It’s a chilly day in Williamsburg, but it’s warm and cozy inside this small apartment. MacKenzie Peck – twenty-eight-year-old freelance designer by day, feminist pornographer of her quarterly Math Magazine by night – has just shot naked for her own feature, on a rooftop wearing nothing but a black bra and panties, gripping the ledge in reaction to a real fear of falling.
Down now from the roof – shaking off the jitters of nearly being blown away – she focuses her attention on her next issue’s centrefold. It’s a dreamy lingerie shoot. And, while her female photographer takes a few test shots, MacKenzie helps to calm the nerves of a beautiful blonde in blush lingerie. This is where MacKenzie’s approach to pornography shines, making sure the model is comfortable at all times. When she covers the model’s skin, it’s to accentuate a pose, not hide a ripple or stray hair. She’s not scared or ashamed of the body she was born into. She doesn’t get how, for many, being naked is scarier than falling to our death.
She has a point and a feminist magazine on a mission to prove it. But she hasn’t told her New England parents about her double-life. “If I were to tell my mother that I sleep naked, her first response would be about safety, ‘But what would you do if there was an emergency and you needed to get out of the house,’ sort of thing.”
So, it’s no wonder MacKenzie had to hide a book about porn under her pillow over Christmas until her mom went back downstairs to watch Erin Brockovich. “We’re a family of liberals, free-thinkers, in terms of larger impersonal concepts like politics, but we don’t speak freely with each other about sex,” says MacKenzie, who is an only child. “My parents aren’t judgmental. It’s not about disappointing them. It’s just that it’s a foreign language when spoken to each other. So, I just don’t.”
Back at her Bushwick apartment after the shoot, she wraps herself loosely in a robe, playing her Math Magazine playlist on Spotify. With Flight Facilities’ ‘Crave You’ playing in the background, she plops down on the couch upside down. “This feels like therapy,” she says.
It all started when MacKenzie wanted to get off some years ago. She began scouring Google for something hot – not just the same young vulnerable woman and strong older man. Before she knew it, she was crawling through the dark dimensions of the Internet.
Getting tied up is fun, sure. But, nagging questions kept popping up in her consciousness preventing her from getting onboard. “Were these people into it? I’m talking about actual consent and enjoyment here. And, how do we know all are actually of age? What is the line between fantasy and reality?”
That’s when it hit her, not the orgasm, but the porn industry’s inability to move with the times. “We think about where our clothes and food came from, and I wanted to make sure my porn was ethically made before enjoying it,” says MacKenzie. “I also wanted to see someone who looked real, too: men that aren’t always chiseled and women not mainly plastic with a ton of make-up and hair extensions.”
She put her design skills to work and re-imagined what porn should have looked like in the first place. Historically, porn started with print, evolving early into the nudie mags young boys would steal from their dad’s closets, slide into their Algebra textbook and use to drown out equations while drooling – hence the name Math Magazine.
With feminist imagery, which MacKenzie clarifies is another word for equality, she strives to incorporate photos and illustrations of people of all colours, ages, sizes, shapes and sexuality, especially gender-neutral depictions. “It’s important that people see themselves in porn. I like to show stretch marks, bi-racial couples, women being eaten out, guys being tied up and pegged,” she says. “My magazine is about celebrating kink, not categorising what or who you’re attracted to as fetishes.”
What sets Math Magazine apart from mainstream porn is the collaboration and shared vulnerability behind the scenes of each shoot. “I use female photographers just as much as male ones and both must get naked or down to underwear in order to level out the power dynamic,” says MacKenzie. “I also like for models to participate in things they are genuinely into, so pre-shoot we discuss that and the reason they want to do porn. It’s important that both of those things are coming from an authentic place.”
There’s been a wellspring of new, progressive porn magazines in recent years, but there are two main things that set Math Magazine apart: MacKenzie’s publication is not erotic literature and anonymity in photos is fervently avoided.
She explains that having naked women in masks or positions that purposefully obscure who they are could muddy the waters of consent, or propel a mainstream culture of shame in pornography. “The anonymous female body is tired. I want to be more dynamic than that,” says MacKenzie.
She’s her worst critic, though, always having afterthoughts post-print. “Like, man, I should have shown more pubic hair or done butt-stuff. It’s difficult finding an assortment of people to work with me on camera doing these things, though, when they’ve never seen their body type in media before,” she explains. “They think they don’t belong.”
She’s working hard to defy that stigma, and each issue spurs more progress. “All I want is for porn to be for more people than just white dudes.”
Check out Math Magazine.