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I have strong views on sex. As a co-founder of the not safe for work tumblr Come Correct (bettacomecorrect.tumblr.com) I unapologetically let you know that “black feminist sex is the best sex ever.” Having sex as Black feminist and with Black feminists (joy!!!) is a transformative, healing and sacred part of my journey to love myself and life itself better, deeper and more.
So needless to say I was thrilled to learn about the emergence of Arielle Loren’s Corset Magazine, a new magazine celebrating sexuality and centering the experiences and empowerment of Black women. This is especially exciting in historical context, since Black women have been depicted in sexually exploited ways by and for audiences that are NOT committed to the pleasure of Black women (to understate the violence) and have at the same time been depicted in prudish robot manners in the name of respectability.
My excitement at hearing about Corset was akin to my joy in finding the Black lesbian erotic magazine Black Lace created by Alycee J. Lane (an interviewee of the Mobile Homecoming Project) in the 1990s. The archive of publications about sex that are created by and accountable to Black women is a powerful, understudied small tradition. I hope that we have reached a moment when many affirmations of our whole embodied selves can circulate, because silence about sex and sexuality is a silence we cannot afford in oppressed communities. Our wellness, our ability to honor and respect each other and our very lives are threatened by the silence and shame that often surrounds sex and sexuality for those of us who are oppressed and marginalized people. And sexual healing is a real possibility when sex can be liberated from its role as a tool of oppressive domination and reclaimed as a technology for loving ourselves and each other with our action, attention and affirmation.
The orgasm issue of Corset, hot photos notwithstanding, is not necessarily next-to–the-bed, poetic, immersive reading, but more like an annotated index of ways to approach the orgasm, from belly dancing to psychology, from a lesson on female ejaculation to a Christian testimony entitled “The Female Orgasm: A Gift from God.”
I think the most creative aspect of Corset which circulates as an image-filled high quality digital download (aka pdf) are the photo essays, which include close ups of succulent plants (think cactus) and provocatively framed photos of fierce feminine gender presenting black women.
The choice to focus on the orgasm itself in this issue is brilliant and I applaud the authors for getting to the point. Most of the articles in the magazine are shorter than this review, but I’m not mad at that at all. Who wants to read at length about the meaning of the orgasm? Okay a lot of us might, but the mission of this magazine seems to be less about the texture and depth of the writing itself and more about encouraging us to enjoy a kiss-sized accessible introduction to the concept, from the perspective of a woman who could be a play cousin, and then to set us free to go out and play.
Personally, the article that sent me out ready to play (yes in fact, even before writing this review) was India Ame’ye’s “How Chakras Influence Orgasms.” Ame’ye suggests that while usually orgasms function as a much needed release of energy it is also possible to “recycle” by intentionally channeling the positive energy of an orgasm (or two) back up towards the heart as healing energy. Best healthcare plan ever.
I applaud Loren for her achievement with Corset and recommend sharing Corset with family and friends as a way to have much needed conversations about the reality of sex (in addition to the many ideas surrounding our sexuality.) The range of the articles from “The 15 Minute Orgasm” to “A Mother’s Decision: Raising a Sexually Aware Child” can be an excellent way to create intergenerational conversation, or conversations about sex across experience, attraction and gender.
I would be interested to see a broader range of writers across ability and religion featured in the magazine, a broader range of women represented in the images in the magazine (though it was nice that all of the women looked kind of like me, big natural hair and bright brown skin), and possibly some more writerly writers (I’m thinking of writers like Fiona Zedde) who have an empowering edge to their very word choices and sentence constructions which could enhance the experience of reading the magazine. A step up in the language and writing would make this a holistic experience of yes, but already in it’s second issue Corset is clearly a comprehensive experience of yes which succeeds with an accessible and inviting tone.
Corset is an achievement and a resource in the way it provides affirmation in the form of first person knowledge sharing and a set of resources that can empower our communities, to have access to the possibility of sex as an affirming, enjoyable and educational part of our relationships with ourselves and our communities.