Penthouse Pet model Bettina Raap in 1996. More than a decade later, the publisher of Penthouse magazine says Australia has lost its sex drive.
Penthouse Pet model Bettina Raap in 1996. More than a decade later, the publisher of Penthouse magazine says Australia has lost its sex drive.

‘Australia has lost its sex drive’

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that is not suitable to younger readers.

"I HAVE a problem that I thought would take care of itself, but it hasn't."

And with these words, a legend was born.

Rewind to October 1979 and while Penthouse Forum had won hearts (among other things) across the globe, Australia was only receiving its first taste.

"I've got a small penis," the writer, known as A.E., laments.

"It is only 10cm long and 4cm wide."

Penthouse Forum was the pioneer of a sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Each month, readers would write in to a panel of experts who would dish out advice "on the physical and emotional problems arising in day-day life", it advised.

And from that moment, we were hooked. Adults and curious teenagers would come to grow up in the pages of this sordid section. Teenagers, more than likely at night under the covers.

Penthouse in April, 1999.
Penthouse in April, 1999.

Penthouse Forum had it all: Sexual domination, hard hymens and "one-way streets" when it came to a couple's climax.

"From sensual daydreams about hot co-workers to lusty fantasies of swashbuckling Lotharios, Penthouse readers prove that there is no end to their erotic imagination," reads the introduction to Letters to Penthouse.

In Australia's edition, A.E. had a particular Australian flair.

"When birds give me hints to (sleep with) them, I want to, but I can't because I'm worried about what they will think."

He asked: "Is there anything that I can do to make my penis bigger?"

But today the publisher of Penthouse Australia says Australians are no longer interested in reading the salacious letters from the lovelorn and sex starved and in 2015 Damien Costas cut Penthouse Forum - and its letters - from publication.

Mr Costas blamed a "seismic shift in sex and culture" and said the appetite for adult content in print "is completely dead".

"People stopped writing in, no one wants it any more," he told news.com.au.

"If people aren't writing in it means there's no market for it."

The first issue of Australian Penthouse in October, 1979.
The first issue of Australian Penthouse in October, 1979.

Today, the last issue of Penthouse's "dirty little brother", Black Label, hit shelves for the final time.

Mr Costas blamed the move on "financial reasons", adding "sales at newsagents were less than satisfactory".

"We had limited numbers of letters coming through which didn't support a quarterly 120-odd page book," he told news.com.au.

It's a far cry from the nine-page spread that featured in the first Australian issue.

"Penis size is very variable," read Penthouse's response to A.E.

Milo Yiannopoulos speaks alongside Penthouse Australia/NZ publisher Damien Costas in Sydney. Yiannopoulos was in Australia for his Troll Academy Tour. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams
Milo Yiannopoulos speaks alongside Penthouse Australia/NZ publisher Damien Costas in Sydney. Yiannopoulos was in Australia for his Troll Academy Tour. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams

"Researchers who have studied penis size concluded that at age 20 the average length of the flaccid penis was 13.02cm and the average relaxed circumference was 8.55cm."

Mr Costas told news.com.au a changing view on sex and poor sales were behind the icon's demise, adding it was sad to see any part of Penthouse's publishing history disappear but "we move with the times".

"Society at large is more conservative, due to political correctness companies that want to advertise certainly don't have an appetite to be in a magazine like Penthouse anymore.

"We're not as liberal as everyone thinks we are."

In its editorial, out today, the team at Black Label wrote of the magazine's "amazingly fun achievements".

"We've enjoyed every one of your Forum stories. Even the guy who wrote about f***ing a wet clay statue - Bravo!"

Mr Costas told news.com.au Penthouse had since relaunched the Forum brand for speaking tours, the first kicking off with controversial political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos last month.

A 1995 cover of Penthouse magazine.
A 1995 cover of Penthouse magazine.

"They're not so much the salacious stories any more but if you knew what Penthouse Forum was 30 years ago, you would appreciate what we've done with the live shows," Mr Costas said.

"Unfortunately with porn these days there's not a lot left to the imagination, which is sad for people these days. Magazines used to have to try and bring the image off the page, you could imagine all sorts of things. Now, whatever your fetish is, go online and there it is."

In his introductory speech to welcome Mr Yiannopoulos to Sydney, Mr Costas lamented: "The Dear Penthouse letters aren't as entertaining as they used to be.

"Internet porn destroyed it for everybody. People aren't interested in that anymore.

Mr Yiannopoulos told news.com.au at the time "Australia might need saving from itself sometime soon".

Despite the magazine's adult content, Mr Costas said 30 per cent of his readers were female amid a shift to less photography and more in-depth feature stories.

"There's a certain sensitivity around people watching porn, especially in the west," he said.

"If they can do it in the privacy of their home, they will. They don't want to go to a newsagency and pull out a porno, how embarrassing."

Penthouse Magazine continues to be published. For more information visit penthouse.com.au.

Boys will be boys: Former PM Bob Hawke with Penthouse magazine Pet of the Year Natasha Felice at the Ritz Carlton Melbourne Cup lunch in 1994.
Boys will be boys: Former PM Bob Hawke with Penthouse magazine Pet of the Year Natasha Felice at the Ritz Carlton Melbourne Cup lunch in 1994.

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