“A magazine for everybody” is a magazine for men
“Female friendly” “Porn for women” “Woman-made porn” We’ve heard it all before and here it is again in Adult, a magazine “of contemporary erotics and experience.”
Women have been so indoctrinated by the idea that male sexuality = human sexuality that we can only understand “sexy” though the eyes of men.
Adult tries to disguise it’s overt glorification of the male gaze by claiming it is “by women” and “for everyone” but the lazy sexism is impossible to miss.
“I want a magazine that is for everybody but feels like it was made by a woman,” says founding editor Sarah Nicole Prickett (of selfies-are-empowering infamy).
“Who is ‘everybody?’” you might ask. Even Prickett admits that a porn magazine by, and supposedly for, women is no different than any other: “all of the people in the magazine — the subjects in the photo editorials are women.” I haven’t gotten the impression the magazine is being marketed as “lesbian erotica” so what Adult seems to be doing is selling objectified women to heterosexual men and women.
Something new, my ass.
I wouldn’t dare advocate for “equal objectification” — I fail to see how objectifying men will stop us from objectifying women — but to claim the male gaze as our own is foolish, never mind unoriginal.
If all we can come up with, as women, is the same old thing, it should tell us something about the pervasiveness of the notion that male = human, while others can only try to squeeze themselves in, always existing in relation to, but not independent of, men. Prickett passively defends the choice to allow “everyone” to borrow the powerful voyeuristic gaze commonly reserved for men with the same argument the faux-feminist, “good men” do: “We’ve all sort of internalized this idea that the female body is just intrinsically more attractive.” It’s like when men go to the strip club and claim it’s because they love women so much: “They’re just so much more beautiful than men.”
That’s not beauty, that’s objectification. It’s not that the female body is “more attractive,” it’s that we see the female body as something that exists for public consumption. Which is all this new (yet old — retro sexism, anyone?) magazine seems to do: perpetuate the notion that women are things to-be-looked at. Sexism isn’t just for men anymore — now women are “free” to join in on the “fun.” Empowerment™.
“When there was a man in the photo, it didn’t totally work,” Prickett claims. Well no. Of course it “didn’t work.” We’re used to looking at women in this way, it makes us feel comfortable. To objectify a man would be to remove his power. That’s why it feels uncomfortable to us. We are accustomed to women portrayed as powerless. Indeed, to try something new, to challenge that easy-to-digest notion of woman as “thing” is difficult. Easy is easy. Obvious is easy.
How Adult differs from just Hustler for hipsters or Playboy for Terry Richardson devotees, I don’t know. Prickett says the publication is “literary” as well, something she claims to value: “If I’m in too much of a literary milieu, I’ll totally freak out about how unsexy everyone is. But if I go to a fashion party, I’m like, ‘Can anyone here read?’” (you’ll find Prickett quoting herself extensively on her Tumblr page, enamoured); but as we all know, everyone reads Playboy for the articles. Black is the new black. Porn is the new porn. Women are the new men.
“So we have some boring soft-core hipster porn mag,” you might say. “Big whoop.” But this particular endeavour is offensive in a way that goes beyond plain old objectification.
The “for women” argument as a stand-in for progress is trite, but it fools people. Meaningless words are thrown around to create a fog that vaguely resembles intellectualism to those who don’t know (or don’t care to know) any better.
“…it returns to the first meaning of “radical”–the roots of things, traced below the skin…” the descriptor on Amazon states ambiguously. Smoke and mirrors seem to be Prickett’s calling card — “fake it till you make it,” her motto.
To co-opt radicalism in order to market porn might be bold if it weren’t clear that the meaning of the word was lost on the author. The irony of attaching “radical” to “below the skin” in order to sell a skin mag is comical, at least.
That Prickett comes from “a seemingly sheltered background,” as The Daily Beast describes it, is less “ironic” than obvious. She’s still behaving like a rebellious teenager, relating to young women in a way that seems envious: “I’ve written essays defending sexting and the selfie. I’m very on-side with teenage girls and almost anything they do on the internet.” If only we could reclaim that self-exploitative childhood we missed out on, as adults… Maybe it’s not too late.
Pornifying women may feel rebellious when we’ve come from a restrictive background. And calling it “porn for women” is sure to draw attention — as we’ve seen, the magazine has received extensive coverage across the U.S., but as philosopher Drake tells us: “Seek respect, not attention. It lasts longer.”