NOTE: This post contains explicit language.
When Eric Althoff answered a Craigslist ad for a copy editor for a publication with adult content, he had no idea that he’d soon work for one of the most famous (or infamous) magazines in America: Hustler.
But that’s exactly what Althoff did for four years, editing copy for the pornographic magazine and doing some reporting for it as well. He met porn stars, rock stars and publisher Larry Flynt. Althoff shared his experiences at a session at the ACES conference titled “Even Porn Needs Style.”
In some ways, Althoff said, working at Hustler was like working at any other magazine, dealing with page layouts and production deadlines. Larry Flynt Publications had what he called a “conservative corporate environment.”
The content of Hustler, of course, is hardly conservative. The copy that Althoff worked with contained what he called “the saucy language and colorful terms” of porn that also popped up often during the session.
“Images of a salacious nature have always included words,” he said. Those words may appear in headlines, captions and story text. That’s why, he said, porn needs editing like anything else.
Hustler’s stylebook is similar to others, Althoff said, offering guidance to writers and editors at the magazine on word choice for its readers. Among those at Hustler:
— blow job vs. blowjob
— porno vs. porn
— phone-sex vs. phone sex
— girl next door vs. girl-next-door
— cover babe vs. coverbabe
In each of these examples, Hustler prefers the latter usage. On occasion, the magazine would update its stylebook. For example, it now uses “hos” rather than “ho’s.”
Indeed, Hustler will bend its style rules on occasion. Althoff said that the magazine prefers “come” as a verb and “cum” as a noun in references to ejaculation. But on the magazine’s cover, it would allow “cum” in either situation to get the attention of potential buyers. “‘Cum’ is going to jump out at consumers,” he said.
Althoff stressed the need for porn editors who edit such content to keep a distance between their professional work and their personal lives. He did that, he said, but after four years, he had had enough of Hustler for personal and professional reasons.
Althoff went into consulting work for a Web company and then to Brides magazine. He’s now freelancing and said that potential employers always ask about his Hustler experience.
Regardless of the type of content, Althoff said, it’s important for editors to keep in mind how language evolves. “The English language is very elastic,” Althoff said. “Change it if you need to.”
— Contributed by Andy Bechtel