sex-lead

The United Nations of Erotics

A meeting of sexy minds with leading erotic arts mags from around the world, chaired by ADULT

Lead image: Rose Maisie Willoughby

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. This week, State of Sex takes an all-encompassing look at sexuality, gender and all the flavours of the American rainbow.

New York-based erotic magazine ADULT takes over today, bringing their groundbreaking and sexy vision to the fore. Here we premiere their first ever film, conceived by co-founder Berkeley Poole and brought to life by director Jamie Webster. Check out all things ADULT in their Dazed guest edit here

When we first dreamed ADULT, we couldn't think of one new erotic print magazine that was independent, intelligent, and interesting. A year and a half later, we can't choose our favourite. Some were founded a year or few before ours; a couple came at the same time, and we're always hearing that another is on the way. 

For our State of Sex takeover, we thought it would be fun to make a model United Nations out of the wildly disparate and often distinctly unglobalized magazines we admire in our category (especially since the UN office is in New York, where ADULT also lives). Seven magazines, six countries, nine questions, and no embargos. Welcome to the sexiest roundtable this side of anywhere.

MODERATORS: Fiona Duncan (writer, ADULT columnist, and McNally Jackson bookseller) and Ana Cecilia Alvarez (ADULT editor and writer).

PANELISTS:

Samira Ben Laloua on behalf of Extra ExtraNetherlands. Extra Extra is an international magazine that engages in the sexy with class, but never confuses classy with sex. The highly portable magazine features interviews with cultural producers who dare to share the sensual fantasies that can be encountered in their work. 

Sydney Shen on behalf of Beauty TodayUnited States. Beauty Today is a print magazine that perverts conventions of sexuality and confronts readers with the unfamiliar. The first two issues have featured the work of over 50 artists and writers and have been internationally distributed at art institutions and independent bookstores.

Jeanne-Salomé Rochat on behalf of Sang Bleu, Switzerland. Sang Bleu is a heavy paper book, printed irregularly. It is also a social place moving internationally between studios, galleries, stores in the shape of group shows, live events, limited edition products and more.

Esthèle Girardet on behalf of IRÈNE, France. IRÈNE is an erotic fanzine dedicated to emerging photography, produced in limited editions (from 200 for the first issue to 1000 for the last one, Issue #5). Each copy is numbered by hand and distributed to several outlets (bookstores, galleries, concept stores) in France and Europe. 

Albert Folch on behalf of ODISEO, Spain. ODISEO is an erotic biannual publication from Folch Studio.

Edward Vince on behalf of TALCUK. TALC is an adult design magazine for modern times. The first issue came out last fall, accompanied by a soundtrack and three short films.

Sarah Nicole Prickett on behalf of ADULT, United States. ADULT is a magazine of new erotics. The first issue came out in November 2013; the second is now available for pre-order. The website publishes almost daily, and events happen whenever. The magazine – which comprises poetry and photography and painting, fact and fiction and fucked-with forms – hopes to be as American as possible, and also to find out what that means.

IRÈNE

Let’s start with basics. Who are you, why and how did you start your magazine? 

Extra Extra: The idea was planted years and years ago, the first time I read about Stendhal Syndrome. Stendhal, the 19th-century, visited Florence and was literally stricken by its beauty, falling dizzy and ill with ecstasy. I have often also felt overwhelmed by experiences of travel and the idiosyncrasies of the cities I’ve visited – never to such an extent, but still, I wanted to explore the idea of “losing yourself.”

Beauty Today: The magazine was conceived by Clara Carter, Katrina Myers, and myself one summer day at a topless beach. We wanted to challenge the distinction between nude, naked, and erotic.

Sang Bleu: Our aim is to converse and collaborate with marginal practitioners of the body, such as radical tattoo artists, piercers, performers, and thorough researchers in science, literature, philosophy and politics. Sang Bleu’s main conversation is about modifying the human body and the other “bodies” that we create, from the inside and/or from the outside. Modify, divert, sublimate, enhance, decompose, forget, mimic, reproduce...

IRÈNE: The magazine was born in London (2010), where we all met. We are three girls in the team: Genevieve Eliard (art direction), Lucie Santamans (production / communication), and me – Esthèle Girardet (editorial design). But our roles are often mixed! IRÈNE starts with the desire to work with young photographers we admired. We also wanted to show something different about eroticism, mainly devoid of any vulgarity.

ODISEO: Years ago, while we were getting Apartamento off the ground, this other idea for a magazine came to my mind. We consider the project an exercise of creative direction to explore – conceptually – the notion of eroticism.

TALC: We’re a mixture of designers, art directors, writers and strategists who met while working for the same company. Around three years ago, we perceived there might be a demand for a magazine that would present erotic content in a new way, a way that would appeal to men and women and also to the broadening interests of people today, particularly the generations whose experiences and tastes are being shaped more and more by online culture. We started creating content under the name TALC all with the intention of brand building, not just creating a magazine. This is why it took longer to launch than we planned, but also why we turned toward Kickstarter as a platform for storytelling and to help create a following. We were blown away by the support we received.

ADULT:  We just came from Deep River, Ontario, and now we’re in this dream place.

“At ADULT we don’t care for information. We’re looking for meaning, as stupid as that sounds. We want writing that feels tattooed on the skin and images that stir the blood below” – ADULT 

Why print, why erotics, why now? And/or, to twist that a little, what’s your take on the relationship between printed matter and the body/erotic? 

Extra Extra: The unexpected, the sensual seducing view or moment, the sexual sensation. Turning the pages, the softness of paper, the smell of the ink, the tantalizing images, the format, beautiful print work tries to appeal all senses. Especially when discussing sensuality, the tactility of a physical magazine is important. We like the idea of our readers touching our images. 

Beauty Today: Clara, Katrina, and I all have our individual studio practices and professional aspirations. But we all share a principal belief in the importance of addressing and destabilizing expectations of sexuality and femininity, as well as a preoccupation with the fine line between beauty and abjection. So it made sense to come together and create an erotic print magazine – a form which is inherently about gaze, body, and desire. 

Another reason we chose to make a print magazine is that it's the ideal framework for collaboration. For me, collaboration quickly generates many (often hilariously ludicrous and outrageous) concepts that are most potent as a collection, rather than a singular idea that slowly branches out into abstraction the more time you spend with it, which is what usually happens when I work in solitude. The magazine format demands variety and spectacle to be interesting so it is the perfect vehicle to contain and present our collaborative efforts.

Finally, it is important for us to use a print as opposed to digital format for the magazine, because we could only realize certain ideas in print, such as the lucky tab of acid: There's some LSD stuck in one copy of the second issue and we have no idea which one. No one seems to have found it so it's probably still in circulation somewhere. Who will find the golden ticket?

TALC

Sang Bleu: I wonder about the biological and social function of the modified body. Notably by grasping it in terms of strategies of resistance towards its disappearance, induced by techno sciences for example, but not only. By grasping I don’t mean that I am trying to save it... On the contrary. For me, the way people take possession of their identity and thus function through their body is exciting. A lot of Sang Bleu is about the struggle against the lack of being which founds all human existence.

Printed matter raises questions about the symbolic value of altering (marking, deforming, burying, trading and more) bodies, which could be simply reduced to abstract and evanescent entities, or to a sum of information and data. Most of our contributors, except for certain writers maybe, are not that familiar with paper as a form or mode of expression, so I try to position Sang Bleu as a transitional zone. The print is not the outcome, it’s more a test, a passage, a step to enter somewhere else.

ODISEO: We chose printed matter over digital: no website, no blog, and only the occasional video piece.  We print few copies, which makes us hard to get and quick to sell out. Our project is an investigation around the printed publication, exploring the boundaries between a magazine and a book. 

ADULT: In America, the government preaches transparency but means information. We can’t see the facts for the data. Similarly, we’re inundated with so much choice in art, porn, and entertainment that we’re usually left gasping for satisfaction. We also can’t help but watch ourselves. Our screens are made to catch our reflections. In another state, this would be sexier. But in a surveillance and a self-surveillance state, when all our windows are open to a threatening sky, we seek out the comfort of sheets and the reassuring opacity of paper. 

At ADULT we don’t care for information. We’re looking for meaning, as stupid as that sounds. We want writing that feels tattooed on the skin and images that stir the blood below. Another meaning of print should be noted: when Berkeley Poole (the creative director) and I (the editor) conceived the magazine, our references were as much from film as from paper. In December 2012, when I was still thinking of the magazine by myself, I was spending a lot of time flickering between all-women 70s films on Netflix and gangbangs on xvideo.com.

Who or what are your publishing role models? Did you perceive a gap in the publishing market, and seek to fill it? 

Extra Extra: My main source of inspiration is Interview, founded by Gerard Malanga and Andy Warhol with Bob Colacello as editor, collaborator, wingman, and confidante of Warhol. These editions of the 70’s – in newspaper format, with those iconic covers – are a tantalizing mix of bravado and fun. 

I’d also like to mention Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers. Jop and I studied together for a short while in the south of the Netherlands, where we both started to work on magazines. During this time, Jop launched Re, an amazing independent magazine that presented his friends and inner circle – it’s a great example of being vulnerable in the competitive world of publishing. Not only did Jop change the perception of lifestyle magazines, but also, by combining different roles as art director, editor, designer and publisher, he enlarged the field of graphic design. The personal approach of the magazines Jop and Gert started (after Re, they started BUTT, Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman) is something to cherish.

Sang Bleu: Egoïste is probably my ultimate reference. Other than that, well-designed European university publications, but also obscure Japanese architecture journals or attractive technical books from Eastern Europe publishers.

Sang Bleu is very much a diary, a documentary of peoples’ “real lives”, so it refers a lot to the aesthetics of journals, mixing hard and softcore imagery and a lot of text. We don’t necessarily call it “erotic” or “pornographic” though, precisely because we aim to shift the focus from sex itself. We look at what surrounds and derives from it, what allows us to affirm individuality in society or affiliation to a community, at what homogenises bodies and consciousnesses. What I think sometimes is that sex is pure forever, and eroticism is whatever it takes – even if, like Rimbaud with poetry, it takes abandoning sex forever to pull it off.

IRÈNE: We really like the magazine TISSUE, which we worked with on our second issue. Their graphic design and imagery are sources of inspiration. Basically, we started IRÈNE without knowing a lot about current erotic publications (even in France!) which was good because we could stay without any influence and spontaneous.

ODISEO: The publishing market is full of gaps, but we never intended to fill this gap. Of course it is necessary to survive, but our main objective is always to give something new in terms of editorial projects... I don't follow any other examples. There are many erotic magazines which I personally like and believe to be very clever, but ours is specially particular and has nothing to do with others.

TALC: Our precedents and role models include Pin-up, WET (and specifically its founder, Leonard Koren), Lui (the old version), and Oliviero Toscani of Colors. 

IRÈNE

What are your editorial mandates? Does your publication have policies on age, diversity, gender split, sexual orientation, and/or other?

Beauty Today: Our models have to be of legal age. Otherwise, nothing is off limits for us. We have worked with clowns, mermaids, human carpets, human toe-nail charms, multiple pythons, Shrek, Žižek...

IRÈNE: Any! (Oups?). We have an eclectic readership: feminine half / half male, mainly between 25 and 35 years. We do not want to touch individual people, we want to keep a tolerant discourse open to all genres. The only policy we follow is the Facebook one, because our page has been removed three times...! 

TALC: Our main policy is stimulation. Our content must inspire, stimulate and arouse the mind and body regardless of age, diversity, gender or orientation. TALC is for everyone and women are in fact our biggest readership.

ADULT: All our models are 21 and up. It’s not that we think 17-year-olds are incapable of deciding to pose nude; it’s that they are not actually very good at posing. After the first issue, for which our (male, French) cover photographer found the youngest-looking 24-year-olds in all of Los Angeles, I considered raising the minimum age to 35. But then our second issue would have had a lot of white space, which as you may know we’re against.

On diversity we have no rules per se. Still, we want the magazine to look like the best of our times. To that end, we’re often telling our photographers, artists, etc. to cast a wider net. Look harder, or simply: look around you. Stop pretending that the fashion-capital status quo just happens to be your aesthetic. Political correctness is boring, but so is blank, narrow conceptualism. Colour and variegation make for a more gorgeous world.

“What the actual fuck is ‘sex-positivity’, besides the stupidest classification since ‘pro-life’? The old Americans are always picking one side of a perfect circle; our magazine isn’t for them” – ADULT

Do you see yourselves as part of a wave of new sex-oriented magazines? As an independent bookseller, I’ve noticed a slew of new independent magazines come out in the last few years, a substantial portion of those being pornographic/erotic in content. Is this a zeitgeist thing? If so, what’s spiriting? If not, tell me different. 

Beauty Today: Last year a friend of mine lent me Nico Magazine's Confessions: Eroticism in Media issue, which introduced me to some of the other gorgeous publications participating on this panel. When Beauty Today first started in 2011 the only independent erotica I was familiar with was established stuff like ButtJacques, and Richardson, then some amazingly transgressive queer zines, then a handful of stylish but totally indistinguishable vanilla publications full of nude models that all blurred together. In the time between our first and second issues, I became familiar with other great new independent erotica like Baron and older stuff like Eros. And I was very intrigued to browse at ProQM and Do You Read Me? the last time I was in Berlin to see what our European contemporaries were doing. So yeah I do think we're part of a moment and a movement, and I hope it lasts. Also, I don't think it's a coincidence that a former editor at Vice magazine published a collection of erotic photography by artists called Nudity Today shortly after the second issue of Beauty Today debuted!

ODISEO: I don't feel we are a part of any trend. The same has happened when we started creating Apartamento magazine: we were only following our intuition. And my intuition is telling me I must explore within two new editorial projects: erotism (not sex) with Odiseo, and sport and travel with Eldorado. And that's what I'm doing. I personally believe that erotism is one of the hardest themes to explore nowadays.

TALC: There is definitely a wave of new sex-oriented magazines, tapping into a global movement towards a more liberated, open and sexually honest press. I also think it relates to a generation’s desire for more meaning, and I feel that erotic content – in whatever form it takes – brings us closer to who we are as human beings, quite literally removing the facades of everyday life.

Despite this, TALC is still keen to not be labelled as an erotic magazine and we’ve been really interested to see where we’ve been placedin different stores: in some cases we’re with the design/architecture magazines, in others with the fashion publications, and in some well and truly on the top shelf.

What influence does place or nationality have on your publication's contents? Is sexuality globalized, totally individual, or can we make fair generalizations about the eros of one country versus another? For instance, I still very much feel America’s Puritanical roots; also, its valuing of individualism, aspiration, and consumables is bad, I think, for good boning. 

Beauty Today: Our magazine is certainly informed by Puritanism and consumerism and the hypocrisy implied by both. Obviously print cigarette advertising has been banned in the States for a while now, but anti-smoking campaigns are also funded in part by big tobacco. This tension exemplifies the shaky intersection of moral and economic value at the core of American self-mythology. So a recurring gag in both issues of Beauty Today is the fake tobacco advertorial, for which we commission artists to design cigarette brands and shoot sexy accompanying images.

For the second issue, we made limited editions of real cigarettes based on those commissions. Katrina assembled every box of cigarettes by hand! She literally dried and ground whole-leaf tobacco purchased in bulk from a reservation in Sarasota, and then filled over 300 blank cigarettes with it, while watching a Cops marathon on Spike TV. If that isn't American, then I don't know what is.

Sang Bleu: Probably very Euro. Although creating a highly recognizable signature look that functions like a brand is maybe quite American. Or was quite American? Anyway, we are intellectuals who operate from gut instinct and thinkers who are afraid of stupidity and laziness. We rethink it out, by any media necessary. I assume that’s very Swiss.

ODISEO: We are South Mediterraneans and by definition sensual. I find it fantastic that "showing off" is part of who we are.

TALC: If you look at the list of titles here, you could potentially guess where they are published, due to their type of content and their general look and feel – but, having said that, I could easily live in LA and have still come up with something like TALC so it’s more and more difficult to tell the differences.

One thing I do know is that being from London means that you automatically want to create something very diverse with a global outlook. TALC is a very London publication because it is made up out of a thousand divergent references and ideas. All of this is possible because of the city we live in. I mean, imagine what an erotic journal would look like coming out of Silicon Valley?! (Probably amazing and I want to make it now.)

ADULT: I read this as “(our) publication’s contexts”, so let’s go with it. Right away, New York media had us pinned as a feminist porn mag, even though the first issue was laughably un-porny and never explicitly feminist. The major defining feature of the first issue is how broadly American it is: not too downtown, not international – we consciously avoided anything that felt too jetset.

ADULT is not “for women.” It’s just not for men. You can’t make porn for a gender; you can hardly make porn for a sexual orientation. The female gaze doesn’t exist, unless it’s specifically the lesbian female gaze – and our staff is mostly not lesbian. In any case, why should there be a female gaze? Why do we mistake inversion for subversion? To paraphrase Audre Lorde, the master makes tools of us all. And what the actual fuck is “sex-positivity”, besides the stupidest classification since “pro-life?” The old Americans are always picking one side of a perfect circle; our magazine isn’t for them. 

Instead, ADULT is for the new Americans, the first generation to inhabit the desert of the corporeal. 

Sang Bleu

Got politics? There’s a longstanding tradition of radical politics being transmitted through pornographic materials. An association of leftist minds and open bodies. Would you say your publication is “political”? 

Beauty Today: The academic language of critical radical discourse is incomplete and too often popularly misused to police our thoughts. Beauty Today ad-libs the blanks in that vocabulary, introducing some tongue... To disrupt what's there and sneak in new ideas. I'm way too sensitive to be a true troll, but I would like to think that we have some troll blood in us. What I mean is, we do things without asking. I think if you just put out something seemingly bizarre and act as though it's totally “normal” (because it’s normal to you), that can be an effective way to change opinion.

TALC: We’d like to think we are totally feminist because the content is honest, and not trying to be anything it’s not. TALC is a celebration of the female form.

ADULT: How funny – ADULT is a celebration of the female void.

My favourite meaning of “radical” is one of the oldest: “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root.” I think I can say ADULT is rhizomatic. The entry points are feminism, nostalgia, perversion, taste (literary or design or otherwise), and so on; the exits are smell and jouissance and loneliness and hopefully surprise. And yes, we do take some hard left(ist) turns (like publishing Katie Baker’s Guide to Copwatching in Issue One).

But what I love most about us – and especially about our website – is that every writer is free to speak from experience without defending her right to exist, no matter how politicized her position. You can be a trans woman and write something and nobody has to know you’re trans. You can be a sex worker, same deal. Or you can write something that tells everyone who you are and why. My point is: we, as editors, don’t consider your identity a mandate. This attitude in media is rare.

How has the Internet changed sexuality and representations of sexuality, pornography/erotica? Where do you see your publication in relation to new media culture? 

Extra Extra: The shift of erotic press to the internet in the late 90s and early noughties made erotic content somehow grow harder, bolder and blunter. Yet sexual openness used to imply equal open mindedness, curiosity and enjoyment. It’s absolutely wonderful to see that Extra Extra is part of this wave, bringing an erotic sensibility – with sensitivity – back to the newsstand.

Beauty Today: Our first issue (The Virgin Issue) had a “bubbled” window slipcover that revealed the nude covergirl underneath when removed. "Bubbling" is a simple photo manipulation technique popularized on the internet, devised by a Mormon bodybuilder who was seeking an alternative to the pornographic images that his religion prohibits. Images of scantily clad people are made to seem naked when they aren’t by way of an optical illusion. For us, this screen-based illusion elegantly translated into book art as physical comedy.

I don't think of digital formats as supplanting print or older media. Rather, all formats are in dialogue and parts of a broader program of augmenting reality. You certainly see that in fan fiction (which proliferates on the internet), where amateur authors borrow characters from completely disparate sources and create new, often erotic cosmologies.

TALC: The internet has made sexual content and culture far more accessible, but with the accessibility and democratisation of pornographic content comes the risk of sacrificing taste. 

ADULT: Tumblr is the new best delivery system for porn. You can get really specific, away from both gender and sexuality, and toward – not taste, but craving. You feel insatiable on a perfect Tumblr (the infinite scroll) but not at all hungry. It’s like a candy store. Sometimes Tumblr makes the magazine part of me jealous. Then I remember that every issue is meant to be one last meal.

What’s hot?

Beauty Today: This insane clip of a pet turtle masturbating.

Sang Bleu: The funeral of Grace Jones? Or the day after the funeral of Grace Jones! Or a freshly shaved head.

IRÈNE:Creme Caramel” by Canada.

ODISEO: The knowledge enclosed in a sensual body.

TALC: TALC.

ADULT: Hands at work.