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[NSFW] Meet Math Magazine, Porn's Artsy, Indie Alternative

"Our new tagline could be: 'Come for the consent. Stay for the orgasms,'" says Math Mag founder and editor-in-chief, MacKenzie.

This article contains adult content. 

From the well-worn erotic sculptures of the Greeks and Romans, to the sticky pages of the Kama Sutra, to the Lacanian labyrinth of porn sites, smut has come quite a long way over thousands of years, as have the ways in which we enjoy it. Math Magazine, an independent porn quarterly based out of Brooklyn, is raring for another evolutionary shift, one that moves away from big-industry porn and into a diversified and ethical approach to the ancient art. 

Beneath Math's discrete, textbook-like cover lies a bevy of dirty photos, stories, poems, and illustrations from staff and freelance contributors from around the globe. The business is fully independent, female-owned and operated, and steadfastly sex-positive—a breath of fresh air in a genre long-dominated by industry oligarchies and, face it, straight, white men. 

Math embraces this opposition, producing content that celebrates all genders, body and beauty types, kinks, sexualities, and perversions. The publication and its creators use this open-minded approach to actively rebut the sexism, racism, sexual violence, and other abuses promulgated by a long old, long-dried up industry, instead directing their magazine in an honest and altruistic direction. Math is, in short, "real good porn." 

At the helm of the Math Magazine movement is the publication's founder and editor-in-chief, MacKenzie. Launching her third issue, the deceptively titled "Issue Two," this Thursday, MacKenzie already has her so-called "Mathletes" aching for the release—both the first two issues have sold out and the third, currently available for pre-order, is on track to do the same. 

In anticipation of the perversely pink issue, The Creators Project talked to MacKenzie about how Math began, about her magazine's uniquely erotic-cum-artistic character, and the problem with today's mainstream porn. 

Study into the Nature of Innocence, artist: Jana Brike

The Creators Project: Hi MacKenzie. Can you tell me about when and why Math Magazine was born? 

MacKenzie: As an extension of myself, Math Magazine embodies a lot of my beliefs, personal realizations, and curatorial tastes […] After graduating from art school, I was working in an art gallery and participating in an incredibly nurturing artist residency when I realized that even the best possible art career trajectory wasn’t going to give me what I need. Working as Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an independent magazine is uniquely nourishing because it has the power to reach a broader audience and gain mass appeal on a whole other level. I see so much potential in reaching new readers and collaborators. 

In the Fall of 2015, I released Math Magazine, "Issue Zero." By calling it number zero, I gave myself permission to just start. It was a work-around for my magna cum laude, high school honors society, only-child style of perfectionism. Like a carrot on a stick, I imagine each issue bringing me closer to what I want Math Magazine to accomplish while knowing full well that we will never get there, at least not 100%. The impossibility of perfection is a good thing. 

Besides being an erotic object, Math is also an aesthetic and a literary object: In other words, it’s not your average porno mag.

Math Magazine is tactile, bold, and a bit nerdy. Our name and iconic cover are inspired by textbooks and an obscure moment in pornography when skin rags mimicked sociological studies or research journals. These decisions pay respect to the fact that transgression and porn are inextricably linked while emboldening readers to inconspicuously look at pornography in public: an erotic proposition that feels riskier than using an e-reader or a smartphone. 

Similar to a textbook, we’ve been told that our cover resembles a workbook where answers are to be filled in. Collaboration is an idea that comes up a lot at Math Magazine. Together, reader and publisher complete the erotic gesture and from logo to layout, this exchange is reflected in our design decisions. We encourage readers to reflect on what turns us on and discover something new in process. I am a little obsessed with the idea that the reader activates our magazine and that the best part about porn happens in the imagination. We provide the raw material and you do the rest! 

Photo of Maggy, co-owner of Balloons United, photographer: André Krenz

How does the content of Math fight the degradation, suppression, and objectification ascribed to the porn industry? 

Think about the first and last time you looked at porn. First, we begin in a place of naivete and education. Let’s say you discovered your father’s collection of Penthouse magazines or, more apropos for today, you Googled the word “anal.” Secondly, we have the sexy needs of a grown-ass adult. 

We know all too well the experience of diving into the rabbit hole of x-rated links. After a little while, one might look up from the screen bleary eyed and blinking back to reality only to realize the questionable practices of these sites. Following one’s desires to end up in scary territory is not a positive experience. It’s not uncommon to be confronted by uncertainties about the consent of performers, prevalence of creepy or shitty production, a general lack of diversity and nuance, and the popularity of real degradation and reinforcement of hateful ideas. 

In consuming porn today, one may easily fall prey to this questionable moral territory. I’m in favor of exploring taboo and kink in a safe way. Objectification, for example, is more complicated than most conversations around the topic might lead one to believe. The deciding factor is how the participants feel about what is happening. Math Magazine is a safe, curated space where it is guaranteed that all content is produced with consent and collaboration. Ethical food and clothing companies have carved out niche markets for themselves, and I intend to do the same for the business of radically transparent and cruelty-free pornography. On top of that, I want the vision of Math Magazine to be so exceptional that it transcends our genre to bring in people who hadn’t thought about these issues. I’m looking to convert. 

Our new tagline could be: “Come for the consent. Stay for the orgasms!” It’s insane to me that the subversive thing to do is show an array of people and their real desires in a way that is beautiful and respectful. 

Lastly, Math Magazine exhibits the incredible assortment of desires and fantasies uncommon to mainstream media. My headliner example of this is in our "Issue Two" interview with Maggy, the co-owner of Balloons United in Berlin, a company that sells inflatables for the purpose of fucking, grinding, and rubbing on (among other things). We are passionate about humanizing kink, showcasing folks who are having a positive impact in their sexy communities, and perhaps turning readers on to something new. 

Photographer: Jenny Lederer

What are the challenges of being a female-owned publication in a traditionally male-dominated genre? 

Math Magazine exists in opposition to a history of mainstream American pornography that does not reflect most fantasies or realities. Today we are seeing the impact of this educational lineage and experiencing the cultural repercussions. The ways that these magazines and websites have shaped our nation’s sexuality is astounding. In this regard, Math Magazine is not for the audience that can be satiated by this material. 

I often say that Math Magazine is defining all the gazes: the female gaze, the gay gaze, the bi-gaze, the list goes on. #AllTheGazes. You get the idea. This sentiment was born from my art school education, where students often came up against this expressly privileged white guy lens through which history, political shifts, cultural movements, and humanity at-large are perceived and remembered. I’m optimistic that, thanks to hierarchy-flattening tools like the internet, we are witnessing this patriarchal perception being dealt with appropriately. This makes space for exploring an ever expanding space for sexual freedom and expression. 

What are some of the advantages? 

There is a huge population that is not satisfied with the pornography available to them. As a pansexual cis-female, I have an intimate understanding of all the ways that the medium can be better. They, like myself, are hungry for better porn.

I actively seek diversity in our magazine: ll are welcome to get freaky with us. Is it easier to be all-welcoming and nurturing like this because I’m a woman? Probably. I think if I were a man people would be worried about my ulterior motives, which sucks but is certainly grounded in people being terrible. The pornography industry has allowed for immoral values and practices to prevail. It’s time for a change in the way things are done. 

Why are the images and literature in your magazines not, as is often typical, anonymous? 

The destigmatization of sex is an important aspect of my work at Math Magazine. While I appreciate the inherent vice and secrecy of the medium, the positive impact of talking more about sex is obvious. If children are told about the mechanics and the pleasures of sex they will grown up to be better lovers who communicate. As a result, everyone will be treated better in and out of the sack. Plus, people will get what they want, realize that popular assumptions about sex are wrong, and that there is so much variety of gender expression and sexual desire to choose from! 

Humanizing sexuality and kink is important. These are real people with names, jobs, and food allergies. Still, I long for the day when working in the sex trade doesn’t mean you can’t become a politician or pediatrician. 

Photographer: @djwillycoco69

I read that you ask photographers to get naked/in their underwear when shooting for the mag. What does this bring to the shoots? 

I should start by saying that not everyone does this. I am certainly interested in creating a safe, non-hierarchical environment on set, yet comfort is really important for everyone involved. I am sure to communicate a lot with everyone throughout the production process and I am very mindful of everyone’s mood and energy. I seek verbal and nonverbal communication throughout each photo shoot. Since trust is so important to me, we often work with clusters of friends and lovers in their homes. This has been great for bringing out genuine feelings and experiences. 

We are passionate about creating genuine sexual moments where eroticism permeates the whole atmosphere. Sometimes we have to take breaks to cool off and breathe because it’s so damn sexy. At the end of our most recent project, the photographer and I left the set in order to let the models finish all the sexy things they started doing to one another during the shoot. We had gotten what we needed so we let them do their thing!

We create so much more than just images for turning people on. A photo shoot can serve as a step in someone’s journey to sexual self-discovery, help a couple reinvigorate their relationship, or play a part in someone’s transition into a new gender identity. 

Finally, what’s next for Math Magazine

I am very excited for the future of Math Magazine. We have our first round of crowdfunding in the works and I’m building a new website that is focused on radical transparency and exclusive online content. We are working with some fresh brands on limited edition product collaborations and event partnerships. A range of events are in development including nerdy conversations with snacks and sexy parties where clothes are optional and the music is really good. Since we had such a stellar turnout at our "Issue One" launch party, we’ll have a release event for "Issue Two." Folks should follow our social feeds (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to stay current on what we’ve got going on at Math Magazine. 

Click here to pre-order "Issue Two"

Join Math Magazine at a special launch event for "Issue Two" this Thursday night at Fitzcarraldo, 195 Morgan Ave. (between Stagg and Meadow) Brooklyn, NY, 11237 starting at 10 PM and probably ending at 2 AM. The night will feature music by DJ HAZYL and rope work by KissMeDeadlyDoll. Magazines will be for sale until midnight.

Find out more about Math Magazine, and get your hands on a copy, on the publication's website

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