From asexuality to ecosex and the “Lesbian Sex Mafia”, Ladybeard is the fresh, feminist take on the glossy that spotlights sexuality in all its weird and wonderful forms
Within the first few pages of Ladybeard magazine, we hear stories from a woman whose lesbian partner has recently come out as transgender, of one man’s blowjob encounter with a racist nightbus stranger, and a girl whose teenage addiction to having cybersex has resulted in a collection of sweaty penises in an inbox she unfortunately can’t remember the password to. Equal parts tragicomic, touching and altogether human, these diverse angles on sexuality in the post-internet age are hardly what you’d call “top shelf” stuff. “We wanted to show just how varied sex and people’s experience of sex is”, say the magazine’s editors, Madeleine Dunnigan, Kitty Drake and Sadhbh O’Sullivan. “Sex that’s disappointing, or messy, or traumatic, or wonderful in all the most unexpected ways.”
It’s an ethos that has resulted in a fresh, feminist alternative to the kinds of magazines a millennial generation of girls grew up on: women’s glossies with their glut of “how to please your man” sex tips in combination with the advertising industry’s own sexualised, unattainable depictions of the body. “Only recently did Cosmo break the habit of putting ‘SEX’ in the top left hand corner of every issue, the place to which the eye is most naturally drawn,” say the magazine’s editors, whose second issue contains no advertising. “Sex is everywhere in mainstream magazines, but the sex it sells you is so one-dimensional... It leaves you feeling abnormal if you don’t conform.”
From ecosex to asexuality, you’d be hard pressed to find an aspect of human sexual experience that isn’t covered in Ladybeard’s chunky pages. Containing compelling personal accounts and interviews – highlights include sexual violence campaigner Pavan Amara, spokesperson on sexuality and disability Alex Cowan and feminist porn filmmaker Petra Joy – the magazine’s often graphic textual element is counterbalanced with playful, bright original photography and artist’s contributions. Graphic, “sex-ed” style illustrations by Peter Stemmler (originally published inThe Sex Book by Suzi Godson) book-end each section, while collages from legendary Linder and avocado-stuffed “food porn” from Francesca Fattori are each “full-frontal” in their own idiosyncratic ways. A feature on 80s activist group the Lesbian Sex Mafia is accompanied by paintbox-bright illustrations of freewheeling naked ladies. And a gloriously pink rabbit vibrator is the issue’s bold cover star. “We wanted to play with ideas of the graphic,” say the editors. “The images you see in the average glossy magazine perpetuate far more damaging and troubling messages about sexuality, but we are so used to seeing them and absorbing them almost subconsciously that they don’t shock us at all. Our visuals depict open, fluid sexuality, but they are actively shocking – and that is a critique on the fact that we let far more damaging depictions of sex and sexuality slip by unnoticed.”
Editors: Madeleine Dunnigan, Kitty Drake, Sadhbh O’Sullivan; Art direction: Scarlet Evans, Tyro Heath, Bronya Meredith
The Sex Issue launches on 14 November at Hackney Showroom. You can buy your tickets here.