Math Magazine is an independent female operated progressive porn quarterly. That's the official descriptor. Unofficially, it's a beautiful print magazine with images and literature about sexuality all along the spectrum. This quarterly showcases a diversity of pleasures and bodies exploring kink and taboo in an altruistic and artful way. Flipping open the flirtatious cherry red glossy cover reveals a host of sensual expressions from photography, illustration, short stories and interviews.
MacKenzie Peck, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Math Magazine, has opted for a subversive alternative to the current pornography paradigm. Jenny Lederer, a contributing photographer in a recent shoot tells us, "I was struck by [MacKenzie's] insistence that models' identities be preserved; that we're not cutting off heads to focus on beautiful, object-like bodies, for example. . . In photography, it can be easy to focus on the aesthetic, to the exclusion of everything else. . . Collaborating within the Math ethos has meant creating more mindful imagery, for me." Jenny describes her recent shoot for Math as "inspired by classical statuary and surrealist painting." Her "objective in using fabric [draped over the models] was to provide contrast and framing for the naked body, to make deliberate choices about what's concealed and revealed." It was in hearing this that it sank in: This was not some cloak and dagger attempt at re-interpreting porn. This was recreating porn as we have known it. Aaron Canter, a recent Math Magazine model told Mythogynist, "MacKenzie kept it super loose, intuitive and creative . . . Capturing kinetic bodies in space interchanging, kinda like the Picasso painting Contortionist I suppose . . . MacKenzie was super sensitive to what was healthy and allowing whatever was to happen, happen." A key concept repeated in Math's language is the importance of being sex-positive. When asking model Aaron Canter what this means, he tells me, "Sex-positive is to be at the best peace with your perversity as you can be; to be transparent with your partner(s) about your wants and their wants and to be thoughtful about the shame thing . . . Of course all parties need to consent to the sex for it to be positive . . . I think individuals should have a sense of how they want sex to be part of their lives."
In MacKenzie, we see a stalwart movement in clearing the slate and removing many of the previously negative associations with pornography. Paramount in this business is the consent of the models and photographers, authenticity of the experience (meaning, models are shot doing things they actually enjoy) and collaboration. Often times it is the model who presents an idea and works with the photographers on how best to portray it. There is no unbending script. Photographer Jenny shares, "On set, Mackenzie functions as an advocate for the models, checking in with them in real time . . . I love what happens when the models become less conscious of the camera and more playful and improvisational. It makes the shoot feel like more of a collaboration between everyone present."
This Brooklyn-based, all female operated independent business printed its first quarterly in Fall of 2015, for a small audience of curious minds. Since then, the magazine has seen a powerful and growing response to its luscious and sexy page-work. If you can dream it, they'll likely print it. From a professional crew, to knee-knocking sensual images, a sleekly designed product and a tightly run business, Math Magazine is quickly becoming a favorite way to celebrate kinky art, from the minds and bodies that express them.
So, what is it like to create and manage a conceptual leviathan like Math Magazine? We asked founder and Editor-in-Chief, MacKenzie Peck, to tell us all about it:
Photography Credit: Left: Maureen Michelle (Issue Two); Middle: Cover of Math Magazine; Right: Cole Witter (Issue Three)
Behind the Scenes Photographs by MacKenzie Peck. Issue Zero
Photograph by Jonathan Hanson (For Huck Magazine)
M: I read that Math Magazine is dedicated to redefining porn. How have you seen porn defined previously- as a contributor or as a consumer.
Pornography is a word that is publicly abhorred. Headlines and private conversations alike center around feelings of shame, disdain, and fear. This interpretation isn’t without merit. From streaming video sites to incidents of public masturbation, the conversation and culture surrounding the porn industry (and the actions it may inspire) is typically unsavory, aggressive, and ostensibly insufficient.
My decision to identify Math Magazine as a porn publication and myself, a pornographer (printed on gloss cherry red business cards) is an affront to these negative associations. Readers are often surprised by this choice because we don’t look like, what many have accepted as the caliber of images and stories they are willing to accept. It’s time to raise the bar by representing desires that are often sought by rarely seen. Math Magazine is redefining pornography by championing a full spectrum of beauty and sexuality while maintaining the highest possible level of quality.
In consuming porn today, one may easily fall prey to this questionable moral territory or find themselves bored in so-called safe moral ground. I’m in favor of exploring taboo and kink while keeping the aesthetics and perspectives fresh and varied. Math Magazine exhibits the incredible assortment of desires and fantasies uncommon to mainstream media within a safe, curated space. There is opportunity for surprise and discovery, as you might experience online, but without fear of contributing to a monopolized system that oppresses and exploits. Unlike mainstream porn, we want to talk about our non-hierarchical production methods and can can guarantee that our content is produced with consent and collaboration.
In the forthcoming, Math Magazine Issue Three we have a brilliant essay by Laurel Frances Rogers called "Toward a Minor Pornography: An Introduction to the Poetics and Politics of Porn, " which addresses this question of redefining pornography thoroughly and rallies a call to action in response. It is inspiring and powerful work.
Why don't you like the idea of people calling Math Magazine erotica?
Language is a very powerful tool. As you can see, I wield it with respect and caution. Erotica is a term that conjures visions of hiding behind a sugar coating. I see air brushed hunks, sex wrapped in unrealistic heteronormative romance, and a lack of quality that comes out of denying essential aspects of a form.
That form being pornography. The inherent qualities that should be championed without shame or sugar are what I am embracing. To be blunt, I'm specifically thinking of hardcore and queer sex acts. I am passionate about exploring the full spectrum of sexual expression while maintaining the highest possible level of quality and a variety of perspectives. That's the thing about bad mainstream porn: there is an inverse relationship between explicitness and quality. As one increases, the other declines. To this end, I am dedicated to making Math Magazine honest, fearless, and sexy.
I read that two key facets of the magazine are "pornography through consent-driven collaboration and radical transparency." What does this mean and how do you try to achieve it?
Our dedication to ethical, empathetic, and empowering collaborations with every single person involved with the magazine is one of our defining qualities. This is a major reason why people are excited to read Math Magazine and be apart of it. These values are conveyed in our content and our methods of working. Everyone has creative input and investment. Coming out of a play party mentality, I understand that a “yes,” now doesn’t mean a “yes,” later. In other words, all models, photographers, and onset collaborators have the agency to change or stop what is happening on set at any time. From the first word to the last, everyone is encouraged to be open and honest.
I am looking to transition our website to one that is more focused on radical transparency. That means, complete openness as to the ways our magazine is created and growing. Math Magazine has seen such a powerful response that I haven’t been able to carve out the time to do this. Yet, I see Math Magazine taking on a similar mode as some companies in the food and fashion industries where we are upfront and honest with our customers. Right now, this only pertains to my communication with collaborators and contributors but I look forward to the opportunity to sharing our cruelty-free mindset with the world, through a new radically transparent web presence.
Who comes up with the ideas for the various sets and/or stories you include?
I work closely with all contributors to create the best possible collaboration whereby their strengths and passions align with our editorial vision and art direction. It is important to me that everyone involved in the production of Math Magazine is excited, happy, and eager to make something that might otherwise not be possible or will reach new audiences. I often try to create opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to someone. If a model has a fantasy they’d like to enact, I want to do that for them. If a photographer, has this wild vision, I want to find the perfect location. Giving talented people the opportunity to bring their ideas to life and to share their visions with an eager audience is one of the most rewarding things about the work that I do.
Not to go unmentioned are my epic Google Doc and secret Pinterst board that some contributors are privy to, where my ideas and references live. These files are a pretty wild look into how my brain works and where I find inspiration. From narratives that come out of specific philosophical ideas, to screenshots of movies and clippings from old fashion ad campaigns, I'm always collecting new influences.
How do you source your talent?
I am finding that the people who want to be a part of the production of Math Magazine are the same people who are buying it. This is an indication of the incredible community our publication has engendered. As an independent magazine that is at the forefront of an international movement, it comes as no surprise that people have a strong response to our values and vision. What speaks volumes is that beyond simply consuming our magazine, people are clamoring to be a part of it, to support it, and see it grow.
Everyday I receive notes from models, authors, advocates, photographers, artists, illustrators, and researchers eager to get involved with Math Magazine. Many of these conversations lead to work in the mag or supporting efforts within the company. Additionally, I will reach out to people that I admire to see what we can make happen. I’ll seek out talented artists, photographers, and authors. I have been known to DM on Instagram or Tweet at folks I dig in order to kick-start a project.
Conversations with models begin with questions about why they want to work with us, what excites them about being photographed, if they have friends or lovers they'd like to model with, and what turns them on. From there we see where the conversation takes us. I enjoy playing the role of matchmaker; connecting the best possible people to make an idea come to life. Ideas are shaped by each person involved so that the concept evolves from a note on my list of ideas or a single image on my Pinterest to a full fledged production and editorial. All of these choices and the embracing of the process are born of pure respect and trust.
What does it mean to be sex-positive?
Sex-positivity is about embracing our (consensual) carnal desires, without shame (unless you're into shame, as a kink, of course, sorry that's sort of a kink joke). Dan Savage coined the abbreviation GGG meaning "good, game, giving." As in, one should strive to be good in bed, giving "equal time and equal pleasure" to one's partner, and game "for anything, within reason." To me, communication, honesty, and trust are essential both in the bedroom and my business.
Photo by Mackenzie Peck. Behind the Scenes. Issue Two
What's your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part about being editor-in-chief of a new wave porn magazine is connecting with people. It's twofold. First, I get to collaborate with people I respect and admire. Seeing an idea develop from a glimmer in my eye to a six image spread is quite simply the best. Second, I get to connect with people through two totally normal, yet controversial, things called sex and art.
Whether it's working on-set or hearing from readers, sharing experiences with others is what life, for me, is all about. I struggle with depression and anxiety and while I worry about letting people down (a highly motivating force), I am inspired and supported by everyone connecting with me through the magazine. This is a major reason why I decided to start a magazine. I was on track to becoming a professional artist but discovered a real need to connect with more people and in more relatable ways. The art world is a small one and only so many people care about whatever obscure art historical joke you might be making. And out of that group, even fewer people related to what I had to say. Now, with porn and sex: everyone has something to say and an experience to relay.
I've been surprised to find that I've also become a sort of advocate or ally. Now that I've come out as a sex-positive pornographer, people have sought me out for judgment-free advice and support. That means a lot to me and I'm happy to help as best as I can. Looking forward, I am eager to promote this sensibility in our readers, I call them Mathletes. In my Issue Three Letter From The Editor, I call on our readers to take on this role within their communities.
When you decided you were serious about starting this company, what were the first three things you did to get started?
I began by telling everyone about my idea and asking around for help. Next, once a name was chosen, I sought a designer to create our logo. Angelina Vierneza is a talented designer in Australia who I contacted on Instagram. She was so kind to work with me. In fact, we developed the logo almost entirely on Pinterest. Something incredible happens when you make your intentions known. It takes a little while, but the people who are meant to work together find each other. Lastly, is a step that I don’t think will ever end: just keep going. After researching similar publications, I realized there was one distinguishing factor, the others didn’t last.
Starting a business or creating something that is unique to the industry can be stressful. You are paving the road yourself. When things get stressful, what mantra or thing do you tell yourself to stay motivated?
From the first photo shoot, I have felt an obligation to everyone involved in the creation of Math Magazine. Today, this mindset extends to everyone who reads it, supports it, and sells it. The four person team that came together for my first photo shoot was willing to believe in something that didn’t exist yet. How crazy is that? I had an idea and they went along with it because they believed in it. They took a risk with me and once that happened I realized I had to make an entire magazine. I couldn’t let them down. That mentality is with me every day.
What are some sites, businesses or artists that have served as inspiration for your publication? Is there existing art and/or porn that you think is on the right track?
Inspiration takes many forms. There are Founders & CEOs, in an array of industries, who inspire me from Emily Weiss of Glossier and Kegan Schouwenburg of Sols to Tina Roth Eisenberg and Cindy Gallop. Gallop founded Make Love Not Porn and the Women of Sex Tech coalition where I’ve met incredible female founders including those at Dame products and Unbound Box.
I am lucky to associate with a tight-knit group of independent publishers based out of Brooklyn. Everyday, I see my friends at Got A Girl Crush, Posture, Selfish, and Bushwick Review accomplishing amazing things and I’m inspired. While I firmly stand to represent the current state of sexuality and sexual expression, I am inspired by Hugh Heifner, Helen Gurley Brown, and Pauline Réage.
In terms of new-wave porn, my idols are Erika Lust, Shine Louise Houston of Pink and White Productions, Vex Ashley at Four Chambered Heart, everyone involved with Adult Magazine, and Paul-Simon at BRKFST. And lastly, powerhouses like Vice, Dazed, and Nowness continue to share the amazing work of up-and-coming artists exploring sensual and sexual ideas.
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