Scope. Playboy SA. Hustler. These magazines were known for their risqué photos and star-covered centrefolds. And between the 60s and 90s it was bought and consumed in hush-hush tones; hidden under a newspaper in the shop and eventually ending up under a mattress.
And then there was the girl next door, Loslyf. Ready to bear it all!
The naked truth of censorship in South Africa
Before the dawn of democracy, South Africa was under rigid media censorship. Regardless of the violence, the image that those in power wanted to portray to the world was one of conservatism. And the media was more than often used to support the ideology of the government pre-1994.
It comes as no surprise that Scope, a men’s lifestyle magazine, was banned in 1972 just 6 years after it first launched. Being on the other side of the censorship laws was one thing, but they also placed adverts against the National Party.
For South Africans who could get their hands on Scope it was a peek into conversations not talked about, from AIDS to homosexuality. And for many it served as a form of education in a very conservative South Africa. Roelof van Wyk, who used the magazine as a subject of his research for an art history doctoral thesis, said that during his exhibition a friend mentioned that she used to think white women didn’t have nipples – they had stars instead.
Hustler was first sold in South Africa in 1993, and at the helm of this was Joe Theron. He flew to Los Angeles to meet the American porn king, Larry Flint, and obtained the publishing rights of the magazine.
Hustler was also repeatedly banned. However, after being dragged to court multiple times, Theron took on the censorship board. This all eventually led to the fall of the board, and the head of the board, Braam Coetzee, said that censorship was the last pillar of apartheid.
Was Loslyf the striptease for Afrikaners?
Joe Theron did not stop at Hustler. The Afrikaners needed something they could call their own.
And judging from the monthly copies sold in 1994 of Playboy SA (97 371), Hustler (103 780) and Scope (163 844), bringing an Afrikaans magazine into the orgie just made good business sense.
Loslyf hit the shelves in 1995.
Now, you can imagine that an Afrikaans magazine with naked women, intended for a group of people who was viewed as highly conservative, caused a public outcry. Especially when the first issue featured a topless Afrikaans woman, posing at the Voortrekker Monument.
Ag nee, sies?
You decide. Because 80 000 copies were sold of the first issue.
In a research paper interview by Marnell Kirsten, the first editor of Loslyf, Ryk Hattingh, talked about the period that saw the rise of the first mainstream Afrikaans sex magazine:
“There was a lot to catch up on because the country had been isolated from the rest of the world for so long. There was a kind of euphoria in the country; promises of unity and a myth of a rainbow nation fulfilled one with excessive idealism.”
But getting naked was not all there was to this magazine.
Hattingh included the voices and personalities of colleagues and friends from his early career and previous literary endeavours.They all came from a similar literary tradition and sphere. People who wanted to differentiate themselves from those ideally addressed by the symbolic litany of the Voortrekker Monument. People who shared the belief that Afrikaans is a language with the potential for subversion, contestation, and irreverence.
Editors came and went over the years. And so did what the magazine stood for.
Eugene Goddard resigned after the court cases with Juanita du Plessis and Amor Vittone, who sued in damages when images of them were manipulated into compromising, “kinky” positions.
In 2005 a published author, with a degree in psychology and a background as a stripper, took over. Karen Eloff’s vision as the first female editor of a South African adult entertainment magazine was to put more local models and less intellectual stories in the magazine. She didn’t want to “change the magazine into another FHM.”
Did Loslyf break the conservative ties?
Loslyf, Scope, and Hustler do not exist anymore. Playboy SA is still around.
And with the rise of the internet the industry has changed significantly over the years.
The question however is: did Loslyf free Afrikaners from the ties of conservatism that considered sex as a taboo topic?
The 2022 Showmax documentary, Sex in Afrikaans, came 27 years after the first issue of Loslyf. It was described as an eye-opening documentary because it is a topic not discussed in Afrikaans.
So, if a magazine like Loslyf did free Afrikaners, did they handcuff themselves back on the bed post of conservative?
Loslyf was something visceral. And tangible. A magazine that you could pick up and be judged for. When it comes to sex, by and large change and revolution comes through a community platform. Otherwise, you just feel like a perv.
As liberal and as #selfcare as we are, a great majority isn’t. Nowadays people can hide behind the internet which leaves the topic right back in the 1960s… still taboo.