On set with Math Magazine photographer, Maureen Michelle (Image: MacKenzie Peck) / Math Magazine

MacKenzie Peck is trying to change mainstream porn 

Mackenzie Peck was at a house party in the US city of Baltimore when she had a lightbulb moment: she wanted to start a feminist porn magazine.

“I didn’t really know anyone, so I was wandering around on my own when I noticed a group of women going up to the second floor of this home. Naturally, I followed,” she recalls to The Independent.

“Soon I found myself in the midst of a game of dress up. Women were trying on and exchanging clothes in a beautifully sexy and carefree way. I thought to myself, how can I be in this sort of environment as much as possible? The next words that popped into my mind, were, 'I’ll start a porn mag'." 

She wanted to create ethical pornography that users could be sure those involved wanted to be a part of, and that represented bodies that weren't only white, straight, thin and conventionally attractive.

But as she was busy working as an artist and running a gallery, nothing came of the idea. Not until a friend asked her if he could do the first shoot. Then two models followed. And a stylist. Math Magazine, which is self-published, was born. 

“I felt beholden to finish what we started,” says Peck. “I didn’t want to let them down." 

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An image by Sarah Deaner for issue four of Math Magazine (Sarah Deaner)

"Early on, I was approaching people in public. I’d see a couple making out on the subway and think, 'Well, if they are ok with this sort of exhibitionism, maybe they’d be down to model for my porn magazine.' While they were usually flattered and maybe mildly confused, none of these strangers ended up in the magazine," she admits.

Now, the Math team don’t so much find their models but models find them on Instagram and Twitter. She adds: "I continue to work hard so as not to let down all the people who believe in the new type of sexual expression and connection that Math Magazine is heralding." 

But after such a titillating start, why is the magazine called something as clinical as Math

“These decisions are a sign of the times and the work left to be done,” explains Peck. “The name, Math Magazine, works with the limitations of sexual expression today. Just by looking at the name and the cover, one can’t really tell what’s going on. 

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The cover of issue four of Peck's magazine 

“For this reason, I like to say that Math Magazine is for the curious and the bold. By being cheeky about our X-rated content, a bit secretive, we are able to put our work out there without being too affected by censorship, stigma, and public shame. We are cunning in our defiance.” 

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Photography by Jenny Lederer for issue four of Math Magazine (Jenny Lederer)

That “new sexual expression” that Peck speaks of isn’t always understood by those who are used to mainstream porn, which Peck suggests is unreal and not all that sexy at all. But that’s the reaction - or at least one of them - that Peck is looking to provoke. 

“At events where new people are seeing Math Magazine for the first time, I am often met with the reaction, ‘That’s not porn!’ And I must insist that it is.” 

"What’s wrong with the porn industry is that it isn’t satisfying the needs of most people," she argues. "The array of body types and vast ocean of sexual desires are hardly depicted and people are eager to find something new. Something with heart, that exalts sexuality for all it’s magic, and embraces all the ways we can do it." 

"Mainstream porn lives on the internet. As a print-only publication we circumvent that clusterfuck of pop-ups, paywalls, garish ads, click bait, grotesque and oppressive content, and plagiarised material. Our publication is an oasis from distraction, censorship, and comment threads. Math Magazine is a curated respite from the strange and often disappointing world of mainstream porn. 

"Unlike most porn producers, we aren’t selling you an unobtainable fantasy," she says. In her eyes, this approach translates into more meaningful sexual experiences and relationships in general. "Through empathy, communication, and trust we can find what we need in love and lust."

Peck hopes that one day her magazine will no longer be seen as rebellious. "We can’t be outsiders forever, right?" she asks. "I look forward to the day when we are a household name abolishing shame and opening up conversations." 

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An image featured in issue three of Math by influential feminist porn director Erika Lust (Erika Lust)

In her quest to shake-up mainstream pornography, Peck considers every minute detail in the magazine's shoots. When piecing together new issues, Peck says no two shoots are the same. 

“The chemistry between models and photographers sets the mood," she says. "The nervous energy of a young couple can add to the excitement of a more athletic shoot. A strong connection between partners making love in their bedroom has contributed to the sensuality and realism of a shoot, and unexpected moments of inspiration have sparked new directions on set even after we’ve worked for hours. I spend a lot of time establishing clear expectations, a shared vision, trust, and a collective receptiveness to inspiration.” 

So far, after a year of making Math Magazine, readers and fans have reached out to her to thank her for to re-thinking porn. 

“People are clearly hungry for alternatives to the porn industry that has grown familiar, tired, and out of touch. Math Magazine is for thoughtful sensualists, lovers alive today.” 

“Using high caliber, beautiful imagery, and thoughtful design we elevate the genre. We are redefining pornography by featuring more common body types, sexual fantasies often sought but rarely seen, and a level of diversity that is unusual in mainstream media."

So what does Peck want readers to take from Math? To change their view of sex? To try something new?

“We seek personal liberation. Singular and maybe one of the most intimate acts is to forgive oneself for the existence of your body and its desires. As an entire society embraces this mindset we, by extension, seek sexual revolution that dissolves mechanisms of oppression," she says. 

“The short answer," she adds, "is we want to turn you on.” 

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