Fear, AIDS, and Magazine Subscription 

IMG_9771Unpacking boxes after a big move shakes me up more than I expected: memories of lost loves, reminders of youthful mistakes, and, of course, the horror of old pornography. In this instance, a 1986 Jock magazine. The picture above is from a full page subscription ad. Give it a read. Fair warning: the sentence fragments and random bullet points are maddening.

BE DISCREET, it warns. “It’s no longer “cool” to be gay,” it proclaims. The AIDS crisis, it seems, has destroyed the gay cachet.  The gentle reader has an excuse to stay in the closet. AIDSphobia will ensure violence in the streets. Yes, if you go to a so-called adult bookstore, you, gentle reader, will surely be bashed. Please have this magazine mailed directly to your home so that you never have to be gay outside.

I bought this magazine from a back-issue bin at Southwest Adult Books in late ’88, and even as a teenager I thought this was awful. Jock Magazine was not fostering a sense of community. It made money from fear. Perhaps I’m expecting a lot from a skin rag, but this tactic was dark and whispered to the unhealthiest inclinations of a vulnerable group.

Even the indicia, usually dry information under the table of contents with all the legal niceties, screamed in all-caps to stay in the closet.



Mailed in PLAIN SEALED ENVELOPES! I’m glad they showed the restraint to use only one exclamation point.

I don’t even know if pornography comes in print form anymore. There is no modern equivalent to the art of fear-based magazine subscription. We have achieved total anonymity, and all our naked men arrive discreetly to our personal devices. Those of us out of the closet enjoy the convenience,and can also reach out to our fellows across the globe; but we have at last made a world where someone can be gay for twenty minutes in the den every Sunday afternoon, without the terrifying possibility of ever making a gay friend, or discovering exciting, flawed, ridiculous, and amazing gay communities.

It was at Southwest Adult Books that I made my first gay friends. It was a dysfunctional crowd, and I made more lasting friends a few months later at the local youth group sponsored by Tucson’s Gay and Lesbian center. But there it is: conquering my fear for the sake of a dirty magazine introduced me to my tribe. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to Jock magazine.


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