DICKPRINT: Queerness, race and sexuality seen through fashion
While times may never have been as tolerant as they are now for young gay men living in major Western cities, the pressure to live up to a stereotypically masculine standard of desirability has yet to subside. As anyone who’s ever logged onto Grindr will tell you, profiles boasting chiselled abs and performances of sexuality that pass for ‘straight’ are lavished with attention, while those displaying even a hint of feminine or submissive behaviour are routinely glossed over. This polarity is yet more pronounced for black gay men, whose desirability is often conditioned by externally projected stereotypes of sexual dominance. As both a counterpoint to attempts to regulate his sexuality and a means to elaborate on untold queer histories, CSM BA Fashion Journalism graduate Kacion Mayers created DICKPRINT, a publication that sits at the intersection of race, sexuality, fetish and fashion. We spoke to Kacion to learn more about his sources of inspiration, what ‘mascuerading’ is, and his experience collaborating with creatives like Ib Kamara and Ajamu.
DICKPRINT: what’s in the name?
Everything is in the name. It’s about dicks, quite literally, in print. It’s about all the dick I’ve encountered that’s left its mark or its… imprint. It’s about dicks who have something to say, and that I found interesting. Or stimulating, of course. It’s also a reference to the grey sweatpants/DICKPRINT phenomenon, which I guess you could argue, is a fetish in its own right.
What were the main references for the project?
My main references were likely to be found in the Bishopsgate Archive, which is a great source of gay leather and fetish archive material. My friend Ajamu, whose personal archive of black queer material is fab. He also runs the Rukus! Archive which is another great resource dedicated to black LGBT material, alongside Topher Campbell. Of course, I stumbled upon BUTT magazine, and there were the weird and wonderful 70s porn magazines by John Sutcliffe and AtomAge and The Rubberist. I was even looking into vintage Japanese pornos at one point. Funnily enough, my original reference for all of this was a passage from Man Ray’s autobiography. It details a scene in which Ray is trying to smuggle his weird art objects into Paris under the guise that they were “fetishes”. That was what actually spurred my interest and my research into what a fetish actually was and what it actually means today.
Were there any particular artists, publishers or editors that you looked to for inspiration?
I was obsessed with BUTT magazine, and I’m currently interning over at Fantastic Man under Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, so that has really come full circle. I fangirl practically every day I’m in the office. I also loved looking at vintage gay porn magazines, and Phile Magazine is another great publication I came across in my research. Funnily enough, I found that Another Man also has a great history of exploring kink/fetish, sex and queerness for a modern men’s fashion and culture magazine. There were also old issues of Gay Times and so many other titles that have just gone under the radar or left to catch dust in some archive. It’s quite sad actually. The regulation catalogues were also fab. I managed to track down Jay Eff, who is the photographer behind those amazing images as well as the notorious posters for GARAGE @ Heaven.
Creating and sustaining an independent fashion publication is tough in the current climate. Do you intend to produce further issues of DICKPRINT? Why or why not?
For the reprint, not only did I add new content but I redesigned the whole thing myself. I had to set up the website and figure out how to set up payment methods. I wrote every single article and took a fair amount of the pictures myself too. It was a one-man show for the most part and it really made me appreciate the effort it takes to put together an entire magazine. I am actually quite… worn out post-graduation/DICKPRINT. Regardless, I have really grown to love and appreciate the process so much. I want to take some time out, gain some more experience and work my ass off under someone, somewhere I can hone my craft—especially before I release another issue. I also feel no burning desire to adhere to this current cycle of releasing content. There’s no rush for me at present but I am going to continue; DICKPRINT issue two will come around eventually but it will also be a completely new adventure.
DICKPRINT stands at the intersections of numerous themes, fashion, fetish, gayness and blackness among them. Did you set out with all of themes in mind, or were they introduced at different points in the process of making the publication? And what were the first steps you took to turn these themes, and your experience of them, into a full publication?
The themes were always there loosely but they managed to perfectly align towards the end. I’m a black man so there were always going to be black men in there, it is about race, but also, it isn’t. It’s just a reflection of my world: what I know and who I know. I feel like black gay men rarely get a spotlight and there’s also this argument that we don’t actually want it a lot of the time. Probably because of the platform or the people shining the light on us. If it’s not authentic or genuine, why do I or any other black men want to be involved? I wanted to provide a spotlight where black men could feel comfortable to engage in things they’re not usually associated with—or allowed to engage with. Fetish is something that always intrigued me but I knew I was no expert. That’s why a lot of this magazine is led, not by my opinion, but by the opinions of people I considered to have an authority, understanding or personal experience of that realm. They made this magazine happen just as much as I did. Bruce LaBruce, Ted Polhemus, Hal Fischer, Ajamu, BlueBoy Poppers aka Barcelo, my friendly acquaintances on Reddit. They’ve all been so great.
Producing a magazine on your own is no mean feat. What were the greatest challenges you had to overcome in bringing it all together?
The biggest challenge for me was the juggling of jobs. Also the copy editing—yikes! I’ll never do a magazine all by myself again. I think I made a great effort, but it was an insane task. As much as it drained every fibre of my being, it was also invigorating. A contradiction but also a truth.
What were the most interesting things you came across in your research? And what did you learn about black queer history in particular?
The most interesting thing I came across was probably all of the posters and flyers for black LGBT meetings in and around London in the 80s and 90s. As far as we’re taught, black gay people did not exist then. I don’t know their stories, their lives, their history… our history. My history. Perhaps that’s my ignorance but those things changed and are so important and vital for me and other young black and gay people to be made aware of.
I think the most interesting bit of black British queer history is the iconic Black Perverts Network in Brixton, a fetish night held in Ajamu’s house for black and brown men only during the 90s. Major scoop.
Could you tell us more about ‘mascuerading’?
‘Mascuerading’ is a term I coined which simply refers to men who feel the need to amp up the testosterone—get their masc4masc on, whether visually, physically, or even linguistically—often to attract other men. Often evading their true selves to be the masculine ideal that, more often than not, is the gold standard gay man. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a masculine gay man, just as there’s equally nothing wrong with being a feminine gay man. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I’ve no qualms. My problem arises when gay men perpetuate this idea that only masculine men, or men who evade who they are in favour of what gay culture tells them they should be, are worthy gay men. We need to embrace our nuances. I’m not going to “bro” you on Grindr just because it means you’re more likely to bed me, you know? Absolutely not. But I have definitely ‘mascueraded’ in previous years and I find that so sad.
Ibrahim Kamara, Ajamu, and Kyle Weeks are some of the creatives that contributed to the project. How did they get involved?
They got involved because they’re close friends or friends of close friends. I’ve always been taught to work within my community and we all help each other out on our projects. They all understood the vision and they all so graciously lent me their time, for which I am forever grateful.
Creating a totally new project, why did you want to work with people that already shoot for so many other publications?
I worked with them because they’re friends before they’re people that already shoot for major publications. I trust them, I trust their vision and even if they weren’t doing the things they do, I appreciate, respect and love their work. The real question is, why did they decide to get on board for my little graduate project? It’s a testament to their character and unwavering support for me, which is what makes for a good friend.
Any interesting observations from your work with them compared to when working with less experienced collaborators?
There is this belief that better-known creatives are able to capture and style such great images because they have the budget or the connections. And sometimes they do, of course, but they also have a great eye and, for a select few of them, they also have real talent. A great eye and imagination can go a long way. The lesser-known collaborators work equally as hard and sometimes maybe equally as talented.