In 1985, readers of FirstHand Magazine began to request "harder, rougher, kinkier" stories and reader letters. In response, Jackie Lewis, the publisher, began Manscape. But according to Lewis, the readers wanted even more. Thus, Manscape 2 emerged, essentially, Manscape plus photos. The premiere issue, billed as a "Collector's Edition," claims to present "all aspects of sex."
What could be significant in exploring the purpose, audience, and content of this magazine is the AIDS crisis? In 1985, AIDS was decimating gays, especially in urban areas. Rock Hudson died in October 25 of that year. AIDS was no longer a gay disease, a disease suffered only by outcasts and sinners, but something that could kill an ostensibly heterosexual celebrity. Elizabeth Taylor attended an AIDS Foundation fundraiser that year with Ronald Reagan. Finally, the federal government, so criminally negligent in its previous response to the crisis, was getting involved. AIDS had become the preeminent health issue that year.
Manscape 2 offers fantasy material that seems to exist in a world without AIDS. But in a world where AIDS was now a life-and-death matter for gay men, other aspects of sexuality such as S & M activities and bondage that did not involve risky behavior like rimming or fucking without condoms were perhaps becoming a viable alternative for many gay men. For example, phone sex was becoming more popular and safe way to express oneself sexually.
In the premier issue of Manscape 2, Fred Bercovitz contributes a poem, "Pig in Training," essentially a transcript of a phone sex session written in rhyming couplets a la the eighteenth century poets Pope and Addison:
Ask for it first, and ask for it nice
Please Sir's the way, pig, and then say it twice
You're getting me hot now, my dicks got pre-cum
I'll choke you then listen to how well you hum
Pinch on your tits 'til they're red and they're sore
Pull on them harder than ever before You ready to cum?
Are your balls stretched enough?
Are you beating your meat 'till it's raw and rough?
The choice of the rhymed couplets is interesting (not that this piece is great literature), but the author using a tight, fixed form for a sexually charged subject which is also a structured, highly verbal, artificial situation itself (phone sex), ends up conveying to the reader a complex tension.
One reader compliments the magazine for its watersports stories, harking back to the famous piss trough at the Mineshaft. A reader letter in this issue is entitled "Pissed In His Brother's Mouth." Another story, related to watersports, is entitled "Erotic Enema."
Another piece, the "fiction special" entitled "Dr. Sex," involves "catheter-like" sex acts. The magazine is emphasizing what for many gay men were quite exotic fetishes, but which also, as time would tell, would prove to be safer than the conventional cock in the ass.
Even the centerfold, besides exemplifying the leather macho guy type, is posing in a way that could perhaps suggest, beneath the fetishes, a reining in of the sexual plethora of the pre-AIDS gay culture. He holds his cock with tight leather gloves, pulling it out of a tight jockstrap, the bottom of his cock shaft bound in straps.
In another story, a leathermaster becomes a slave-daddy, deliberately reversing the "Old Guard" dynamic. The story involves lots of bondage, whippings, bootlicking, slappings, cum control (including a threat of castration, telling in a time when sex really equaled death) and verbal abuse, ending in a condomless fucking, but the majority of the story is psychological. The fucking does conclude the story, but it is not necessarily the most significant interaction. The willingness of the slave-daddy to be fucked by a boy who would normally be his slave boy is the point, not the details of penetration.
In sum, the story is really about role reversal, significant in a time when gay sexual interactions were increasingly rethought and reevaluated by gay men in a time when sex was in the most literal way a matter of life and death.