Adult isn’t your typical adult magazine, nor is it “porn for women”. The inaugural issue – which will be available in print and online tomorrow – is a stimulating pastiche straddling erotics and literature. A vivid spread on masturbating friends is interlaced with stirring short stories and a magical diary of a transgender woman going through hormone replacement therapy. There’s a recipe for oyster omelettes. And a profile of sculptor, artist, anthropologist, mother, and African feminist Wangechi Mutu.
Despite Adult Mag’s seemingly diverse range of content and topics in the first issue, founding editor Sarah Nicole Prickett, who has contributed to Dazed Digital, said it’s still pretty “safe” for her tastes. That’ll change for the next issue – both Prickett and Adult Mag’s creative director Berkeley Poole are craving to push it to the next level. Dazed speaks to Prickett about her early sexual experiences, Anaïs Nin and how Adult is a feminist erotic magazine…
Dazed Digital: Where did the idea for Adult come from?
Sarah Nicole Prickett: I always had an interest in written erotica, since I was really young. I would go to the library and sneak into the adult section and read these, really probably quite bad, soft porn novels. I wouldn't know what the words meant, I would read a sentence and have no idea what it felt like. But I knew, from something, from the texture of the language, that it was turning me on, you know? There aren’t a lot of women doing very many erotic magazines and they're mostly visual. I wanted them to be visual, verbal, smart and sexy – all at the same time – which doesn't seem that radical, but also just wasn't being done.
DD: Were you influenced at all by Anaïs Nin, especially Delta of Venus, where she was possibly one of the first women to go into that area of writing and communicating sexual experience from a female perspective?
Sarah Nicole Prickett: I don't know how seriously she took herself as a writer – it's hard to tell. A lot of her stuff sold for money, but often not under their real names. So that wasn't the writing she took more seriously, but it's really some of her best. Her journals are the thing that she really considered her life's worth, but they're often insufferable, whereas her short erotic stories are perfect. But was she a huge inspiration? I don't know. I mean, she's always at the back of my mind. Her, [Georges] Bataille and Marquis de Sade – the French erotic writers are really the canon still. I think there should be a great age of American erotic writing and yes, with women.
“It's erotic in the way that Susan Sontag talks about erotics of art and not hermeneutics – stuff is not over-explained for you"
DD: In the preface to Delta of Venus, Nin wrote about the mysteries of a woman's sensuality and how it's “so different from a man's and for which man's language was inadequate” – what are your thoughts on this?
Sarah Nicole Prickett: Men had always recused themselves from discussions of female sexuality and excused themselves from a responsibility to make women cum properly by saying it was a hard, mysterious land. It's a very basic Freudian idea, that women's sexuality is mysterious, complicated, repressed and unknowable. It's very easy to conflate something unknown with something unknowable. There's a lot of mysticism around women's sexuality – either religious condemnation or religious sanctification of it.
DD: You said you “want a magazine that is for everybody but feels like it was made by a woman,” how do you intend to convey or achieve this?
Sarah Nicole Prickett: When we talk about making a feminist erotic magazine, it's not that the photo itself is meant to convey a feminist message. It's more about how we make it that's feminist, in that we want to work more with women photographers or male photographers who are not assholes – very very hard to find. We want to make sure the models are characters and subjects in the story, not objects… It's very important to me that all the models are over 21, they know what they're doing, they're sober and informed – and they feel like actors in it. They have agency and control. All that stuff is really important and that's the way it's feminist, I think comes through in the pictures a little bit.
DD: Erotics and literature in a magazine – it's quite a rare sight in this day and age. What are some of the challenges you faced trying to combine the two elements?
Sarah Nicole Prickett: I followed my instincts on what I thought would make a good magazine... We looked for erotic traces and sexual activity in the stuff we covered. A lot of the writing doesn't have to do with sex at all. It's erotic in the way that Susan Sontag talks about erotics of art and not hermeneutics – stuff is not over-explained for you, it's not over-analysed. I wanted the writing to feel tattooed on the skin – I didn't want it to feel typed out, which so much writing now is.
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