Two years in the making, The Sex Issue is finally here! Ahead of their launch event this weekend at Hackney Showrooms we met Ladybeard for a chat…
What inspired you to start Ladybeard, and how did you come up with the name?
The whole idea behind Ladybeard is to subvert mainstream women’s glossy magazines: to take large topics that have been misrepresented or underrepresented and open them up to fresh, feminist perspectives. We wanted to take the ‘glossy’ – which had such a formative influence on us growing up – and recreate it for ourselves.
As for the name, it first evolved out of a quote from As You Like It that a few of us studied at university. We liked the word. We thought it playful – it disrupts notions of sexuality and gender in a fun way. And that’s a central tenant of our magazine: to deconstruct extant rigid heteronorms but in an exciting, inclusive way. We want to ask questions rather than provide answers. We are feminist but we are not just for women.
Female sexual pleasure is usually a hush hush suspect (omg a vibrator); is that one of the reasons you decided on a sex issue?
Definitely! Sex is a bastion of the mainstream media, so it made sense to start there. You see it everywhere, but in a particularly insidious, narrow form – sexualised, white, female forms used to sell perfume, lingerie, etc. And then there is its explicit portrayal – 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. Sex is everywhere in mainstream women’s magazines, but the sex it sells you is so one-dimensional, and communicates such damaging messages about gender roles and sexuality, that it leaves you feeling abnormal if you don’t conform. We wanted to make a magazine where there was writing and visuals about real sex – sex that’s disappointing, or messy, or traumatic, or wonderful in all the most unexpected ways. And we wanted a range of different voices to share their experiences – rather than it just being about straight, cis, airbrushed women and men. Partly because we wanted to counter the destructive messages we faced growing up, and partly because sex is just so much more interesting this way!
Looking at the edition, it seems art and illustrations are important to the magazine, is that right?
The art and illustration are integral to the magazine. We felt that the images you see in mainstream media are so insidious in their sexualisation of women and the sexual stereotypes they promote. You don’t notice them because they are subtly ubiquitous, which means we don’t question them – that’s the point. It was really important for us that our visuals were extremely bold, strong and ‘explicit’, portraying fluid and open visions of sex. The very fact that they might shock the reader is a critique: it shows how conditioned we are to accept certain forms of ‘sex’, while others are made alien, ‘other’. It is a comment on the fact that we let far more problematic depictions of sex slip by unquestioned.
You have over 70 contributors to this edition – what was the process behind putting everything together?
We didn’t want to platform ourselves in the magazine; we wanted to platform a wealth of voices from all intersections of life as best we could. The process was really time-consuming as we realised just how much so many people would want to say (and that list will never be complete), but also how many people there were who could say it well. The range and number of contributors we have worked with is staggering (over 70) and each one brought something new. Making a magazine is so hard but to have created something that each person is proud of is really something special.
What’s the number one thing that you want readers to take away from reading this issue?
That sex is not a single thing: there is no one way to think about sex, or experience sex: it can be reproductive, romantic, traumatic, mind-blowing, formative, and sometimes, just plain disappointing. And that it’s normal to feel abnormal.
What are your ambitions for Ladybeard in the future?
To continue to make magazines that have a radical and expansive focus, and, hopefully, become better at it! We want to learn from others, and hear amazing stories and share them with others. Our next issue will be The Mind Issue.
Also, to be a sustainable business! The dream is to match the magazine with events – debates, film screenings, performances – to keep up discussion in the interim between magazines.
How can people be involved if they want to contribute to your next edition?
We will be opening for submission for our next issue (the mind issue) sometime in December. We will do this through our website and our social media pages so stay tuned!
Thanks everyone! So excited to read the edition – love everything you’re doing!
Ladybeard launches The Sex Issue on 14 November at Hackney Showroom. You can buy tickets here!
Want a copy of the Sex Edition? Get it here
All Image credit: Ladybeard, The Sex Issue.