>>Pre-order issue #01 of the new Eye on Design magazine—out March 2018<<

Hot Stuff: How These New Erotic Magazines are Using Design to Excite, Entice + Subvert

In the last decade, stacks of new erotic independent magazines have been finding their way to bedside tables, with the aim to inspire exploration and orientation, as well as titillation.

A title like Math has a feminist and progressive focus, Extra Extra from Amsterdam blends erotica with contemporary art, and Fluffer Everyday from Greece wants to excite readers through the ordinary. Other titles of note are Baroness, which brands itself as erotica for women, and the queer feminist zine Salacious from the U.S., which presents and explores desire and sexuality through comics, with an emphasis on inclusivity.

Today, we’re celebrating the newest magazines setting out to subvert sexual stereotypes, whether by negating the narratives and standards of online pornography; creating space for queer, non-conforming, and female expression; or simply providing readers with an honest and relatable depiction of sex. And it’s through design, the editorial layout, art direction, and illustration commissioning, that these title’s are making a difference.

An extended version of this piece ran in the pilot issue #00 of Eye on Design magazine, now sold out. Lucky for you, issue #01, themed “Invisible,” is ready for pre-order. 

1
Leste

This beautiful bi-annual, risograph title, published by the Montreal-based poet Sara Sutterlin, contains personal interviews with women about sex, intimacy, writing, and art. Designed by Kevin McCaughey of Chicago’s Nonporous graphic design studio, the grittiness of the riso suits the tone of the publication: it’s playful, sexy, and sometimes messy.

Leste recognizes that empowering goes beyond what’s on the page and extends to the production of those pages, too.

“There is no single gaze in Leste,” says Sutterlin of the desires and fantasies represented inside the pages. “We want to tell all stories, explore all narratives, talk about all sex.”

Leste magazine, issue 3.

 

The cover of issue 3 is particularly indicative of Leste’s intimate and honest tone: a close up of a slouching chest, rolls of flesh lit sensuously and belly button frowning, features center frame. The image locates a sexiness in folds, and also in the way that a body slouches; it celebrates a movement that’s directly opposite to stereotypical pin-up girl S shapes. Design-wise, a sense of transparency is also reflected by the use of plastic wrap around the riso mag, subverting the hidden connotations of the brown paper bags once encasing vintage porn.

Leste, issue 4.

 

Leste, issue 4.

 

Leste recognizes that empowering goes beyond what’s on the page and extends to the production of those pages, too: Sutterlin always gives monetary compensation for contributors’ work in the hope that it will encourage artists to be comfortable demanding pay. It’s an important emphasis given the current landscape of independent publishing, where indie magazines so often rely on unpaid labor in return for shout-outs and exposure.

2
Fluffer Everyday

A local barista. A shirtless basketball player in the park. A stone sculpture bending over suggestively. These are the everyday subjects inside erotic magazine Fluffer Everyday from Athens, Greece.

Like its name emphasizes, this mag wants to excite readers through the ordinary. Instead of showcasing images that dictate a story, its pictures and layout encourage the reader to participate by imagining their own plots instead.

Fluffer is an example of a magazine reacting directly to the nature of online, mainstream pornography, which, it argues, doesn’t allow for participatory fantasy. In a recent interview with Stack, founder Sotiris Trechas said: “I believe in imagination. I think that porn as we know it is very shallow and not inspiring at all. The industry offers everything, all laid out and read. Nowadays, people do not have time to explore their fantasies and experiment.” Fluffer is a photographic journal of personal turn-ons and fantasies; it’s an intimate diary of the things that Trechas finds stimulating and suggestive.

Fluffer Everyday, issue 3.

 

Fluffer Everyday, issue 3

 

Each picture is sat on bright red pages that contains sparse, suggestive prompts in stark type, like “his ass was magnificent” or, simply, “and then he kissed me.” With only one or two pictures, and an occasional quote per page, this deliberate layout forces the reader to take their time and dwell for a while, filling in their own narratives, instead of flipping to or clicking on whatever’s lined up next.

3
Math

Artist Mackenzie Peck publishes her “ethical pornography magazine” for the reader who wants to be sure those involved wanted to be a part—and who believes represented bodies aren’t only white, straight, thin, and conventionally attractive. The independent porn quarterly is based out of Brooklyn, and embraces content that celebrates all genders, bodies, beauty types, kinks, sexualities, and perversions. Math straddles two key emphases: it wants to retain the potential for discovery afforded by the internet, while simultaneously promoting radical transparency and a cruelty-free work environment.

Math magazine, issue 1.

 

“As soon as readers know what to expect from us, I’m done.”

In terms of its design, Math seems at first glance to be a textbook with its inconspicuous typography and bright red cover… All the better for secret reading on the subway. And while it’s one of the less design-conscious publications on this list, what makes the title so progressive is the process behind its art direction. Peck is committed to creating a safe, non-hierarchical environment on set; at its extreme, this means that everyone—from photographers to stagehands—strips down to their underwear. (Though only if they’re comfortable with it, Peck emphasizes.)

While Peck makes it her priority to represent all types of sexualities, desires, and genders in Math, she explains says it can be a challenge to find models of various body types in the industry. “People don’t feel comfortable modelling because they don’t see examples of others, who look like them, represented. Sometimes I find myself in a chicken or the egg type of scenario. The responsibility of representation is what drives me to continue to work on Math, but to me this is less a challenge, and more a celebration. The realness and the diversity of humanity is beautiful, sexy, and surprising. As soon as readers know what to expect from us, I’m done.”

4
Phile

Arriving with its own freebie vile of self-branded lube, the new “international journal of desire and curiosity” from Berlin investigates sexual subcultures with a view towards encouraging more understanding towards those who exist outside of normative societal structures. It describes its own sexuality as pan-sexual, and its first issue features articles on daddies, queer spirits, muk-bang, ecosexuality, zentai, piesexuals, shibari, voyeurism, and more.

“In order to prevent a sensationalist point of view, we commission articles from people who exist within these communities, as opposed to having an ‘outsider’ look in,” say Phile editors and publishers Erin Reznick and Mike Feswick. “Members of the communities therefore have control of their own representation and can aptly express their own histories, experiences, and identities. It’s important for us to incooprate a range of voices in each issue, including female and gender non-conforming voices, to encourage the continuing discourse on feminism, gender, and fluidity in sexuality.”

Phile magazine, issue 1.

 

Phile is a gorgeous piece of print, with elegant custom fonts, unglued stitch binding, and a sexy deep purple color palette oozing throughout. Abstracted, organic shapes cascade across the pages as a structural devise; they mold to one another and slide off one another evocatively, like liquid or skin.

5
The Anonymous Sex Journal

For a number of years, California-based editor and writer Alex Tieghi-Walker has been sporadically publishing the illustrated The Anonymous Sex Journal. The idea for the zine first began when a friend at a party was recounting a particularly amusing story about a recent sexual experience; inspired by their candid anecdote, Tieghi-Walker set up an online form so that others could send him their secret sex stories too.

The Anonymous Sex Journal, “The Solo issue,” illustration by Laura Callaghan.

 

These submissions now form the basis of an issue: each one is themed, illustrated by a different artist, and includes a delightful blend of silliness, sexiness, and empathy. Illustrators have included Laura Callaghan (who was behind the magnificent “Solo Issue”), and John Booth (behind “The Almost Issue.”) The zine’s forthright honesty combined with witty drawings makes for an incredibly refreshing view of sexuality and intimacy. Plus, Teighi-Walker notoriously smuggles the zine into unexpected places—from bookstores, libraries, and cafes, to issues of other magazines (including issue four of Riposte)—and is known to have wrapped the publication in plastic encasing, to protect it from any potential spills and splatters.

The latest issue, released in January, is themed “Coming of Age,” a gentler and more nuanced topic than past issues. The 21 submissions recount stories of transition and naivety, and are paired with cheeky and uplifting drawings by Oakland-based Jeffrey Cheung, from the queer skate collective Unity. 

The Anonymous Sex Journal, issue 6, “Coming of Age,” illustration by Jeffrey Cheung.

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Design + Sexuality