As far as we can tell, Swarthmore has had two erotica magazines to date: Unmentionables, which published one issue in the spring of 2001, and ! mag (officially pronounced as “bang,” although you could call it “factorial” or “click” if you so desired), which also published only one issue, but in the spring of 2005.
Bang mag editors Annie Fredrickson ’07, Emily Schneider ’07, and Sophie Horowitz ’07 were inspired to create an erotica magazine in their sophomore year after discovering a copy of Unmentionables in their dorm. Even more importantly, Fredrickson recalled, “there was a lot of press about Harvard’s H-Bomb at the time, and we were thinking that we could do better than that.”
The three put out a call for submissions of erotic writing and art. Because the editors’ identities were kept secret and the contributors were guaranteed anonymity, explained Fredrickson, “people felt comfortable submitting things… we got plenty of submissions, and the response was really encouraging.” They got funding for bang mag from the now-defunct Forum for Free Press, and published three hundred copies on Valentine’s Day 2005. “We were going for a zine-like ethos,” said Fredrickson, “so it was photocopied and stapled, and we hand-stamped each one with a potato heart stamp.” The editors revealed themselves in an editor’s note.
The response from the student body was overwhelmingly positive, the administration never opposed the magazine, and the New York Times even requested a copy (although it never did produce an article), so why did bang mag stop publishing? The editors put out another call for submissions in the spring of 2005, but “We just didn’t get enough submissions… actually, we barely got any,” said Fredrickson. “Swarthmore just used up all of its libidinous energy in one go.” The editors toyed with the idea of having an erotica-writing workshop, but when all three went abroad during their junior years, bang mag quietly disappeared.
Fredrickson would love to see the tradition of the Swarthmore erotica magazine revived, and speculated that “maybe it’s been long enough now, that enough erotica has been produced for a publication.” Indeed, judging by the history of our erotic magazines, it looks like the Swarthmore libido runs in cycles: a lot of guilt, and then a little bit of sex.
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