In a world where every college has its fair share of student-run publications, Unlocked magazine stands out from rhe crowd. Since its conception in 2007, the University’s art and sexuality publication has garnered a lot of attention both on campus and off. It’s easy to hear the word “sex” and think of porn magazines such as Hustler and Playboy.
Although the magazine may have started out along those lines, Unlocked photo editor Trisha Arora ’16 insists that that’s no longer the case.
“Since  it’s evolved a lot,” she said. “It’s not just about getting naked….The main goal is to provide an outlet for body positivity.”
Publicity and events manager Meghan Nayyar ’16 echoed Arora’s statement.
“We like to put out a magazine that’s a celebration of bodies of all kinds so that everyone feels included,” she said. “We definitely try to be as empowering as possible for the people involved while also being informed, funny, and aware in terms of sexuality.”
Unlocked accomplishes this goal by going against the grain of most sex-oriented publications specifically by actively including queer people and students of color. It also, according to Arora, tries to destabilize the idea of the male gaze.
“The idea of the male gaze on women is very fetishized and problematic,” Arora said. “Unlocked tries to break that heteronormative mold in that we want to make sure women are portrayed as just as strong sexual beings as men.”
Both Nayyar and Arora argue that sexual desire is universal enough to transcend the male/female divide and is something most of us can understand.
“Sex is very natural,” Arora said. “Most people feel this sexual urge. It doesn’t matter what gender you are or what you identify as. This is a very stigmatized subject in our society, and I reject that. It’s as natural as sweating or eating.”
This rejection of androcentric and heteronormative portrayals of sexuality makes the magazine a pioneer, not just within student-run publications but the larger world as well.
“I don’t think there really is a predecessor [of Unlocked],” Nayyar said. “Our photos are of naked people, but we’re not porn, and we’re not simply a writing magazine or a drawing magazine. We’re all these forms of art combined in relation to anything that one might consider sexual. I don’t really think that is something that exists in a well known way that we would look up to.”
Comprised entirely of students, the Unlocked staff is dedicated to making sure everyone involved feels comfortable at every step of the process. When it comes to photoshoots, Nayyar explained that the experience is customized to the models’ comfort levels.
“It’s never just the photographer telling you what to do,” she said. “In my experience, it has always been very collaborative. We do always get written consent before every photoshoot, but also during the photoshoot people are always asking [the models] things like, ‘Do you like this? Are you comfortable?’”
Models have input on who they do their photoshoots with and exactly how much skin they want to show.
“The idea is that sexuality can be anything you want,” Nayyar said. “You can be fully clothed and feel like a sexual being. We want to celebrate that too. There’s all different kinds of sexuality, and being naked isn’t the only kind.”
For the students who do decide to bare it all, however, posing for Unlocked is generally a positive experience. An anonymous student, whom we’ll call Sarah ’17 posed for Unlocked at the end of last year in a group shoot with the other members of her WesCeramics club.
“Our shoot ended up being in Long Lane,” she said. “It was an open field, and no one else was there. We just got butt naked. We had ceramics clay and a crazy ceramics fight. It was cool….At first people just stared at each other like, ‘Okay, what do we do now?’ And then one person was like, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ He was very comfortable with it, so I was too.”
When asked if she would ever pose again, Sarah responded enthusiastically: “Oh, heck yes!”
Unlocked tackles the unsexy side of sexuality by also focusing attention on serious issues like safe sex and sexual assault. In the past they’ve used themes to segue into these topics, but mainly the most effective serious pieces work because they come from first person experience.
“People can always research a topic and write an essay about it, by all means we’ll take it,” Nayyar said. “But for the most part we get personal stories. Even when it’s anonymous you know you’re reading something by one of your peers and that one of your peers has gone through. You look at it and you go that could be anyone. That could be me.”
This year’s Unlocked magazine will hit the shelves in a month or two, and a new calendar will be released next semester. Nayyar said she believes the fact that a magazine like Unlocked can exist and can thrive is a testament to the culture and student body at the University.
“Most people here are really comfortable with themselves, their sexualities, and with the idea of sexuality as art,” she said.
At the same time, though, there are certain restrictions that come with having a magazine featuring such intimate content. If you’ve Googled Unlocked, you know the magazine doesn’t have much of an online presence.
But Arora believes that its lack of online presence is part of the reason that people have been so willing to pose.
“I think a big reason why people are so willing to model for us and write for us is because we’re not online,” she said. “When you’re 70, you might not want to see that on the internet. Yes, people can take photos of the photos, but it’s not there, clickable and ready to go.”
These restrictions also afford the magazine a certain caché.
“It’s also kind of cool,” Nayyar added. “Anyone can have an Instagram account, post a blog, or have a Tumblr. That’s so easy. Having something at the end of the day that I can hold up, that’s way cooler.”