The Art of Desire

Dian Hanson, the “sexy book editor” (yes, that’s her actual job title) at high-end book publishing house Taschen, reveals what’s really sexy—and why it might surprise you

Women think men like the skinniest possible woman with the biggest possible breasts, but there are a lot of men who just want a great big butt and a woman who’s going to tell them what to do. Most men prefer soft, real, natural women—feeling all that fleshiness gives them a sense of power. Men who like large, full breasts and padded buttocks (and that is the majority of men) enjoy the sense of weight and softness, and that hasn’t changed in 100,000 years. But they’re kind of embarrassed about it now—it’s a peasant body. If women got comfortable with having a Marilyn Monroe shape, most men would admit that they like that body. Outside New York and Los Angeles, they do! In red states they’re not embarrassed, so this is a blue state obsession.

But sex isn’t all that men are after. It’s just more important to many of them than it is to women. When they find someone with whom they have really great sex, they can ignore a lot of other things. Women may hate them for that, but it’s a sweet vulnerability. The most important thing I have learned is that men are more romantic than women and able to form attachments to the most inappropriate women. They may say, “I want these measurements and this age and the beautiful face.” Then they have this smiling, enthusiastic woman who actually wants to have sex with them and everything else goes out the door.

Whoever said “less is more” was probably self-punishing. Do you want a small pot of gold or do you want a big pot of gold? If it’s something we like, we want more. If you like breasts, you want more. If you like butt, you want more. A big penis can be visually stunning. We are protrusion oriented. The sex signals we pick up all happen externally: from breasts, from buttocks, from penises. That’s the holy trinity of protrusions. Ultimately what is attractive to others is enthusiasm and sensuality. People who eat more tend to be more sensual. It’s very hard to remain sensual and enthusiastic if you have to think about maintaining your thinness all the time. I also think what people find attractive changes with age. When men are young, they’re attracted to women who are exuberant, bordering on crazy. As they get older, they start looking at more sweet-faced women and think, “Oh, what I could teach her.” Middle-aged women tend to fantasize about the same thing. They get older and more successful and are past the point of worrying about who’s going to support them while they raise children, so they’re more likely to notice those cute teenage boys on skateboards and say, “Oh, what fine, smooth skin, what high-arching buttocks, what broad shoulders.” It’s not anything thought-out—it’s just natural evolution.

Dian Hanson’s top five erotic reads:

World Without Men By Helmut Newton “First published in 1984, this is probably his greatest book; he was working at the height of his abilities. And that title is so provocatively incorrect.”
Rose C’est Paris By Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly “This is some sort of detective story played out in photographs. It’s glamorous and noirish, and the heroine has quite the lush body.”
Fräulein By Ellen von Unwerth “She can make 18-year-old fashion models look like intelligent, decadent sensualists with no problem.”
Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll By Alfred Wertheimer “Young Elvis was a big, juicy, ripe peach of a boy. I love his hooded eyes, pouty lips, and silky twang.”
The Big Penis Book By Dian Hanson “Better than looking at it is watching people in a bookstore creep up on it and start turning the pages.”