14 Nov 2018

Sex sells: Aotearotica journal going from strength to strength

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:42 pm on 14 November 2018

Erotic journal Aotearotica is entering its fifth print run and its editor Laura Borrowdale is fresh from giving a presentation on "writing sex" at LitCrawl over the weekend.

Aotearotica features 80 pages of erotic writing and art.

Aotearotica features 80 pages of erotic writing and art. Photo: Ant Sang for Aoetearotica

The journal features illustration, small amounts of photography, graphic narrative (comics), poetry, prose and essays about sex, sexuality and gender expression.

Borrowdale says the response has been pretty overwhelmingly positive.

"Some of it's a bit racy and some of it is very kind of earnest discussion about gender or ethnic politics or racial politics within that broader area.

"I think we've certainly been and gone places as a journal and it's certainly taken off ... which has been really wonderful.

"We've moved to a model now where we can pay for ourselves which is quite nice, and I guess that's the best affirmation we can get that people are continuing to buy it and see it as valuable."

She says it's important to keep it small-scale.

"It's not a glossy magazine and it's not supposed to be. We like representing new and diverse voices and we can to do that if we keep the scale small."

"It's only hard copy which makes us quite different to, one: a number of other lit journals - and also a number of other media that deal with our content area.

The workshop and tips for writing erotica

She says it was interesting to get interactions with people at the LitCrawl workshop.

"One of the workshop attendees had me up and said 'well, I just want to read this stuff as fantasy', so it was interesting to have some of those conversations as well about what our purpose is when we write.

Her key piece of advice for writing erotica is, she says, pretty boring.

"It still has to be good writing. It still has to stick to the standards of what we expect good writing to be about.

"One thing that I've said in the past and I continue to say to people is that I see pornography as very generic, it's very body-part and action driven, whereas good erotica is specific - to a character, to a person, to a situation - and we need to inhabit those people's minds for it to seem real. That's really what I like to see in the work that we publish.

Vision for the journal

Borrowdale says the journal arose out of her understanding of gender politics, which she sees as relevant and valuable - particularly in the face of current global politics.

"Unless we're really open and honest about this stuff, and we are proud to put our name on things it's very hard to change that. If we are perpetuating a sense of shame or embarrassment, then what more can we expect but if we promote openness and gentleness and sensitivity then we open more conversations rather than shutting them down.

"So, for me it's always been really important that I'm honest that it's me doing it.

She says she had been considering shutting it down after this fifth issue, but decided against it.

"I like change and I got to the point where I thought 'oh, maybe, volume five we've done what we set out to do', and then recently … we've had a complaint and one of the things that did was to galvanise me into stubbornness a bit more and think 'no, actually there's a lot more we can do here'.

"I think as long as it is relevant and as long as it makes money - it doesn't make money but as long as it pays for itself - then I'm certainly seeing a need for it and we'll keep doing it."

"I think that's the thing with it, it's there for people who are interested but for people who aren't there's no compulsion with it to take it up."