All of us at Wear Your Voice are excited to share that there is another intersectional feminist magazine emerging out the Bay Area! Harlot Magazine is a digital publication born from the collective minds of UC Santa Cruz lecturer and former professor Anna Reynolds Cooper, writer and plus-size pornographer Kitty Stryker, and trans femme and sex worker activist Jetta Rae Robertson. It could be somewhat accurately dubbed, the trio’s love child.
The trio met when Kitty Stryker was invited to speak at UC Santa Cruz. Anna explains, “We met when I invited Kitty to speak for a course I taught at UCSC called Gender and the Internet. She brought her girlfriend Jetta, so that was when I met both of them. I had already had a fangirl crush on Jetta, so I was excited to meet her. We briefly dated, but that didn’t last very long, and we soon became close friends. When Jetta lost her job at another feminist publication, we started talking about building our own platform and what we would want that to look like.”
So, what’s the mission, I wondered. Who is the core audience? I asked Anna a bit more about the publication.
“Our core audience is millennials, especially millennials who belong to one or more marginalized groups. If you put PoC, women, queers, etc. all together, we will be a force to be reckoned with – that’s the idea behind Harlot,” Anna explains. She continues, “Everyday I see young people demanding new forms of media, wanting to throw out the old, tired models run by rich white men. There is so much anger right now at how the media doesn’t represent us, doesn’t serve us. Harlot is here to challenge that old status quo.”
Kitty Stryker is an established pornographer, writer, and activist. Formerly with Trouble Films, Kitty left last year to create her own production company called Stryker Studios. I asked Kitty how her experience as a sex worker and entrepreneur has informed her role as marketing manager of Harlot.
“Having been a sex worker for 14 years now, I’ve learned a lot of important job skills that aid in starting your own business. I taught myself how to do all my own marketing, how to establish a strong but flexible brand identity, the importance of setting proper rates for your work, customer service, etc. I would argue that being a sex worker is very much being an entrepreneur!” says Kitty.
I asked, “Will you still continue writing with this magazine and other publications? Will this affect your productions? Does it tie into Stryker Studios in any way?”
“I plan to continue writing and pitching to other publications while working at Harlot, as well as maintaining my Patreon. In fact, I just signed a contract on an anthology about consent culture that will be published through Thorntree Press, so I’m sure that’ll keep me plenty busy on the writing front! ” Kitty continues, “In my copious free time, I’ll continue my porn performance and production work. I’ll be attending BBWCON this summer with my DVD “Here Kitty Kitty”, re-released as a limited edition porn zine. I’m excited for the new direction my work has been going, and I plan to continue to move forward on all fronts.”
So, Kitty… what are the most important issues for you? What do you hope to see the magazine represent?
“I would say that for me, what’s most important to establish here at Harlot is an ethical, sustainable, diverse working environment for both full-time staff and freelancers. I feel like we need more examples of that being a working and profiting model of business.”
One thing that separates this magazine from others is its concept of self-reporting. According to the Editor-in-Chief, Jetta, these reports will “show how the sausage is made” by providing a full breakdown of the demographics of their staff. By doing so, they are holding themselves to a high level of accountability to keep the magazine staff as intersectional as the issues which they cover. With a focus on BIPOC, the magazine will also be centering trans and queer voices, as well as the stories and experiences of current and former sex workers. The reports will also include how much Harlot staff is paid, as well as the price per article. Harlot’s hope is that with this level of transparency comes the pressure for other businesses to comply with similar hiring practices, as well as creating and maintaining a sustainable economy in which writers may be able to support themselves. They make no suggestion that owning a magazine is anything but a business, however, you can use the best business practices which allow capitalism to function in a sustainable, responsible way.
When I spoke with Harlot, Jetta had some really interesting insights on the business end of things. “When we bring a writer on board, we are very intentional about money. A lot of sites defer to some unspecified internal policy to justify their rates–”we pay X for articles like this”. Eventually, you will pay someone on your site above that uniform rate. It can’t be avoided; maybe it’s timely, maybe they have an incredible social media following. Even the best of sites pay too little for content, and falling back on this esoteric policy while there is an active pay disparity amongst your contributors is, I feel, the sort of looking the other way that is its own kind of evil.”
Jetta continues, “We are trying to remove that kind of language in our negotiations. I try to say “I’m willing/we’re willing to pay”, to show that our hands are not bound, so to speak. There is an ownership, an accountability. We pay what we feel we can afford, based on the benefit we think a particular content can bring to us. We’re not paying enough per article. We’re paying what we can, and we hope to pay more as we grow. On our first staff meeting, Anna shared the budget, for the whole company, with everyone. I’ll tell you: it’s a tight budget to keep three full-time employees, five part-time staff writers, a developer and a staff artist, and not to mention somewhere between 20-30 freelancers. We don’t pay everyone the same–we can’t, yet. And I’ll come out here every week and tell you how much we paid and to whom. The “dot com days” are past. The real estate of a website is not what it once was thought to be. You can’t just throw up a couple of banner ads and trust it’ll work itself out. ”
“If you like our content, if you want to throw it up on your Facebook wall to promote discussion or as a demonstration of your like-minded politics, and we’re operating at a loss, I feel that showing you how much of a loss we’re running at is a way to invite you to participate in what we’re trying to do.”
“We’re not here for female competition. We don’t poach, and we are not interested in pursuing calling out and taking down other feminist sites as a means to attain stability. This frank discussion about money and the need for it may be uncomfortable or even frustrating at times, but I’ll take “being tainted by touching money” over this esoteric subterfuge that keeps laborers in the dark about the finite value of their contributions. Don’t sell out; buy in,” says Jetta Rae Robertson.
The new magazine will be released on Tuesday, February 16.
Harlot also has a crowdfunding page! Check out their crowdfunding video below and donate here!