Let’s talk about sex, baby: XMag broadens the conversation with art and articles about sexual health, sex positivity

| Senior Scene Editor

It’s no secret that college students love to talk about sex. And here to fulfill that need is XMag, a year-old student publication devoted to discussing, through art and writing, topics that range from STI prevention to porn and everything in between.

For senior Eden Diamond, XMag’s founder and executive director, expanding the breadth of conversations about sex on campus was one of the key goals that drove her to create the publication. To Diamond, even the name “XMag” exemplifies this goal of growth.

“One thing I thought [the title] represented is this gap in communication because there’s so much censorship and so much taboo,” Diamond says. “People are talking a lot about sex on campus but only with their close friends. And I think the ‘X’—in a certain way— represents all that censorship and the gap that it’s created, and that’s where we come in: trying to bridge that gap.”

The idea clicked for Diamond last spring, when she came across an old copy of “X-Magazine,” a Washington University publication put out by the now-defunct Student Forum on Sexuality, in a Washington University professor’s library collections. Although the current iteration of XMag is quite different from the previous one, its essence remains the same: Sharing students’ perspectives about sexuality.

“I created it with the intent of creating a platform for conversations about sex and sexuality in a positive light,” Diamond explains. “I realized that there are a lot of resources on campus that revolve around everything that can go wrong with sex, and there’s nothing talking about what goes right. Not to say that XMag is only about positive things with regards to sexuality, but it’s more of a proactive stance instead of damage control. Its mission is more about creating communication and improving the dialogue so that miscommunications, and issues that happen after the fact, are less likely to happen.”

Ensuring that XMag represents a wide range of voices has been one of the group’s largest challenges so far. As of now, the majority of contributors identify as women, and Diamond embraces the challenge to branch out.

“My worry is that it becomes an echo chamber within itself of mostly feminist ideology—which I love; I love feminist ideology, and I think it’s an intrinsically feminist publication—but for it to become a bunch of [Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies] majors talking about sex with each other is not the point. So, my hope is that it diversifies,” Diamond says.

With this goal in mind, Diamond invites people of all identities to contribute to XMag—in fact, this diversity is key to its message. She hopes to break down misconceptions about who can and should contribute—it’s not just personal narrative, and there’s a place for everyone’s voice in the magazine. Not long ago, the group held a “bring a friend” meeting, encouraging each member to bring along someone new.

“Getting rid of that misconception and getting more contributors would be the ideal because I know so many people have so much to say about sex. It’s not like people don’t have anything to say; people are just scared to say it,” Diamond says.

Contributors to XMag don’t only express themselves through words. Art is just as important a part of the publication, from paintings to poetry to photography. XMag Art Director Katie Ehrlich, who has been with the project since the beginning, explains that the artistic dimension of the magazine adds perspectives that might otherwise go unheard. Ehrlich, a Communication Design major, has been integral in getting Sam Fox students involved with the project.

“In the art school, there’s a lot of artists that are dealing with this idea of sexuality, especially because we’re college students, and it’s a time period where a lot of people are exploring that for themselves,” Ehrlich explains. “Getting to highlight the viewpoints and talents of a different range of Wash. U. students who might not want to write or might not be very good at expressing their sexuality through writing…that’s a very cool outlet for a different type of Wash. U. student.”

XMag has published two issues thus far (one per semester) with another one on the way for spring 2018. This semester, the group aims to have a print-format publication with a magazine-style layout, in addition to the website format they’ve used so far. Diamond hopes that this step will help them secure Student Union recognition, and eventually funding, in the future, so that they can produce a physical magazine.

“We hope to one day have a magazine, just so it’s more tangible for people—so that it gets in the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise see it. But for now, the online form has actually been super helpful for us: We’ve reached thousands of people, and there’s no paper waste, which is great for somebody who cares about the planet. But we are looking to publish—to get a few copies out there would be super helpful, especially in [Student Health Services] areas,” Diamond says.

Diamond and Ehrlich are both seniors, so accomplishing these goals will largely depend on whoever succeeds them in their directorial roles. Both emphasized their hope that students with a passion for the topic will carry on the work once they graduate this spring.

“Eden and I both started this out of a passion for the topic and a passion for spreading education about sexuality and sex positivity, and I really hope that the people who come after us—not just next year, but in the coming years—will share that passion and continue to grow the magazine and improve it and have an even more diverse topic range. I’d just love to see it grow into something even bigger and even more widespread on campus,” Ehrlich says.

Ultimately, Diamond hopes that any Wash. U. student who comes into contact with XMag feels that their own voice could have a place in it, too.

“XMag is for everyone. It’s not just for people who love sex or people who are having sex. It’s for everyone because the politics surrounding sex and the social dynamics surrounding sex affect everyone on our campus,” Diamond declares. “Whether you are having sex a lot, whether you’ve never had sex, whether you don’t know what sex even means to you or whether you are the most experienced human and you think of yourself of a sex god—whoever you are, wherever you are in this campus, you have something to say about this topic, and we want to hear it.”

Editor’s Note: Katie Ehrlich is a staff photographer for Student Life.