A fetish magazine company based in Reno has been in business for nearly 50 years
The cover of issue 38 of Enslaved Sissies and Maids, from last year, features an airbrushed illustration of a very muscular woman. One of her nipples is pierced, and she grips a rope in her right hand. The other end of the rope is attached to a metal clasp wrapped around the penis of a slender blonde with one bulbous pink breast visible. Ambiguity abounds. Beneath the title is written: “Sissy Men Serving Mistresses Masters.” Inside the magazine are stories like “Wearing my Wife’s Panties” and “A Sissy for the Stripper” accompanied by explicit illustrations and occasional photographs.
Enslaved Sissies and Maids is one of three magazines regularly published by Centurian Publishing in Reno. The other two are Forced Womanhood—“Men Transformed into Sexy She-Male Slaves by Mistresses and Masters”—and Transformation, a less explicit lifestyle magazine that president and editor Hanna Rodgers, 41, describes as “transsexual Playboy.”
Centurian is a family business. Rodgers and many members of her family are shareholders. Rodgers’ mother, Heidi Randol, is the company’s bookkeeper and accountant.
Rodgers is from the San Diego area and has been in Reno since 1998. Prior to buying Centurian Publishing in 2011, she worked a variety of jobs around the city, most recently as an administrative assistant in the University of Nevada, Reno admissions office.
“I was not very happy, and there was nowhere to go, no advancement,” she said. “So my family said, well, we’ve got some money, and we can help you if you want to buy a business. Let’s start looking.”
The family started looking at businesses for sale around Northern Nevada.
“There’s bars, medical offices and postage shipping places, and that’s just not me,” said Rodgers. “We just kept looking, and we saw this one that was adult publishing, and I said, ’Let’s go see what it is.’”
At the time, the publishing company was based in the back of Romantic Sensations, a now shuttered lingerie and sex shop in what’s now known as Reno’s Midtown. Rodgers and her family discovered a business that specialized in fetish, bondage and cross-dressing, selling magazines as well as clothing, gear and equipment for cross-dressers, fetishists and dominatrixes. Something that appealed to Rodgers was the incredible, extensive archive of original bondage and fetish illustrations.
“I love art, and this stuff is amazing, so that drew me right away,” she said. “And I love drag queens. I’m obsessed with drag queens, that whole gender-bending thing. … But there wasn’t one specific thing that said, ’This is what you should be doing.’ All of it just seemed really interesting to me. I’ve always been really fascinated by fetish photography. I love latex. I have old magazines that I bought at Romantic Sensations back in the day.”
Rodgers decided the publishing company, and its affiliated production and distribution of fetish gear, was the business for her. At the very least, it would never be boring. She and her family purchased Centurian Publishing in December 2011 from the company’s original owner, Jeri Lee, who also owned Romantic Sensations.
Rodgers had always followed fashion, and worked in costume shops as an undergrad at Sonoma State University. She says her experience making, repairing and selling costumes has been handy in the business of making, repairing and selling clothing for cross-dressers as well as bondage and fetish gear. She describes herself as a voyeur who enjoys watching sex, but isn’t actively involved with the BDSM community as a participant. She says this distance can give her a wider perspective than that of some of the more obsessive fetishists, who can be socially awkward, to say the least.
“Just by the nature of it, in BDSM, you can take advantage of people pretty easily,” she said. “So, if you’re a woman or a submissive, you really do need to be smart. … I feel that because I’m not involved directly, I have a little clearer perspective on the big picture in a lot of ways. So, I feel like, yeah, I’m a little bit removed. I’d like to experience more physically—like, literally—but I haven’t met anyone in the scene here that I would be comfortable with doing that. You have to be comfortable doing that type of thing, because it is such a trust thing. But everyone’s really nice.”
As a straight, genetically born female, she also worried about how she would be accepted by the transgender and transvestite communities, but she said that they too have been surprisingly supportive. One memorable early experience was her first trip to the Transgender Erotica Awards, formerly known as The Tranny Awards, an annual event celebrating transgender performers in the adult industry.
“I remember just being terrified because, you know, everybody wants to know, ’Are you cis? Are you trans?’” Rodgers said. “And I’m like, I’m a GG.”—a genetic girl—“Are they going to accept me? I’d never been around a large group of transgender people before. Well, I’d been to conferences, but I think these girls were a little different. They’re all in the adult industry. But they were all super cool, really sweet. And you go into this room and you’re surrounded by women. These are women, even though they might have a wiener. They have cocks, and they use them. But you can tell when you’re meeting someone, their energy, their spirit—these are women. And everybody seemed to accept me. Readers and the girls in the magazine themselves, they’re just so appreciative that there is something like Transformation just for them, and I’m doing my best to keep it going—even as a genetic girl.”Graphic design
The south Reno offices of Centurian Publishing are remarkably nondescript: just a typical suite of offices, with a small kitchen and break room, a warehouse, and a few storage rooms. There's usually a few employees working on computers at desks, just like in millions of other offices all around the world. If it weren't for the occasional bondage illustration adorning the walls, or some of the offerings on the bookshelves—glossy collections by famous erotica photographers, biographies of Christine Jorgensen, Fifty Shades of Grey—it could almost pass for the offices of Dunder Mifflin, the drab paper company on the TV show The Office. (Rodgers is critical of the bestselling Fifty Shades: “They don’t practice safe practices, and it’s not a true power exchange. … People are going to start experimenting and not really get the proper background and education on safety words and safety precautions. You can kill yourself. You can kill somebody if they’re gagged wrong or tied too tight. You can do physical damage.”)
And the filing cabinets don’t just house old invoices. There’s a huge archive of old magazines dating back at least as far as the early 1970s, including old Centurian catalogs and magazines, and publications by other companies, including graphic novels, and highly specific catalogs like Male Cock Restraints. (Isn’t the word “male” superfluous, you might ask, couldn’t it just be called “Cock Restraints”? “Well, there’s a lot of girls with cocks, you know,” Rodgers will tell you.) The archive includes back issues of Transformation, with its old tagline: “A magazine for men who enjoy being women.”
Centurian’s archive also includes a lot of original artwork, including explicit airbrush illustrations by long retired painters. Rodgers is adept at identifying the styles and marks of bondage painters and cartoonists who haven’t been active for decades.
One unusual feature of the office is a production room where a leather worker and a seamstress—both independent contractors—create many of the more unusual items found in the company’s monthly advertising flier, like discipline masks and lingerie in men’s XXL sizes.
Rodgers said she tries to keep as much of the business local as possible.
“We wanted to try to bring some business to Reno for printing,” she said. “The fliers and the fetish magazines are printed in L.A., and Transformation is printed in Canada. So, let’s just see if we can bring some business to Reno. Nobody would even touch it because of the content. We couldn’t even get a quote really. We probably couldn’t have saved money, but I was just trying to help our local community. But there’s still a lot of stigma with this kind of thing.”
Centurian also distributes European fetish magazines, like Marquis and Heavy Rubber. And the company sells feminizing herbs and vitamin supplements, wigs and prosthetic body parts, and DVDs with catchy titles like She’s Too Cute to Be a Dude! and Hot Chicks with Big Dicks.
Apart from Rodgers and her mother, the company employs a couple of full-time staffers, a couple of part-time staffers, and works with independent contractors. The magazines’ contributors—writers, photographers, models and artists—are based all around the country, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Florida.
Retail manager Michelle Bouteiller, one of the full-time employees, has been with the company for eight years, since before Rodgers bought it. She says that the business is more organized now, under Rodgers’ leadership, than it was previously.
“The way the business functions has improved,” she said. “Our business now is climbing back up. For a while there, it was going down. I stayed on thinking I was going to help Jeri close down the company. Everybody else left, and I stayed on to help him close, get rid of everything, liquidate. Then there was a buyer, so I was happy about that. … This was after economy had turned down, and Jeri was getting old. He really didn’t have the time. He couldn’t help anymore with the company. It was time for things to change.”The transformed man
Jeri Lee, 74, is originally from Chicago, and started Centurian Publishing in California's Orange County in the late 1960s. He had owned and managed a lot of different business, mostly fast food joints, including one of the first Jack in the Box restaurants. In the late '60s, he was managing an import shop, and began selling dildos and other sex toys, which quickly started outselling everything else. He began printing and selling catalogs of the items, and then he started printing and selling magazines.
“I put out my first magazine,” he said. “I did it myself. I didn’t learn anything. I just did it and took it to a printer and printed 500 copies of the magazine, a bondage magazine, and I took it to the mob people, and they said, this isn’t going to go over, but we’ll take a 100, and he comes back to me and says, ’Wow! I can’t believe it. It sold out right away.’ I gave him the rest of them, and I had to print more. That’s what started me out and connected me with the mob.”
Lee says he eventually moved to Reno in the 1990s because of police harassment in Southern California. He opened Romantic Sensations in 1996. He decided to sell the business after seriously injuring his back in an accident. But he still writes a serial column, “The Incredible Life of Jeri Lee,” for Transformation. The columns detail his life story, and he hopes eventually to compile them into an autobiography. He identifies as a man, but primarily wears women’s clothing.
“I was raised in Chicago, and I’ve been in a lot of fights,” he said. “I didn’t take no shit at any time, but then again, when I was like 3 years old, I remember going through my cousin’s dresses. But I didn’t start wearing dresses 'til I was about 50 years old, because I dealt with too many people and did too many things. … The way I look at it is men have what? Jeans and T-shirts to wear, and women have all these beautiful fashions, heels and shoes and clothes, fun things. I like doing it just because of all the different variety of things you can wear.”
He says he’s happy that, over the years, attitudes about transgender and transvestite people have changed, with the public gradually becoming more accepting.
“I think I’ve helped a little bit with my life,” he said. “My magazines were on major newsstands around the world, so I think I’ve helped a little bit, given people an understanding of what’s going on in this world, and it’s not bad if you’re not going to hurt anybody.”Turn and face the strange
Transformation, which was once bimonthly, is now a quarterly publication, at about 100 pages, with print runs of about 7,000 or 8,000. Forced Womanhood and Enslaved are also quarterly, 48 pages, with print runs of 1,200 or 1,300. Under Rodgers' leadership, the content of the magazines, especially Transformation, is less explicit than it had been previously.
“It was just getting a little too graphic,” she said. “It was kind of tacky. You know, really explicit intercourse, cum shots and giant dicks that took up the whole page. And nowadays this is all online for free. What’s the point of putting it in here? It’s going to keep us off more shelves by having really explicit content.”
Rodgers thinks her readers benefit more from having better articles and interviews, often accompanied by Playboy-style centerfolds of transvestite or transgender models, rather than gratuitously explicit hardcore shots.
“To me it’s more demeaning for transsexuals to be represented this way—only this way,” she said. But she acknowledges that she herself is not part of the core demographic of her flagship magazine.
“I’ve debated—I’ve really debated—back and forth about it,” she said. “Am I going to lose a big part of my readership because the guys just want to beat off to it? I mean, I’m sure I’ve lost a few readers, but our readership has really remained pretty steady, because the main readers of the magazines are other T-girls themselves. They don’t necessarily mind seeing [explicit content], but they’re more interested in other readers. They’re more interested in nightclubs and community stuff. … I do question myself quite a bit and I wonder, when I’m photo editing, which of these is better? Do I want to show the whole butthole exposed or not so much? Do I want the zoomed-in shot or the zoomed-out shot? Usually, it’s a matter of closeup on the butthole or a little pulled back from the butthole? That’s literally how I make a decision on a photo. And usually I chose the one where it’s a little pulled back, so you can still see it but it’s not in your face. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I still don’t really know. I think overall the reaction I’ve been getting from readers and girls that have been in the magazine, who have seen the old ones, they say they like the direction.”
Lee said he prefers the older, more explicit content.
“I think her distribution would be a lot higher if she put sex back into it,” he said. “That’s how I got onto newsstands to begin with. I was sold next to Hustler and Penthouse at one time. … People want to see some sex and shit like that, that’s why I was big at one time. I think at one time my distribution was 60,000 at $12.50 apiece, so that’s quite a bit of money. She turned it into a Playboy kind of thing instead of a Hustler, but that’s OK. She’s doing OK.”
Rodgers acknowledges that the explicit content is part of the appeal and the legacy of the magazine.
“I will never take all the sex out,” she said. “I’ll never take all the nudity out of it. … I want to show the girls in the best light … I’ll see a photo set … minimum 150 photos—so you get a lot of one eye half closed or their mouth looks funny, giving a blowjob and something’s wrong with their face. So I’ll go through and say, OK, she looks good in this, and it’s not super explicit. I want to show the girls at their best. If you take every photo from a porn shoot, there’s a lot of images that are just not flattering, which is fine. You pay for that content, you want to see every single thing, but these girls deserve to be seen for how beautiful they can be and they are. … I want it to remain a little edgy and fun, funky, sexy—because why not? That’s who people are. I don’t want it to be all porn, because a lot of people think of transgender or transsexual women as if they’re all prostitutes, all in the industry, and they’re not. And even if they are, that’s just a job, a means to an end. But as human beings, we’re sexual beings.”