CN: sexual assault, violence, abuse and harassment, r*pe culture, sex, brief reference to Sarah Everard
When we chose to base our second issue on intimacy, love, sex and the body, we were acutely aware of the sensitivities and difficulties that would be involved in producing art around these themes for so many people, but disproportionately the marginalised people we were really desperate to platform in our magazine. So many intersections of identity and marginalisation contribute to the often complex, messy and uncomfortable relationships we can have with our bodies. Our newsfeeds over the past year have been littered with news which teaches people to feel alienated from their materiality: the brutalisation of Black bodies by police; the oppression of trans bodies by the government; the violence inflicted on women’s bodies in domestic and public settings alike. We wanted our issue to be a positive space to celebrate our bodies, a contrast with the media’s fixation with trauma and brutality.
The issue has ended up being constituted of a number of diverse, multifaceted depictions of our relationships with sex, love and our bodies. Of course, many of them did not end up being celebratory. Some of them were struck through with anger and frustration at the way marginalised bodies are policitised, as in Emily Moss’ piece “Buy Your Dream Body”; or the way they are fetishised, like Safa Al-Azami’s “An Essay: The Fetishisation of Minority Cultures”; or the way society treats queer bodies and sexuality, as in Lucy Rose’s “A-OK: My own experiences with Asexuality.” But some of the pieces are joyful, handling serious themes with an endearing playfulness, such as Sophie MacArthur’s “They shouldn’t let teenagers shag”, whilst others are deeply personal and soulful, such as Ellen Waters’ “Not Here Yet.” There really is something for everyone, and experiencing the diversity of people’s conceptualisations of the relationship between selfhood and body, love and sex has been one of the most compelling and rewarding aspects of curating this issue.
What we didn’t know when we selected the theme for the issue was that within months there would be a national outcry over the death of Sarah Everard, leading to important conversations about the realities of sexual violence and the hostilities that survivors perpetually come up against in our society. The events of last month, as well as the ensuing conversations about survivors who are not represented in the press such as trans*, POC, disabled and queer survivors, have for many brought home the jarring realisation of the danger of the everyday for women and minorities, particularly those with non-conforming or dissident bodies. Survivors often feel that the initial violence inflicted on their bodies is exacerbated and even outweighed by the abuse they suffer from the pernicious influence of rape culture, victim-blaming and silencing, which are used to further marginalise people who have experienced sexual assault. We all have a responsibility to platform the voices of survivors and educate ourselves on survivor issues; indeed, we cannot be allies to marginalised people until we have done so.
We always understood that our theme would be difficult for survivors of sexual violence. Right after our theme launch we made a post outlining our commitments to making the magazine a safe space for people who have experienced sexual abuse, violence and assault. These included having in-depth and consistent content notes on every single piece in the issue, on all of the pages and in the contents page. We committed to centring marginalised people’s voices in the magazine, whilst guaranteeing that disclosing details about your identity will never be necessary for contributors to have a place with us. We offered options for anonymous contributions, and promised that we would use our experiences with liberation campaigning to ensure that the SINK community remains a safe space for everyone to platform their work.
Our final commitment was to donate 50% of the profits from the issue to a charity which works with survivors of sexual violence in the North of England. The Survivors Trust is an umbrella agency for rape and sexual abuse services in the UK which works with 124 organisations to provide support to survivors. They have achieved a phenomenal amount over the past decade and have an astronomical impact on providing care and support for survivors of all backgrounds across the country, working completely independently of the police and operating mostly on a charitable basis. However, despite their huge influence, underfunding has meant that 5% of their agencies have had to close in the last three years. We are going to donate half of all of the profits from sales of Issue 2: Intimate to The Survivors Trust, and will ask them to invest it as far as possible in the Northern agencies affiliated with the Trust.
Our allyship to survivors needs to extend far beyond the tenure of this Issue, and recognising and fighting the intersections of marginalisation which often place them in the interstices of society should be a lifelong fight for all of us. Survivors understand the violence of a society whose goal is to disembody, disenfranchise and disempower marginalised people better than anyone, and our solidarity with them should be endless. Having the opportunity to donate to some Northern organisations doing such incredible survivor advocacy work is a privilege for us, but will be far from the conclusion of our support of and solidarity with people who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, violence and harassment.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to thank our contributors once again for submitting such sensitive responses to our theme, for never making our editors uncomfortable with material which can often be triggering, and for giving us the opportunity to be able to make this contribution to The Survivors Trust.