Founded in 2001 by Dutch editors Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, Butt magazine spent the first decade of a new millennium celebrating every inch of what it means to be unapologetically, shamelessly homosexual. Emerging at the peak of the lads mag era, and as pornography became widely available among the screeches and squawks of dial-up internet, Butt created a space for gay masculinity in a hyper-hetero world.
“I started buying Butt with the first issue,” said artist AA Bronson, the Executive Director of Printed Matter, Inc in New York between 2004-2010. Bronson developed a fondness for the magazine as a reader before reaching out to founders Jonkers and van Bennekom as they produced the seventh issue issue of their “pink and super queer” magazine in New York.
“I emailed them and invited them to lunch,” said Bronson. “I wanted to tell them about my healing practice and especially about my specialty, a kind of butt massage. They published an interview with me, with a portrait by Bruce LaBruce, and the rest was history. Clients appeared from nowhere, and the right kind of clients too. I interviewed Paul Sepuya for a later issue, and also sold Butt at Printed Matter. It was our best-selling title.” Lamenting on the magazine’s sudden cease in publication, he added, “I was sorry to see it go, but our boys had bigger fish to fry.” The bigger fish in question were already on the line, with Jonkers and van Bennekom’s genre-defining fashion publication Fantastic Man launching in 2005 and gaining rapid momentum.
As writer and long-time Butt contributor Paul Flynn — who also collaborated with Taschen on the publisher’s 2014 hard-backed ode to the title, Forever Butt — said, the magazine’s status as a cult classic can be attributed to its delicious blend of endless good looks and great fucks, which was brought to an abrupt end in 2011, ten years after its launch, at its 29th issue. “Sex and good taste will never go out of fashion, and so rarely meet,” said Flynn.
Sex and good taste will never go out of fashion, and so rarely meet.
Laying the final issue to rest, writers, editors, photographers, and readers alike declared that Butt would be missed — and it was. A quick name-search through the archives of Twitter shows that the queer voices of popular culture today have often cited their connection to Butt in their own narratives. In September 2019, trans actress, model, and writer Hari Nef Tweeted, “i never read butt magazine but i miss it.” In March 2020, American playwright Jeremy O. Harris Tweeted, “I often think about the fact that I’ll never be in BUTT MAGAZINE…” alongside an image of the Autumn 2005 cover, with author and Vogue columnist Raven Smith, who has just released his memoir Raven Smith’s Men, replying, “SAME.”
Writer Flynn, who was working at gay title Attitude at the time he discovered Butt, credited one specific instance of working for the magazine as having a profound impact on his and others’ creative careers. “There was one interview I did, with Julian Ganio, which effectively changed how I approached writing profiles overnight,” said Flynn. “Julian was then the doorman at The Eagle in Vauxhall, London, in his very early 20s. He was a real character around town but Butt made him a cover star with a set of iconic images by Wolfgang Tillmans, taken in his apartment above the club. Julian has gone on to have an incredible career as a menswear stylist since and — we’ve spoken about this a lot — I don’t think he’d mind me saying that was his turning point; the moment he saw his own potential on the page. That’s an incredible gift for a magazine to give someone. It was just brilliant to be a part of it.”
On 9th February 2022, Butt’s Instagram account (which is set to private, presumably in an attempt to avoid being shut down amidst the tyranny of the algorithms policing the social media platform’s deeply controversial “community guidelines”), shared a single throbbing Butt logo, set against the brand’s signature powder pink background, with the announcement many had been hoping for: “BUTT IS BACK”.
A week later, on 16th February, @buttmagazine posted a shot of the cover of Butt magazine issue 30, Spring 2022. With a cover photographed by Clifford Prince King, what shoppers and subscribers (also known as Buttheads) would soon discover is that the magazine had brought back not just its instantly recognisable offering of Q&A-format interviews, beautifully shot nudity, and tales of horny adventure, but also its one-of-a-kind take on advertizing.
Bottega Veneta, a brand that famously removed its presence from social media back in early 2021, graces the coveted back cover space, advertizing its wares not by showing them, but with an image of a bare bottom and an arguably redundant towel at the seashore, framed by the brand’s logo. Bottega Veneta is the exclusive advertiser of the rebooted Butt magazine, and the new 100-page issue was launched by the fashion house on 3rd March, with a three-day installation of one of Saša J. Mächtig’s K67 Kiosks at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo, complete with exclusive BUTT x Bottega T-shirts. Touching on the publication’s return, Bronson said, “Like all Butt aficionados, I am happy to see it return, but I presume it is just testing the waters for something. What, I do not know.”
Reinstating his professional relationship with Jonkers and van Bennekom, and the addition of editor Nathaniel Feldmenn, Bronson’s energy brings a mischievous and necessary sense of experience to the Spring 2022 issue, where he interviewed Berlin-based trans man and gay porn actor Billy Vega for a wonderfully titled feature, “Behind the hairy ass of BILLY VEGA.” The inclusion of trans voices such as Billy’s — who exposes the bureaucracy and limitations of being trans in his native Sweden within the piece — is reflective of the way queer identity itself has evolved and diversified in the 11 years between issues 29 and 30.
Butt helped me feel connected to a wider gay culture at large, and also learn about stuff that just wasn’t available to me.
Freelance Glasgow-based art director Tom Joyes, whose portfolio includes the recently revamped biannual art magazine Elephant, is a self-confessed Butt fanatic. “My ex-boyfriend introduced me to it, and it must have been about 10 years ago, or something like that — so by that time there were already a lot of back issues,” said Joyes. His answer to the question “what drew you to Butt” seems obvious in hindsight: “It was just the fact the magazine was really hot, and there were a lot of hot boys in it.” He noted that representation (of homosexuality, not hotness), was also central to his growing love of the title. “Coming from Glasgow, and reading the magazine, it’s nice to see yourself represented in a completely different way than you’ve seen in the gay culture around you. And I think that magazine helped me feel connected to a wider gay culture at large, and also learn about stuff that just wasn’t available to me.”
While the magazine initially appealed to Joyes as a young gay man in Scotland, his appreciation of the publication as a designer soon followed. “I think I realized over time, the more I got into collecting magazines and editorial, how iconic the look was and how distinctive it was, how it references a lot of ephemera, how it references a lot of zine culture — even the format of it is really low-fi,” he said. Commenting on Butt’s new exclusive partnership with Bottega Veneta, Joyes’ noted the way authetic gay culture was even reflected in the original magazine’s advertizers.
“I think one of the nice things about some of the old issues is the ads. There were ads for gay saunas and stuff like that, just things where they probably didn’t even pay to be in the magazine,” said Joyes. “It felt more like those kind of newsletters or pamphlets, you know, from years back, that spoke more about that side of the gay community. So, I’m a bit disappointed to hear that it’s just one big fashion advertizer now, it kind of changes that a little bit. In terms of the other content of the new mag, I think it’s very true to the original.”
A full generation has passed since Butt began and with them massive, seismic changes in the way sexuality is discussed.
In the years between its first, last and latest issues, Jonkers and van Bennekom have secured their own reputation as world-renowned magazine makers in the wake of Butt’s legacy. After the duo launched Fantastic Man, one of the most prominent and influential new fashion publications in recent years, they then launched its sister title, The Gentlewoman, in 2010.
Writer Flynn believes that both the beginning and the end of Butt’s hiatus were well-timed moments in a trajectory required for the magazine to maintain its relevance. “I was sad to see it go, but with anything that defines its moment and identifies new countercultures, there has to be a full stop, because that counterculture starts to look like the mainstream,” he said. “By the time American Apparel and Mr Porter had borrowed so heavily from Jop’s aesthetic, you could see a version of it on the high street and inevitably its impact had lessened. I’m really pleased to see it back though. A full generation has passed since it began and with them massive, seismic changes in the way sexuality is discussed. There should be a grown-up, fun, tasteful forum for that to exist in.”