by Jarrod Jones. SFSX is kink for the intellectually adventuresome. For the sort of folk who saunter into a date’s apartment only to immediately scan their bookshelves to make sure that the right decisions were made concerning the night ahead. It’s for those who grow weary of the same tired approaches to sex in literature, especially those where sex workers end up as so much fodder for edgy nonsense and lurid viciousness.
In short, SFSX is comics as they could be, a primer for different stratas of perspective and preference, represented by people of all shades and shapes, articulated majestically by someone who knows and gives a damn.
The story of SFSX (“Safe Sex”, obvs) follows former sex worker Avory, who has only somewhat integrated into the bureaucratic labyrinth of a not-too-distant North American future where only the most vanilla sex is notarized and everything else is criminalized. (Not surprisingly, it wasn’t by choice.) It’s a place where the agency of the individual to make their own decisions about how to use their body (and with whom they would use it) has been taken away by the Powers That Be. It’s a place that shouldn’t exist. But it could. For many in our very-real real world, it already does.
So for writer and activist Tina Horn, it’s crucial that people see sex and sex work for what it is—not something that should be legislated, prosecuted, decimated from our lives—especially in their entertainments. “Unfortunately, many of the backwards ideas that people have about sex work come from misrepresentation in popular fiction like comics, movies, and TV,” she tells me. “Sex work is often used as a symbol of crime, seediness, danger, and poverty, and in real life it can represent all of those things. But when the real experiences of pornographers, prostitutes, dominatrixes, and strippers are flattened in these stories, when we don’t see things from their complex point of view, it’s dehumanizing.”
Enter SFSX, stimulation for the kink-deprived, nutrition for the kink-savvy. Tina Horn took time out of her crazy schedule to speak with DoomRocket about her comics debut, and how she’s going about leaving her own indelible stamp on the world of kink comics.
1. ‘SFSX’ brings readers into a United States that has somehow successfully regulated sex into this monstrous bureaucratic quagmire. But when you look at the details of the first issue, some of the language you give those in power have a certain… familiarity. What pushed you to write this particular story, now?
Tina Horn: You’re absolutely right, they should be familiar, I basically just paraphrased a bunch of pulled-from-the-headlines conservative propaganda that pisses me off!
In all seriousness, what pushed me to write the story is creating empathy. The heroes of SFSX—queers, pornographers, kinky people, and sex workers of all stripes—represent identities and cultures that are woefully misrepresented in mainstream fiction across mediums. Both as characters and creators. But these are my people! We are passionate people with interesting inner lives and stories to tell! I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to put sex weirdos at the center of this action-adventure and comment on the real life villains that oppress us.
2. ‘SFSX’ marks your comics debut, and already you’ve made DC blush. How has the transition from DC to Image been for you creatively? Was it a relief to see the corporate roadblocks get pulled away?
I had so much editorial support when I was developing SFSX, and the people I worked with at DC made it better than it ever would have been if I’d been doing it on my own. Now that I’m at Image, I’m finding this new team is carrying that trust through to the entire production and publicity stages. They’re putting our vision on shelves and I’m beyond grateful for that. I’m so proud to be in a pantheon of freaking weird sexy Image books like Saga, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals, and The Wicked and the Divine!
3. You’ve said that you struggle with whether you have to “compartmentalize [your] more ribald and explicit work from [your] other cultural pursuits.” When you were first pitching ‘SFSX’, did you feel that was still the case?
I’ve really gotten to the point in my work, both fiction and nonfiction, where I fully integrate the raunchy with the intellectual. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive, so I do my best to breeze past respectability roadblocks. It’s a privilege to be able to do so and I don’t take that lightly.
4. Is there an added freedom to writing an illustrated story as opposed to an op-ed or essay?
The freedom in making comics is collaborating with artists and designers, and learning how a symbol or color or gesture or costume can show instead of tell. That’s a powerful tool for a writer and one of the reasons I hope to create comics for the rest of my life!
5. How has your collaboration with artist Michael Dowling been? Were there any learning curves for either of you?
I definitely needed to learn how to art direct comics! I don’t think Mike’s image search history will ever be the same. I had some pretty strong ideas about aesthetics and cultural specificity, and he incorporated them seamlessly into his technical prowess.
6. Image Comics has been a prime outlet for those seeking a bit (or a lot) of sex in their comics, primarily through series such as ‘Sex Criminals’, ‘Saga’ and, most recently, ‘Unnatural’. Do you feel that making Image your home for ‘SFSX’ is an opportunity to help purge some of the comics industry’s more prudish tendencies?
Sex can be about a fight, or a connection, or beauty, or ugliness. It’s a part of the human experience, and I think one ripe for character, aesthetic choices, allegory, drama, action, and more. Frankly I think a lot of people lack erotic imagination; even though I’m still learning how to write fiction I definitely have a vivid erotic imagination! Ideas of what is obscene are always controlled by powerful people who are insecure about their own sexual self-worth. I’d like to see the standards of explicit content made by people who have been fighting our entire lives for the right to just be our sexual selves!
7. As an advocate for the human rights of sex workers, how does one articulate that sex work is a profession like most others for people who see sex work as exploitation, a “thing that must be stopped”—which just so happens to be a line of thinking that could precipitate a future as depicted in ‘SFSX’?
Unfortunately, many of the backwards ideas that people have about sex work come from misrepresentation in popular fiction like comics, movies, and TV. Sex work is often used as a symbol of crime, seediness, danger, and poverty, and in real life it can represent all of those things. But when the real experiences of pornographers, prostitutes, dominatrixes, and strippers are flattened in these stories, when we don’t see things from their complex point of view, it’s dehumanizing. That’s a material concern for sex workers, because when someone is seen as less than human, powerful people tend to try to control them and tell them what to do, or subject them to violence.
8. What do you look for in kinky comics?
I look for kink to not be pathologized or treated as something that lends a little edge on a story in a shallow way. I look for understanding of the reasons people enjoy or identify with kink. I look for someone who takes the technical elements of bondage and whipping as seriously as they would the weapons in a fight sequence!
‘SFSX’ #1 is in stores now. Issue #2 drops October 30. (Diamond Code: AUG190210)
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘SFSX’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!
More comics interviews to get those synapses firing…