any pictures or magazines featuring torture or bondage, whips and chains, were sold under the counter.

Vintage kink from under the counter.

Nowadays we can see it on TV, or find it in a fashion magazine. It's blatant now, but in the past sometimes it was sneaked into pop culture without the public really being aware of what they were seeing. Consider this comic strip, The Phantom, from 1937, where the woman whips the girl into unconsciousness and the Phantom stands with a half-smile on his face, doing nothing to stop the act. Someone slipped something by every one of hundreds of newspaper editors who carried The Phantom comic strip.

The one that got by the censors.

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