Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Penthouse is a men's magazine founded by Bob Guccione, combining urban lifestyle articles and soft-core pornographic pictorials, that eventually, in the 1990s evolved into hard-core. Although Guccione was American, the magazine was founded in 1965 in the United Kingdom, but was soon sold in the United States as well. At the height of its success, Guccione was considered to be one of the richest men in the United States.
For many years Penthouse fell somewhere in between Playboy and Hustler in terms of explicitness (and respectability). Almost from the start the pictorials showed female genitalia and pubic hair when this was still considered by many to be obscene. Simulated sex, but not penetration or male genitalia, followed, then, several years later, male genitalia, including erections, could be seen. In addition, Penthouse attempted to maintain some level of reading content, although usually of a more sexually oriented nature than Playboyís.
Probably the most famous issue of Penthouse was its September 1984 issue, which was the largest selling issue of any magazine in history. This issue featured photos of Vanessa Williams, who was the current Miss America, from early in her modeling career. Williams posed for the series of black and white photos with another female model, engaging in simulated lesbian acts. While Williams' pictures created the most publicity at the time, the issue would later become even more controversial because of its centerfold, Traci Lords. Lords posed nude for this issue at the beginning of her career as an adult film star. It would later be revealed that Lords was underage throughout most of her career in pornography and was only fifteen when she posed for Penthouse. The September 1984 issue also featured an interview with John Travolta, a feature on Boy George, and a pictorial on a pornographic actress, Hyapatia Lee.
In 1998, caught between the widespread availability of pornography on the Internet and the growing popularity of non-explicit "men's magazines" like Maxim, Penthouse decided to change its format and began featuring sexually explicit pictures (ie: actual oral and vaginal penetration). It also began to regularly feature pictorials of female models urinating, which up till then had been considered a defining limit of illegal obscenity as distinguished from legal pornography. The new format ended up losing subscriptions and newsstand circulation for the magazine.
On August 12, 2003, General Media, the parent company of the magazine, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In October 2003, it was announced that Penthouse magazine was being put up for sale as part of a deal with its creditors.
On October 4, 2004, General Media emerged from bankruptcy and was renamed the Penthouse Media Group. It is now owned by Marc Bell, a south Florida real-estate developer, who intends to soften the content of the magazine.
See also: List of men's magazines
- Official Penthouse web site (Warning: contains pornographic content and pop-up ads)
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