Introducing Phile Magazine: “The International Journal of Desire & Curiosity”
“People want to talk about sex,” says Erin Reznick, co-founder of Phile Magazine. “The discourse around sexuality and gender expression has been expanding, and people want to talk about it because it’s challenging and fun and political. It’s something that’s important to talk about, because we still have a long way to go.”
Phile Magazine is an upcoming biannual Berlin x NYC publication that focuses on sexual subcultures from a sociological point of view, now available for pre-sale. Erin Reznick, one of Phile’s two co-creators (the other is her best friend, New York City-based artist Mike Feswick), describes the magazine as “a reference to elements of an academic journal, an art object and a dirty mag.”
I recently met up with Erin at a cafe in Kreuzberg, Berlin, to talk about the publication, which launched this month. Her nails are long, sharp, and painted a glossy red. It feels fitting for our discussion.
It’s important to acknowledge the context of Berlin in the creation of such a mag. While it is based between Berlin and New York, Erin tells me that living in Berlin has blown open the way she thinks about sex. “There’s a freedom and openness here about sexuality,” she notes. Erin is fascinated by Berlin’s rich sexual history—from the emerging queer culture of Weimar-era Berlin to today’s dark rooms in clubs like Berghain—and how the city “rebuilt itself so many times.” She wants Phile to be grounded in that history.
Why is a publication like this particularly critical? Or, what is it doing that nothing else is? “Michael and I were talking about—especially in these politically turbulent times—the importance of sharing and hearing stories by underrepresented people and groups.” What ties it all together, Erin suggests, is “a sense of wanting to understand how societal structures have been constructed for us, how people live within these structures, how they reject these structures, and how we create spaces to express ourselves.”
Mike and Erin don’t consider themselves experts or academics in sexology, and they are still learning. They want Phile to be a platform for contributors who range in religion, culture, sexuality and gender identity, and an inquiry into how sex and sexual cultures “allow people to explore power, desire, and their own fears and knowledge about themselves.” Phile features artists and writers ranging from scholars to sex workers (not that the two are mutually exclusive), and everything in between, in an attempt to “bridge the gap between the academic and the practical.”
The name Phile, Erin tells me, references ‘Paraphilia’, a “preference for unusual sexual practices”. I ask her how Phile will circumvent a kind of problematic anthropological approach to the sexual subcultures it explores—how the magazine will avoid fetishizing fetishes, so to speak. Erin replies that their approach is to examine experience from the inside-out—having members of various sexual communities write about their own worlds and experiences, rather than having an outsider look in and attempt a kind of reporting based on “shock value or sensationalism.”
What is it that makes something erotic? Erin responds, “I guess it has that charge to it. A lot of fetishes aren’t tied directly to normative sex, or don’t involve a sex act at all, or they’ll involve sensations or ideas of sensations instead. But they are still sexual, and still charged with desire. I’d say porn could be erotica and erotica can be porn – it all blurs together.” It’s subjective, I suggest. “Yeah, even mundane acts can be eroticized or fetishized.”
With the magazine, Mike and Erin are “trying to encourage a more understanding or empathetic view towards people with diverse and non-conforming interests, identities and expressions.” There is no overt political mission to Phile, Erin notes, “but it’s political just because sex is political.”