Since 2018, MOAN has been exploring female pleasure through the perspective of women. After two successful issues and this month’s LeftLion cover, we chat to the woman behind it all about how it all began, receiving and illustrating stories around desire, and what the future holds for MOAN...
Could you start by describing your own background?
I’m a Nottingham-based artist who graduated Fashion Communication and Promotion at Nottingham Trent University. After graduating, I largely worked as an illustrator, collaborating with other local artists and UK-based brands and setting up different projects for myself. I was in this strange time where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I did everything instead. Since MOAN became part of my life, everything seemed to fall into place - it has been pretty magical for me. Currently my days are spent as an FCP Lecturer at NTU and the director of MOAN.
How did MOAN come about?
MOAN was born in 2018. It came from a heated discussion where I realised I had a lot of internalised anger towards the mainstream sex industry. The way women are labelled and represented through porn and the heavy male narrative dominates any healthy conversations around female pleasure. After that conversation I knew I had to set something up. My initial thought was to set up a website titled Pornhun and make it a female perspective to Pornhub but soon realised that was pretty impossible and I would most definitely get sued.
Instead, I reached out to a really good friend of mine with a very vague idea of MOAN so we could do this together. We came up with the name, the branding, began planning Issue One and with the influence of my partner, who runs Dizzy Ink, and my love for print, a publication immediately seemed like the most effective way to get this up and running.
Why do you feel there’s a need for something like MOAN that represents female pleasure?
This is a question I could give many many answers to, and I guess that’s the amazing thing about MOAN. We are part of a larger social movement. With the need to tear down the stigma attached to female pleasure, we work hard to create a safe space and a female community that fills just a fraction of that need. Having a female-led space, we are bringing the power of female pleasures, desires and fantasies back into women’s hands. Rebelling against the mainstream porn industry and educating in a healthy way. This judgement-free zone where women can express their sexual desires, discuss their issues surrounding sex and feel liberated by other women is quite rare to find – it really isn’t a saturated market yet.
My visual inspiration comes from various sources. My search history would be a really funny and somewhat disturbing one to look back on!
MOAN compiles a huge range of stories from women expressing their own sexual desires. Can you talk a bit about how you gather these submissions?
MOAN gathers submissions from all over the world, it’s pretty amazing the amount of handwritten letters we have received. We keep the brief very open. It should be a personal journal for as many individuals as possible – it’s about writing to us and feeling liberated, not pressure to conform to a certain expectation. As long as it’s around sex, erotica, fetish, kink or educational – there is a place for it here! I also think there is a misconception that only women can submit. We have a few male-written submissions and they are always exciting to receive. This is a conversation for everyone, as long as it is sex positive and female liberating it doesn’t matter who it is coming from.
We advertise this through Instagram and have received hundreds of responses via email and post. If anyone is interested in submitting, planning for Issue Three is about to get serious so we want to hear your experiences, your fantasies and your sex positive thoughts!
The content seems to represent a broad spectrum of female pleasure, and speaks in a very honest way – is this typical of your submissions, or is this part of your curation process?
I think that’s the magic of keeping the submission brief so open. Everyone has a different experience, their own fantasy and personal experience that is so unique and exciting to us. I love the ‘weirdness’ in people and we get a lot of that through submissions. With MOAN you have the reassurance that we will never judge. This allows others to speak in an honest way and forget about society's expectations and norms.
What inspires your illustration style, and how do you approach capturing the content of stories that are submitted to you?
I want my illustrations to be relatable to as many women as possible. I want them to be vague enough that every woman can fantasize about being in that position, and inclusive – there are no defined features or race which is why I use monochrome line drawings. It’s rare for me to illustrate in enough detail that I represent a specific look.
My visual inspiration comes from various sources. My search history would be a really funny and somewhat disturbing one to look back on! I recently purchased Madonna’s SEX book and that has seriously inspired me in so many ways. I highly recommend it to everyone. Get yourself on eBay and track it down. But honestly, most of the time my visual inspiration comes naturally after reading an anonymous submission. Our followers will provide me with the story and I will illustrate it.
Female sexuality can be a contested topic. In light of this, how has the publication been received?
So far the responses have been really incredible and heartwarming which is much more than we ever expected. It seems to capture a lot of positive attention and for that we’re very grateful. From our first launch in Rotterdam, where we sold out in a few hours, to our most recent fair in London, we have witnessed the most incredible responses. Notts Zine fair is the most special event for us because it’s where we launch a new issue each time, and get to see people interact with it for the first time. It’s always amazing when you get a buyer who, just from a first glance, you’d never put the two together!
Saying that, within myself I still feel shame at times, which is really sad to say but I guess highlights the idea of female sexuality still being a taboo in many circumstances. Even though MOAN is received well most of the time and I hold it with pride, I’ve had my fair share of judgement, criticism or immediate sexualisation. Sometimes this motivates me even more.
Everyone has a different experience, their own fantasy and personal experience that is so unique and exciting to us
What was the inspiration behind this month’s LeftLion cover?
I wanted to truly represent the essence of MOAN. This overall idea of female empowerment, sensuality, confidence and luxury. There is an elegance that comes with MOAN and I do that because I want to visually liberate women. I wanted a modern twist on the extravagant story of a burlesque dancer in a martini glass. The black glove represents the fetish side of MOAN and it also defines women lifting each other up.
What can people expect from Issue Three of MOAN?
Issue Three will launch November 2020, so expect bigger and better – and submissions are currently open. Aside from Issue Three, there is a lot in store for the future. We now have a distributor (Antenne Books) so after they have flown the nest, MOAN will be sitting on the shelves of local bookshops all around the UK and EU and that makes me a very emotional MOAN mother.
You can follow MOAN on social media to keep up-to-date with their future product launches, collaborations and events. To enter a submission, visit their social media or website.