After reading Nerve and Riotgrrl, Scarlet Letters: A Journal of Women’s Erotica was quite a disappointment. For starters, the layout is mediocre â€“ another one of those built around the overdone black background, with red and white lettering. Nothing ground-breaking there. Just more pouting, scantily clad illustrations and the profile of legs like the kind seen on the mud flaps of some eighteen-wheelers. Original it isn’t.
The material itself is just sex, sex, sex, with virtually no discussion of any of the larger issues. The editor even calls herself an editrix (as in dominatrix).
The issue I reviewed is called “Ties That Bind â€“ the BDSM issue,” and the material doesn’t deviate from this theme. In the “Field Trips” section, Ms. Scarlet reports on the Mr. Leather International convention in Chicago and the Ms. Leather International one in Atlanta. Personally, I didn’t even know they had conventions of that sort. I suppose, though, that if gun enthusiasts, the KKK, and the Parent-Teachers Association can have their conventions, fans of leather should have theirs as well. I do wonder what these people say to their children, though. “Don’t worry, Mommy will bring you back something nice from Atlanta. Hey, how about a ‘Spank Me Barbie?'”
The magazine also features some fairly raunchy fiction and poetry, as well as a substantial collection of photography and illustrations. In the editorial section they cover a plethora of sex-related topics. Ms. Scarlet’s advice column addresses the question of the “orgasmically challenged.” Rikki McGurty scans the net for “BDSM, bad movies, nipple clamps, and answers for the vanilla crowd” in her column entitled “This Closet Has Better Lingerie.”
I found this magazine to be rather bland, a bit too raunchy, and with few redeeming values. It was decidedly the weakest, least diverse, and least interesting of the three zines.