She’s Got Legs, She Knows How to Use Them

Dian Hanson’s third addition to her erotic body part series, The Big Book of Legs (TASCHEN), traverses the look and implications of female gams through the ages. Following on the heels, as it were, of The Big Book of Breasts (2006) and The Big Penis Book (2008), the collection takes readers from the prim garters of the 30s to the fishnets of the 50s, and the spread-eagle spirit of the 60s. In 400 photographs, Hanson summarizes the human fascination with women’s legs—and tries to explain it. After all, men have them too.

With over thirty years in erotic editorial (she’s previously served as Editor-in-Chief of fetish magazines Juggs and Leg Show), Hanson knows how to pick a shot.  The images are not merely eye-grabbing—they spur narrative, and fantasy. One black-and-white photograph depicts two lingerie-clad women sharing a bicycle.  The focus is soft and fuzzy, like a naughty grandfather’s, and it incites a nostalgia for childhood (maybe your first bicycle-induced tingle). Hanson sits down to discuss how she picks the perfect photo, what it means to be sexy, and the allure of the door-to-door salesman.

ARIELLA GOGOL: Were you inspired to write this book from your time at Leg Show?

DIAN HANSON: I moved it ahead in the body part queue because of the Leg Show brand. I felt that I should get along to it. But I love photos of the legs because they’re more active: The poses are dynamic, and you’re always including the entire body.
AG: How do you pick which photos to include in the book?

DH: When I look at an archive, the photos that are right for the book just kind of glow. The body part has to be central—it has to draw the eye more immediately.

AG: Is there a reason that more contemporary legs aren’t featured?  Do you think there is more allure to photos from the 30s and 40s than the present day?

DH: The real cult of leg photography ended in 1968. There was a resurgence of interest after I took over Leg Show in 1988, but that work was more explicit and we preferred to keep this book topless only, to get the book better exposure. 

AG: You know a lot about sex and you’re not afraid to sound authoritative. Are men intimidated?

DH: It doesn’t help that I’m nearly six foot tall and have biggish breasts, as well as being a sexual know-it-all. Yes, loving me does require a certain level of confidence.

AG: What was your family like?

DH: I had a sexualized family. My father practiced sex magic, and wrote books about it.  I think my mother was sex starved—she never had an orgasm.  My father was a handsome, charming man and always had a lot of women attracted to him.  There was a simmering sexual environment… my mother was definitely dreaming of sleeping with the door-to-door salesmen.

AG: Did that lead you naturally into a career where, more often than not, you would think about sex?

DH: I stumbled into it. But even thinking back to the age of ten, I found myself more interested in sex than the other children I knew. When I saw one dog jump on top of another dog, I wanted to watch. I found it exciting; I found it stimulating. I was really curious about nudity. I was really curious about breasts.  I was really curious about what was under the clothes. I’d go into the hamper and look at my mother’s underwear, her conical bras.

AG: Did you ever consider doing anything else?

DH: I grew up in this medical atmosphere, and thought I wanted to be a doctor. I was a hippie, didn’t have a lot of goals. Pornography was very attractive to me. I had a boyfriend who wanted me to be a fashion model—Jeffrey Michaelson—I hate to mention him. Anyway, pornography was the path of less resistance.

AG: What was the hardest part of writing this book?

DH: Writing so much text. There are no interviews in this book, so I had to write all the chapters — and finding time to write, while working on so many projects, is always hard for me.  
AG: You’ve gone from fetish magazines to high-end art books.  What’s next?

DH: Low-end art books? High-end fetish magazines?
AG: What’s your favorite kind of shoe?

DH: A classic D’Orsay pump, with a cap for the toes and one for the heel, but with the sides cut out. I’m also fond of tightly laced cabretta leather boots of any height.

AG: What does it mean to be sexy?

DH: To have that special chemistry that arouses others, no matter what you look like. Energy and confidence play a big part, and great skin doesn’t hurt.

AG: Do you see your interest in legs as indicative of a greater, under-explored fetishism on the part of women?

DH:  They’re extremely rare in women, although women seem to fetishize being spanked. It doesn’t seem that the female brain is organized for fetishes. I suspect it has to do with our animal backgrounds. Fetishes are a frustration fall back for men cut out of the breeding Olympics. The female can always get sex. It’s her role to deny sex. There are far more men that like bondage.  Exhibitionism, bondage, spanking, and bestiality—those are the big ones. For me, bondage makes me feel powerless and annoyed. It’s like, can you untie me?