Passionfruit is a place where pleasure is celebrated, no matter what gender, size, shape or sexuality you identify with. As pleasure-people, we’re constantly growing into better versions of ourselves; learning about new toys, new ways to navigate the world, and the intersectional experiences which shape the communities around us. Naturally, we look up to other brands, businesses and publications that are leading the conversation in these spaces.
Publications like Archer.
Archer Magazine is an award-winning print publication about sexuality, gender and identity. It is published twice yearly in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia, with a focus on lesser-heard voices and the uniqueness of our experiences.
We spoke with Archer founder and publisher Amy Middleton (she/her) about her experience starting the magazine and how brands can create more inclusive spaces, online and in-person.
Passionfruit: Since you’d started Archer in 2013, what has surprised you most about the publication industry?
Amy Middleton: I worked in magazines before starting Archer, so I got a good sense of the publishing industry in a more corporate context. The initial shock of independent publishing for me was the enormous cost involved, and trying to figure out how I was going to pay the bills. On a more human level, I've been surprised by how many people are willing to engage with the publication, particularly in print – there is still an appetite for beautiful print mags, and queer communities seem to have so much energy and willingness to engage with each other's stories, attend events, listen to talks, and just generally learn and grow with each other. It's very comforting to know there's so much appetite for this kind of content - it shows we're all willing to listen to one another and think about different ways of doing things, and it makes me feel optimistic about society and progress.
P: Seeing and reading more about queer joy and queer stories of all kinds has a profound impact on our collective culture. In what ways do you think our conversations around sex, gender and identity have improved?
Amy Middleton: Compared to 2013 when I started Archer, there's been an enormous shift in how much people accept that sexuality and gender can be fluid, and highly individual. There's more willingness to experiment, and a wider rejection of the norms we've been handed by capitalist patriarchy. People are generally more respectful of diversity (in some circles), and conversations about sex are significantly less taboo - I'm less likely to shock a group of people with my preferred topics of conversation than I was 10 years ago, which is great for society, as well as for my social life…
P: How have these conversations opened up more pleasure possibilities for ourselves and one another?
Amy Middleton: Pleasure is such an individual thing, and particularly for some identities, there hasn't traditionally been much encouragement from wider society to experiment with pleasure or to respect our own individual desires. I reckon this is shifting (slowly), and programming in wider media reflects this.
It's a really good thing, because I think a positive view of individual desire and pleasure can have powerful flow-on effects in terms of building a person's sense of self-awareness, knowledge, autonomy and power, which is especially beneficial for people and communities that are marginalised due to aspects of their identity.
P: Working within the sex and sensuality space, we’ve noticed the discourse around sex, gender and identity evolve over the years. What can brands do to create more inclusive spaces, online and in-person (where applicable)?
Amy Middleton: Aside from obviously paying close attention to inclusive language and offering options for people with varying and intersecting identities, I think there's enormous power in LISTENING: reaching out to communities and individuals to ask for their perspectives; what they want or need; and ALWAYS paying them for their time, energy and emotional labour. This is a hugely beneficial and undervalued method for brands or orgs that want to become more ‘inclusive’.
Just as you'd pay an agency to help develop your branding assets, you should always pay people with lived experience to point out how you can better serve your customer base. It works in a similar way to any other business decision, with the obvious added benefits of making space for lesser-heard voices, respecting lived experience as a source of knowledge, and financially supporting people from the community.
We have so much to learn from people with identities that differ from our own, and so far to go in acknowledging our individual levels of privilege. The best thing we can do, as humans and as brands, is to be respectful and to shut up for a second and listen to someone else’s experience of the world.
This goes for decolonisation, too. White, capitalist, colonial ways of doing things are rarely the best, most efficient, or most respectful option. There’s a ton of listening and action that needs to take place in this country, and as brands, we can contribute by engaging with Aboriginal viewpoints, acknowledging our privilege, and taking steps to dismantle some of the power dynamics, oppression and ignorance that has dominated Australia since invasion.
P: Archer publishes articles about topics or themes that plenty of us think about, but few of us are confident enough to put to words. What advice do you have for people looking to pitch you an article?
Amy Middleton: We have detailed guidelines on how to pitch to Archer on our website. We publish tons of first-time writers, and part of our mission statement is a very collaborative, respectful and gentle editing process that prioritises sharing stories in a way that matches how the writer/artist wants to be represented. Our online editors take a huge amount of care and patience in nurturing writers through the editing process and all the way to the publication stage in a way that helps them feel safe, and lets them keep control of their narrative. It's a pretty beautiful thing!
We publish two new stories online per week, meaning we accept a huge amount of pitches. If you've got a story to tell, that people will want to read, and that probably wouldn't get published elsewhere, it's worth giving it a crack.
And we agree, while the conversations in this space are slowly changing, there’s still plenty of work for us to do when it comes to navigating and discussing all of the unique ways that we experience and understand pleasure.
Keen to pitch your work or contribute to Archer Magazine?
Review their guidelines (over here) and shoot your shot.
Archer Magazine is currently running its annual fundraiser: