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Cover Girl: Ginger Murray, Whore! Editor In Chief

Photography by Timothy Archibald

In June, Ginger Murray launched a print quarterly, the first issue of which covered such varied topics as vibrators, linguistics, gay porn, history, and car repair. The idea is to provoke intelligent conversations about sexuality, gender, and identity. Murray named her magazine Whore! as a way to embrace the word’s earliest definition: one who desires. It’s also not a bad ploy to get people talking.

Yours is the latest in a line of feminist mags such as Bitch and Bust. What makes Whore! different?
It doesn’t have a political aim, and we’re not anti-male. There’s no ranty, assumed feminist position that excludes men. I think that’s the big mistake many women’s magazines make. I found in my research that there are still lots of women who are uncomfortable calling themselves feminists. They have a lot of doubts, questions, and confusion about it. Even women who call themselves feminists have very different ideas about what that means. The biggest social reform we’re looking for is to create an ongoing dialogue. There are a lot of significant issues going on with women around the world, and by creating something stylish, fun, sexy, and intelligent, we can slip in some of these topics in a very accessible way. By bringing readers in on such a personal level and making them feel invested in these issues, we’re actually empowering them.

Your articles quote great thinkers—Plato, Goethe, Wilde, Steinem, Didion—in a way that intellectualizes sex, gender, and identity. What’s your philosophy?
Typically, women have had sexuality projected onto them, living in a state of being desired. Over the years, we’ve been learning how to embody this sexuality and create our own desire. It’s all about the way we come to that place where we can say, “I want this, so I will engage in this,” instead of living our entire psychological identity in terms of how we fit into other people’s ideals.

Is your magazine for radicals, or are you aiming for the mainstream too?
When Helen Gurley Brown took over Cosmopolitan in the 1960s, it was radical for its time, addressing modern women who worked and traveled. We have a similar goal—to be a legit women’s magazine that deals with women’s issues, has radicals as its focus, but will reach as many people as it can.

Have you ever read Playboy or Maxim?
I love Playboy—not so much for what it’s become today but for what it was in the ’70s and ’80s. The articles were informative, intelligent, and sexy. It fulfills a fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maxim is not intelligent at all. It takes all the worst aspects of masculinity and combines them.

What’s your relationship with sex?
Growing up, I had a lot of trouble with the idea of sex, even though I was intensely knowledgeable about it. It wasn’t ignorance or lack of exposure. I didn’t have an understanding that I had the right to be who I was. Two years ago, I decided to test myself to see if I could engage in non-romantic, anonymous sexual encounters in which I treated men as objects. It was a good learning experience, but it didn’t make me feel empowered. I learned that, for me, sex is very intimate, and I now embrace it as such.

How else can women embrace their sexuality—you know, without using men as objects?
First and foremost, just start talking about it. I mean really talking about it—sex, orgasms, periods, menopause, everything. Talk to your friends. Start talking to your family. That’s the only way we’ll start to see that there’s no need for shame or guilt. I would also suggest reading a lot of the sex writing that’s out there—from Annie Sprinkle to amazing erotica. It’s all quite interesting and compelling. Finally, some women feel the need to be more sexually expressive and explorative than they might be comfortable with. It’s a response to this idea that women have to put it all out there and be available to men. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be gazed at and desired, but that doesn’t mean you’re presenting yourself for anyone’s pleasure. Remind yourself that you have the right to say when it is and is not OK.

—Allison McCarthy

* Published in the February 2011 issue of 7x7. Subscribe to 7x7 magazine here.