A magazine called desire

“Free whiskey’s over there, and the sex magazine is in the corner,” said the Alan-Rickman-as-Snape look-alike taking tickets, as he scrawled the male/female symbol on our hands when we entered the Co-Prosperity Sphere for the release party of Lumpen’s ’95 sex magazine. The Loneliest Monk, a two-person locally-based band, was playing, and the gallery had attracted a quietly enthusiastic crowd. Drums and electric cello made an unexpectedly rocking combination.

What were advertised as “erotic drawings,” done in black paint on a huge piece of paper, stretched the length of the left side of the room. The subjects, every possible combination of men and women doing unprintable things to one another, were life-size or bigger. Beyond this wall sat whimsical wooden cutouts painted bright colors. One was immediately recognizable as two mermaids kissing. It took a moment to realize the other was a diving penis.

Lumpen’s sex magazine itself, the reason behind all this excitement, was half-ironic and half-old-school, much like the attendees. The fifty or so people in the gallery were usually either hipsters or leftover free lovers. Even though the party advertised free entrance for those who came “EXTRA SEXY,” practically no one did. One woman stood out in heels and barely-there shorts.

Some people giggled over the raunchy artwork, but most were there to listen to music and drink $1 beers. Once in a while a few wandered over to the corner where the sex magazines were sprawled on a table, undifferentiated by year. The photos were of varying graininess, but the articles all had that seriously joking tone: “I was an upper-middle-class escort (good girl gone bad!),” “I screwed up the pill every possible way but the worst,” “I turned gay to get girls.”

The event description had promised “a very sensual and wild evening with all kinds of festivities… [and] every intention of enticing a proper start to your Valentine’s weekend,” but no one seemed to be thinking of Valentine’s Day until the closing group took the stage. Calling the crowd back from the magazines and artwork, the androgynous girls in the audience danced wildly around the lead singer of the band Hotchacha. Perhaps this was in part because she was an air sex champion (air sex: like air guitar, but not). Regardless, Hotchacha took the sexy theme of the evening seriously: strategically repositioning her shirt, the lead singer showed off first her breasts, then her scars–“That’s sexy, riiiight?”