Sex-Negative

by Kitty Drake in September 2020
EroticLiterature

Mal is a sex magazine, but this fifth issue is about not having sex. Entitled ‘SEX NEGATIVE’, it unpicks “anti-erotics and sexual pessimism”. The very first essay, by Philip Maughan, is a history of the ‘incel’ phenomenon (people — usually men, who describe themselves as “involuntarily celibate”). The most famous being Elliot Rodger, who drove his car into a sorority house in UC Santa Barbara, killing six people, in an attempt to avenge himself on womankind for collectively denying him sex. Zeroing in on the terror of exclusion and inadequacy that “runs like a tripwire through inceldom”, Maughan quotes a Dutch incel who spoke to New York Magazine in 2019 about his obsession with plastic surgery:

I want to live in a plastic surgeon’s office. I just want to have a bed in one of his labs. Just a small bed, a small kitchen, and an internet connection. I want to feel pure within my body and self-validate by looking in the mirror and seeing a flawless skull. When detecting a tiny deformity, I call the surgeon and he’ll be there immediately, along with his assistant and a knife in his hand to cut me open.

The final essay in the magazine takes a more positive slant on sexlessness. We have been sapped of sex-drive by relentless over-work and sexual violence, writes Sophie Lewis in ‘A Collective Turn-Off’. But, in the wake of corona, as we figure out new ways of working and living, we might collectively “turn-on”: “As we abolish the capitalist logic of work and obligatory enjoyment, we might… design whole cities full or erotic biotic infrastructure… [with] napping palaces, drop-in centres, temples for public weeping, bath-houses, multigenerational creches… massage coliseums, and pleasure pavilions.”

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Sex, for most magazines, is the icing on the cake. You juice up the rest of your content by slipping sexy stories in. But Mal treats sex as politically, and even spiritually, significant. In her essay for the issue, the pornographer and writer Stoya quotes the French philosopher George Bataille:

“‘It is an odd thing,’ Bataille wrote in Eroticism, ‘to be demonstrating that sexual activity, usually treated on a par with meat to be eaten, as flesh that is, wields the same influence as poetry’”.

On Mal’s pages, sex is problematic. It is the place that we bury our conflicts, and insecurities, and loneliness. But it is recognised as being worthy of study precisely because of those conflicts.

maljournal.com





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