The publication is ‘an ode to the beauty of the erotic’ and an antidote to the increasing censorship of social media
What once felt like the relatively ungovernable terrain of social media has, over the years, become increasingly policed. More than ever, Instagram posts and accounts are being removed, nipples are outlawed, and the domain of what is deemed “against community guidelines” grows ever larger and more engulfing and hysterical.
In this climate of encroaching censorship, photographer Tom Selmon created Sensored magazine. “It’s an ode to the beauty of the erotic. It has no boundaries or limitations with the bodies we show and how explicitly we show them,” he says, as the second edition of Sensored hits the shelves. “It features contributors from around the world, all giving their own unique, uncensored, and personal interpretation of sex and nudity, acting as a time capsule of artistic expression within erotica today.”
The project began in lockdown, when Selmon made an erotic photography zine. “I wanted to take back control for myself and artists alike, who were finding they were struggling for their work to be seen as for many online is their only platform,” he tells Dazed in a conversation over email. This initial idea evolved and the project gathered momentum, and Sensored was born with the manifesto: “I want to challenge the viewer or reader, this magazine is not about seeing what you’ve seen a thousand times before, it is about changing the discourse and preconceived ideas around erotica, with an attempt to make the world of it feel less threatening and more welcoming.”
Selmon began the search for artists who could add their own highly subjective, uninhibited erotic vision. Integrity was at the forefront of his pursuit. He explains, “The main question I ask each contributor is: What do you want to say about nudity, sex, or erotica? This can be something light and fluffy or hold a deeper meaning, as long as what you put forward is honest.” He emphasises, “An honest point of view is what I believe gives Sensored the essence it has. From there I like to give space to the contributors to do their thing in creating their art.”
What also differentiates Sensored from general porn magazines is, according to Selmon, the nuanced exploration of varied gazes and a reverence for the distinct details on which the architecture of our fantasies hang. “Sensored doesn’t just cater to one sexuality – which I don’t think is right or wrong – but, personally, I didn't want to put limitations on who could be a part of the magazine. I think it’s really cool to gauge the massive spectrum of our sexual desires. For example, Cleo Henry writes a choose-your-own-adventure story about ‘Sucking Strap’ – something I wasn’t familiar with and now I know about.”
Selmon talks us through a few of the many arresting photo stories in the magazine, including Meg Turner’s queer fantasy series within the tight-knit New Orleans kink community; Saadiq Soeker and Sara Petersen’s created a beautiful series “in which they brought back to life old cruising grounds in Cape Town”; Scarlett Casciello’s opening up of “an important conversation about the Madonna-whore complex that was inspired by her own personal experiences”; and the work of Ahmad Naser Eldein, who takes “a more simple approach to the brief by spending three days capturing sex and intimacy between a real couple”.
The magazine is permeated by stories that enlarge our understanding of sexuality and its intrinsic connection with selfhood. Selmon tells us about some of his own work that features in the pages of volume two and that occupies a place especially close to his heart: “A particularly special photo in the magazine is my nude portrait of David James at his home,” he explains. “David is a 76-year-old gay man who I street cast around seven years ago. His portrait is accompanied by a piece of writing by him that talks about ageing, sex, confidence in your own body and not having the privilege of growing old with friends because of the AIDS pandemic. I thought it was really important to have his point of view and story imprinted in the magazine.”
Selmon assures us that Sensored 3.0 in October 2023, and looks more generally toward the project evolving into an online platform of arthouse pornography, community events, and a comprehensive coffee table book featuring imagery spanning previous issues. Meanwhile, visit the gallery above for a closer look at some of the work featured in the current issue.
Sensored 2.0 is available here now.