Thursday, 13 August 2009

Filament magazine and the female gaze.

'Filament' is a new magazine for women which describes itself as, "72 quarterly pages of intelligent thought and beautiful men". It doesn't run articles on fashion or cosmetics and prides itself on publishing high quality, intelligent features as well as pictures of hot boys not wearing very much. Sounds AWESOME.

I love the fact that they have done their research rather than just going along with the notion that women don't find visual stimulus exciting. They found that women really wanted erotica, and that the images they wanted to see were not the same as the ones common in gay porn. They found that women wanted:

* men who are not muscle-bound
* men with more feminine face shapes
* men with attractive faces
* images that show the subject’s character and the environment he is in.

The problem is, they also found that women wanted more than just semi-nudity. They were asking to see fully naked men with erections. OK, fair enough, walk into any newsagent in the land and you'll find the female equivalent of this. Up above Cosmo, Heat, Vogue and Grazia you'll probably come face to face with a women on a magazine cover with breasts bigger than your head, grabbing at herself 'passionately'. Except their printers said they were concerned about causing offense to "the women's/religious sectors". So women are going to be offended by erections but not page three girls, religious groups are going to be more upset by a boner than a female crotch-shot? Oh, please. This is almost certainly another attempt to deny female sexuality, and to 'protect' men from it.

I'm sure that many people will disagree with me, but I tend to agree with Kristina Lloyd and Mathilde Madden at The Guardian when they say,

"But there's nothing inherently sexist about depicting nudity. It's sexist when only women are deemed to signify the erotic; it's sexist when eroticised images of women are so normalised and widespread that women stand to be viewed first and foremost as sex objects – their value inextricably linked to their sexual desirability. The sexism is in the inequality."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of the porn industry and I have a special well of hatred reserved especially for lads mags. The thing is, I don't think that all sexual images are necessarily exploitative or degrading. Nudity and sexuality shouldn't be frowned upon, after all, do feminists want to be on the same side as people who have denied female sexuality for eons? It's the industry that often deserves our scorn. 'Filament' say they are dedicated to ensuring that the men who model for them are treated fairly. Models have the right to withdraw their images and the team have even turned models away when they feel that working for 'Filament' may not be a good career move for them.

I'm willing to bet that a lot of lads mags editors would say a similar thing. The problem there is that it ignores the fact that many young women are growing up now believing that their only worth lies in their sexuality. Women's ability to really choose any involvement in the sex industry is often more problematic than it is for men because of intense societal pressures. Even women's magazines constantly impress upon women the importance of 'pleasing your man'. Women's sexuality is dictated to us by the mainstream press which defines it as passive and willing to please but never demanding. In other words, in a classically post-feminist marketable way.

I think a publication that acknowledges female desire and caters for it, as well as promoting positive body images and providing intelligent comment should be applauded. It worries me that there seems to be two main camps on porn and female sexuality: the 'all sexualised images are wrong/women don't want to look at cock' camp, which is inhabited by some feminists as well as religious and right-wing folk and the 'women are really nothing but a pair of tits and should act as such' camp inhabited by the editors of lads mags and the lads themselves. Neither positions are realistic or helpful. Although I think lads mags are beyond reform (due to the blatant misogyny of the articles that goes along with the images), I'm happy to see more women behind the camera in porn and erotica.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I may be a bit biased because I am aquainted with the editor, but it also means that I know what the basis for the magazine is and that they have done their research of what women really want. I worry about the ethics of pornography, but I think Filament do it in a way which looks at the whole person, not just a part of anatomy. And yes, if men can see full qynacological shots in a magazine, why can't women see erect cock? It's a definate bias against female sexuality.

    So yes, bravo :)

    P.S. Do you mind if I post a link for the editor?

  2. Thank you!! Yes, please do. I've just emailed them actually. I really want to order a copy but I can't afford anything at the moment.

  3. Thank you for this! May I please repost it in my own blog?

  4. I think women need to stop viewing themselves as victims and more importantly stop hating each other over differences. Everyone is an individual regardless of the sex. So, when we stop comparing our sex vs. their sex..or her thin thighs vs. her thicker thighs, then we can start to see what we have in common and what we can do to help each other become the best that we can while we share this little space in time. Now on another note, I am excited about the new year. Just found a great place to shop for swimsuits. World Swimwear.. check it out.