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Erotic Magazine allows for unique student outlet

This article was originally published on Sept. 14, 2015.

In the 1940s, the Beloit College student humor magazine, Goldfish, ran an issue about a cover girl coming to campus, with the woman on the front cover wearing a loose top. The administration effectively banned the issue, claiming it showed too much cleavage. Subsequently, it was re-released with a black Scottie dog drawing covering the woman’s chest. Decades later, the first Erotic Magazine was published at Beloit in 2009 without so much as a batted eyelash from the administration. The magazine offered a “sex-positive outlet for the campus and community,” as Ximena Mora’12 wrote in the editor’s note of the 2010 volume.

Dan O’Brien’11 and Ashley Norman’11 started the project in 2009, when it was originally titled Experiential Learning. The first few volumes were large, and have since become smaller, most recently presented in a sleek, dark zine-style booklet. Past editors have included Ximena Mora’12 (2010 volume) and Epiphany Compton’15 (2013 and 2014 volumes). The Archives hold volumes from 2009 and 2010, and Music House holds the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 volumes.

Each volume carries a variety of content, including stories, poems, sketches, comics, essays, photos of genitalia, partially nude models, selfies, group photos (Outdoor Environmental Club seems to hold a tradition), screenshots and more.

Santiago Quintana’15 co-edited the past year’s volume, called Erotic Zine, with Emmy Newman’17. In lieu of an editor’s note, the edition is framed around a George Bataille quote, “erotic activity is in the first place an exuberance of life.”

“The magazine has always defined erotic very widely,” Quintana said. This keeps submissions varied and allows students to engage with the subject how they want to. Jack Dragu’14’s essay, “Approaching the Erotic,” which frames the 2010 volume, explores what may be a false dichotomy between pornography and erotica. He argues pornography treats “orgasm as a goal,” while “erotica … strives to pleasure the imagination” and “attempts to explore … the processes that make sexual pleasure possible and which make it something worth pursuing more of rather than treating it as an itch to be scratched.”

Newman sees the magazine as starting—and continuing—these important discussions. “It’s a celebration of people’s unique differences as it conflates traditionally public and private spheres of individual life,” she said.

Traditionally, the Erotic Magazine has been released close to graduation, sometimes at Bizarro Beloit, the Wednesday of the last day of classes. This past year’s volume was not released until the second week of classes, on Thursday, Sept. 3.

“We ran into the problem of a printer rejecting the project due to ‘adult content,’” Quintana said. Eventually, it was printed in Milwaukee.

Though the delay means most of the class of 2015 will not be able to see it, there is more space to enjoy it. “It is more of an actual thing and less of a graduation afterthought,” he said.

This year, the Magazine was funded by Peace and Justice Club, Women’s Center, Interfaith Club, Phi Kappa Psi and the Writing Program. At the release party, 100 copies were available, in addition to penis-shaped cucumbers in jello.

The Magazine has had a reputation for being elusive, often circulating as a rumor each year. “I remember never being really sure if it was actually going to come out each year,” Quintana says. Editors are self-chosen and self-directed, making it a large undertaking. Mora writes in the editor’s note of the 2010 volume that the original editors were too busy to continue it, but she was determined to make it happen.

Max Brumberg-Kraus’15, who hosted the release party in his Clary Townhouse apartment, submitted multiple pieces of writing to this year’s volume. For him, the magazine is important when thinking about how sex can be expressed creatively—and perhaps cryptically—and what that says about culture. “Sex is a medium for expression. Erotica blends the ideas of sex as subject and sex as method for creative discourse,” he says. “An erotic photograph begs the viewer to sexualize their otherwise ‘innocent’ pleasure in viewing art more generally.”

Quintana has submitted photos to every volume that has been released since he was a first year. This year, he and Pita Angeles’16 collaborated in a photo shoot by Denys Godwin’18 based on Mexican Catholic rituals. The shoot consists of four frames: a candlestick protruding from Quintana’s anus; Angeles pouring wine into Quintana’s mouth; Quintana eating grapes off of Angeles’s skin; and Quintana pushing bread into Angeles’s mouth. “The consumption of a symbolic Christ and the celebration of life and death in the Catholic mass, as well as the acts of being fed bread and wine by the priest, were all aspects of the Eucharist which we saw as inherently erotic in Bataille’s sense of the word,” Quintana described.

There have been a number of student publications throughout Beloit College’s history, some with more “shock value,” than others, says Fred Burwell, the College archivist. Goldfish, which got in trouble for its lewd covers, ran four times a year throughout the 1940s, and each issue cost 75 cents. Supposedly competing with The Harvard Lampoon, it included jokes, satire and fake advertisements, such as for “Slimeway and Sons.” One particular cover depicted a sketch of people lined up to an observatory aimed at the window of a woman getting dressed.

Megamiddlemyth was a political newspaper active in the 1960s. Other magazines included the People’s Dreadnaught and the Beloit Times. Pocket Lint, which exists today, emerged in 1993, after replacing Avatar as the official student literary magazine. Avatar ran from the 1970s to the 1990s, replacing Satyre, which ran during the 1950s and 1960s. The Round Table has had an on-and-off sex column for a few decades, including one called Madame Exotica. More recently, the Armadillo, founded by Hugo Alvarez’16 and Mark Conway’15, ran until 2014 and featured a nude photo spread.

The future of the erotic magazine remains somewhat uncertain, but there seems to be enough interest to keep it going and continue the conversations each issue raises. Brumberg-Kraus appreciates the unique outlet it provides. “Erotica reminds us that we have bodies, that our bodies can be art objects, and centers our reception of art as a bodily experience — whether through stimulation, embarrassment, or disgust,” he says. “Erotica reminds us that there cannot be a disembodied appreciation of art.”

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