Mouth&Mouth Magazine and the State of Erotica in Publishing
Mouth&Mouth Magazine – a very small player in the realms erotic content curators and producers –was launched in 2013 – but my interest in creating a platform for erotic resources seeded when I was 15.
At 15 years old, my BFF, Rebecca, and I would sit around and discuss our favorite cinematic sex scenes. We were genuinely confused by the fact that porn did not satisfy our needs compared to soft-core snippets. Rebecca was interested in film, and I loved poetry, writing, and organizing literary and art communities by proxy of editing literary and art magazines. The transition from literary magazine editor / creative community organizer to producer seemed natural to me, even then. We dreamed of starting a production company that produced “Art House Porn”.
Years later, I moved alone to a new city. I found myself struggling in Seattle, attempting to write and produce art despite a lack of community. I decided to launch a magazine for two reasons, first, I wanted to create a community for myself, and second, editing literary and arts magazines is what I like to do.
During this time, I got to know my new Seattle roommates. Both were active in the Seattle burlesque scene. Even cooler, one was elected to the Washington board for Sex Positive Education, and the other made costumes for Seattle’s drag and burlesque stars. This environment encouraged me to discuss sexuality and social issues pertaining to sex and gender in more complex and sophisticated terms. I became active in online forums and discussions pertaining to sexual assault, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. Because I was in a relationship with a guy who often traveled for business, I consumed a lot of “literotica”, porn, art and audio erotica. But despite the size of porn and erotica markets, there was still a frustrating lack of satisfying resources and content. Beyond frustrating, it was absurd.
I don’t know if the idea for Mouth&Mouth struck in a moment of epiphany, or hare-brained insomnia, but nonetheless it struck me. I began gathering a collection of inspired online erotica resources. Cindy Gallop’s MakeLoveNotPorn.com, Audiosmut.com, baronmagazine.co.uk, lunalunamag.com, Bitch Magazine’s “Oh Joy Sex Toy” feature, and Beauty Today Magazine were particularly inspiring. I did not, however, manage to find a resource showcasing quality erotic short fiction (I still have yet to find such a resource) even though this was my primary search. *Since, I’ve learned that good erotic short fiction is hard to come by because “serious” writers do not want to associate themselves with fan fiction and romance novel genres. These genres are perceived as “feminine”, inferior, and generally disreputable (I still have faith that quality erotic short fiction submissions will come flowing to us once Mouth&Mouth is more firmly established).
In the wake of discovery, and without funding, I set out to build a platform for erotic art, photo, audio, fiction, poetry, and video content. First, I bribed a web developer to set up the Mouth&Mouth site by getting him drunk each time he worked on it. Next, I convinced a friend with shared interests to be Mouth&Mouth’s creative director/graphic designer. Finally, I contacted my best friend Rebecca (currently employed as a videographer and photographer at Kink.com) to work with Mouth&Mouth in the capacity of photo & video editor. From there, the Mouth&Mouth staff/community of supporters grew slowly.
We decided to launch the magazine at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival with a promotional installation featuring collaborative work by respected sculptor, Robert Macdonald, and a 40 minute video piece by Rebecca Reilly. The project was budgeted at $800 (given the availability of free work, and free supplies). Most of this budget was set aside to pay the models in the video piece (Kink.com models graciously provided their time half off their regular fees). Feeling confident in our modest budget, we launched a Kickstarter campaign. We raised $350 (and my boyfriend donated $150 of it – not including his subsequent donation of materials). This came as a huge shock. On and offline communities displayed unanimous enthusiasm for the project! But after all, erotica and sex-positive education is entertainment at least, and psychological supplement at best, not charity. At this junction we learned healthy, artful sex is not sexy – or, not sexy enough to procure funding from those with means. My new habit, I paid for the project out of pocket.
The installation attracted attention at SEAF, and garnered a few submissions. But rather than function as a successful promotional event, the launch at SEAF proved the Mouth&Mouth staff was capable of pulling off ambitious, collaborative projects. The energy and enthusiasm garnered from Mouth&Mouth staff inspired more solid commitment to the project. Soon after, we hired fiction, essay, and audio editors. Occasional contributions from fresh blood enabled us to continue slow building. We produced a t-shirt, pulled of a grand-scale pyrophilia themed photo shoot (yet to be released), and trolled the internet for submissions that satisfied our aesthetics and educational ideals. Additionally, we wrote a business plan with the hopes of shopping it around for future funding.
Later, in November 2014, we perceived that Mouth&Mouth content lacked diversity despite efforts to the contrary. While no one platform or individual can speak to everyone, let alone for everyone, the need to relocate our primary focus became obvious. Accessibility and representation of diverse people and interests is a foundational ideal for Mouth&Mouth. We decided to delay our search for funding and lay off marketing and networking until at least Mouth&Mouth’s archive of content achieves more diverse representation. But focusing efforts on diversifying Mouth&Mouth content is not the end of the line for evolving the site into a resource that achieves its goal of creating an “erotic experience that exists beyond the context of dominant social & sexual ideals”.
We have learned that Mouth&Mouth’s progress is greatly deterred by lack of funding. Our projects were limited by lack of funding to be sure, but most importantly, staff worked full time jobs and had full time lives that inhibited their ability to consistently commit to the magazine. Money comes first. People need to eat and pay rent in order to fully engage their interests.
Currently, our magazine’s primary audience is those who find our site by accident, or those who are connected to the artists and writers featured on the site. Very soon, I plan to contact press and be more aggressive about outreach and fundraising. When we do procure funding, we will begin paying staff and contributors and hire at least two more editors with perspectives not closely represented by current staff. Furthermore, we will also hire a non-white individual to replace me as Editor-in-Chief. As owner of Mouth&Mouth Magazine, I will then step into a new role as Mouth&Mouth video producer. Mouth&Mouth Magazine will formally embark on its journey to establish itself as both free online literary & art magazine, and profitable art house porn production company. Winter is coming!