“You’ve got to be stealthy if you want to get the best stuff,” says Mickey Herkin, a twenty-four year old Civil Servant from Newbury, as he carefully approaches the object of his desire – a ragged and rain-damaged porn magazine lying in a lay-by off of the A34. Mickey is a porn hunter, one of a growing band of young male Britons who specialise in collecting unwanted pornography which has been discarded in public places. “Bloody hell! It’s a copy of Janus, the spanking mag – you don’t often find that just lying around. It’s subscription only – usually read by the more discerning specialist collector,” he crows gleefully, as he examines his prize, before continuing to explain the conventions of his past-time. “It’s an unspoken rule – you can’t pick up a jazz mag if anyone else is about – to be seen doing it is just socially unacceptable!” Purloining magazines from the homes of friends, shops, or even complete strangers’ rubbish bins is also strictly forbidden – the pornography must be hunted down and captured out in the open!

However, in an age when nudity is common on television, film and even newspapers, when both men’s magazines and glamour publication for women carry pictures which only a decade ago would have been pornographic, why do men like Herkin find it necessary to hunt down smut in back lanes and darkened alley ways? “In many ways it is about the primal thrill of the chase! That rush of adrenaline you get when you think you’ve spotted an abandoned copy of Escort on a park bench – and then the sheer excitement of stalking and capturing it before some other sexual predator gets to it,” he enthuses, claiming that it is the ready availability of filth which is fuelling the popularity of porn hunting. “When you can get it in any high street shop, it takes the magic of porn away – it’s no longer a guilty pleasure! Collecting porn should be a furtive activity – you should feel like a naughty schoolboy when you try to buy a top-shelf mag in the newsagents!” Herkin is at pains to emphasise that porn hunting is a far from easy past-time. “You have to be vigilant at all times! You never know when you might spot an unattended wank mag,” he says. “The uninitiated are often surprised to learn that best hunting grounds are usually country lanes rather than city streets! A lot of younger people tend to drive out to secluded places after dark for illicit sex, or mutual masturbation sessions – once the mags have served their purpose to ‘warm up’ the participants, they get discarded! Of course, as these youngsters mostly still live with their parents, they’re also too embarrassed to risk taking the magazines home with them!”

Spotting these rural porn dumping grounds requires skill – the ability to spot the tell-tale clues is crucial for the successful porn hunter. “I find that jizz-filled used condoms hanging in the bushes at the entrance to bridle ways and farm tracks a promising sign – that and empty beer cans and the signs of camp fires in copses,” muses Herkin. “Of course, the fire can be a negative sign, they might have burned the mags! Sometimes they only remember to jettison them as they are driving away – it’s always important to check the trees and hedgerows along the nearest road for several hundred yards in each direction!” With ‘dogging’ – outdoor sex between strangers – becoming increasingly popular, the lay-bys on old A-roads where prospective participants meet are also becoming an increasingly fruitful hunting ground for the likes of Herkin. “Like country lanes and woodland clearings, these have the advantage of usually being deserted, so the risk of detection is minimised,” explains the young Civil Servant. “That’s the main problem with porn hunting in urban areas – too many people about, too much potential competition!”

Nevertheless, for the bolder porn hunter, towns can prove very happy hunting grounds, bus stops, hedgerows and public parks located near schools providing the best opportunities. Actually capturing the magazines can be a hazardous process – even life threatening. Herkin once broke his right arm and suffered severe concussion after falling out of a tree whilst trying to rescue a near-pristine copy of Razzle which had blown into the upper branches. On another occasion he was nearly hit by a speeding car whilst retrieving a sodden Asian Babes from a drainage ditch on a blind bend. “It’s no safer trying to get the stuff in towns – I once spent four hours in my car staking out a school in the hope of seeing some porn mags being discarded, only to be arrested by the police as a suspected peadophile,” reveals Herkin.

Once he has the porn safely in captivity, Herkin goes to elaborate lengths to nurse it back to health. “Often the pages are damp and sticking together – in such cases it is necessary to remove the staples and carefully disassemble the whole publication, drying each page individually before reassembling it,” he explains, seated in his basement, which houses his collection, many of which, restored to their former glory, are mounted on the walls. “My basement is equipped with a set of sun lamps and several low-wattage electric heaters to aid in this process. Of course, even after drying the pages are often wrinkled and creased – in such circumstances I carefully iron them all before stapling the magazine back together. Any tears are carefully repaired with sticking tape.” Of course, some pages may be torn, rain damaged or faded beyond repair, or the magazines’ covers might be missing. In these cases Herkin searches through his stock of magazines rescued in an incomplete state, to try and find duplicate pages and covers. “Mind you some are beyond repair – I absolutely refuse to handle the ones covered with semen stains”, he says.

Although his magazines take pride of place, Herkin is quick to point out that porn hunting needn’t be confined to the print medium. “Television can also provide good prey – these days you never know when a bit of porn might surface on mainstream TV. I spend hours scouring the schedules and setting the video for films and programmes that look as if they might contain something titillating,” he says. “Sometimes it’s an actual bona fide porn movie being shown in the all night schedules, often it is a contemporary drama series, especially on BBC 2 or Channel Four, which is near guaranteed to feature a few bared breasts!” In recent years the internet has also provided rich pickings. “The key here is to locate the really good free porn sites – not the ones which just tease with a hint of pubic hair or lots of cleavage, nor those which want credit card details just to show you a bit of nipple”, advises Herkin. “They’re just a rip-off! Trust me, the best pornography is always available for free, if you just keep your eyes open and your wits about you!”