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“We were trying to capture an openness, wittiness, and grooviness that we couldn’t find anywhere else,” says Bright, 60, now a widely published writer and columnist, mainly on the topic of sex.
From the beginning, the magazine ran personal ads from readers all over the country, many of whom lived far from the gay meccas of San Francisco, where On Our Backs was headquartered, and New York City.
But that increased online visibility, along with greater societal acceptance in some parts of the country (not to mention gentrification, which prices out both queer people and queer businesses) have all contributed to the decline of LGBT-specific spaces — witness, for example, the disappearance of lesbian bars from every major city.
She’d already been following the account just for fun; she enjoyed reading what people wrote about themselves (e.g., “local scammer, pretty boi femme & intermittent wig wearer”) and what they were looking for in a relationship (“sexy, thoughtful extroverts to deep dive into romance,” or, alternatively, “just looking for queer friends willing to talk about experimental music, anti-capitalist ideas, Greek food & cute dogs”). “I’ve been trying to figure this stuff out for a minute.” And she liked the idea that anyone in the world might see it and write back, like sending a message in a bottle.
That clarity appealed to her, especially after a recent streak of underwhelming dates. With the help of some close friends, Lula came up with her own ad (a snippet: “31 y/o watery & sassy black femme looking to be spoiled, spanked & appreciated like I deserve”).
Over the course of its 12-year run, On Our Backs became a beacon of sexual liberation at a time when the mainstream women’s rights movement, largely dominated by the anti-porn brigade, was still squeamish about the pursuit of sex for pleasure.
In fact, helping landlocked lesbians get laid was partly the point of On Our Backs: In the words of former editor Susie Bright, “we wanted everyone to be having the best damn sex of their lives.”At the time, there were a handful of small papers with a personals section specifically for women in search of women, but their raunchiness was curtailed by pressure from advertisers and printers, who would pull their business from a publication that smacked too much of homoeroticism.
That’s where @herstorypersonals comes in: Just as On Our Backs opened a door for queer women to own their sexuality, @herstorypersonals is becoming the de facto lesbian bar of the internet, restoring a sense of community to a faction of 21st-century queerdom.
The inspiration for @herstorypersonals, On Our Backs, whose name was a suggestive play on the “off our backs” mantra of ’80s feminism, was first and foremost an erotica magazine.
lusting for sweaty dyke athletes, pumped-up bodybuilders, and handsome, hot women in uniform to quell the ache in my loins”); others were more cerebral (“Thinking Lesbians …
I like everything from Vixen to Wagner”).“We thought they were so clever,” says Bright.
In early 2017, she created @herstorypersonals, and the response has only grown since then: Over the two-day open-call period each month, Rakowski often gets upward of 200 submissions.
After she culls through them, nixing the ones containing hate speech or needlessly graphic solicitations of sex, she still ends up with enough to post a few at a time until the next call.“I’m kind of shocked that people are willing to be so vulnerable and present themselves in such a public way,” she says.
But those moments of connection have vanished as these spaces shut their doors, and not much has emerged to replace them.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating