What Is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me.

By Erika Allen /

A zine by London-based photographer Sam Hiscox, titled “What Is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me,” has had me thinking about a couple of things.

1: What could have happened to Trinidadian eurodance artist Haddaway?
2: How ambiguous the most intimate moments can seem from the outside. 

What struck me about the photos was that it was virtually impossible to tell the friends from the lovers. It portrayed romantic and plutonic love with equal weight and affection.

The idea for this collection of photos, which were taken over a five-year period, came to him in a hospital waiting room.

“All of my friends love lives, and a bunch of friends who are completely inseparable and have these beautiful friendships, were flashing before me–I was blissing out… I acted on impulse to make something with them,” Hiscox said of the images.

“There’s a huge mix of stories throughout the images. Some of the pictures capture gay relations, straight relations, old relations and broken relations, they are pieced together and paired in ways that amused me.”

Guessing which pairs are in the beginning stages of a relationship, have been together for years, are no more than the best of friends or are maybe sometimes just a little bit more than the best of friends could be a parlor game of sorts.

“I just wanted it to represent love, funny, intimate, serene and beautiful moments,” Hiscox said. “The things that when we see them happening make us want to be close to a special someone–whether its a friend or lover, to share it.”

“Actually maybe that’s why I made it, I haven’t had a real girlfriend for a while now!”

Here’s a selection of photos from the zine:

sam_02sam_03sam_04Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.41.05 PMsam_05Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.38.47 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.38.18 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.39.16 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.40.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-04 at 4.42.11 PM

Erika Allen is the editor of the New York Times’ “Times Insider” blog.

An Anti-Valentine

Feeling sad and/or anxious about Valentine’s Day? Well this might cheer you up: my new Breathless column for Vogue, published yesterday, is about how V-Day day is a bit traj… and I also wrote about love a bit too, so it’s not all bad :) You can read it HERE! 

Blue is the Warmest Color Improved my Sex Life

The title of the post pretty much sums it up, really. Not that my sex life was ever bad, but I’ve been dating my girlfriend for the good part of a year now, and you know how it goes–things slow down, people get “tired,” vibrators get lost under the bed. That’s normal, right? I told myself it was. However, “Blue…” has ignited a new spark. And I don’t think it’s solely to do with the drool-inducing sight of Lea Seydoux’s hot naked body.

Obviously, now that I’m a lesbo I’ve been wet with anticipation of “Blue is the Warmest Color” for months, ever since I first heard about the heated, lesbian coming-of-age story and its marathon sex scenes when the film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in May. I’d read all about the controversy surrounding the film–claims that it was tainted by the male gaze, that the sex scenes were unnecessarily long and pornographic, and about the actresses’ slanderous accounts of the director’s grueling working methods. However, I’d also read many praising reviews, and the film got an overwhelming positive response from my peers: all my lesbian friends told me they loved it, and how they felt Blue was finally a film that represented gay girls in an honest, non-stereotypical, non-cheesy way. One friend said, “It was great to see a film about a lesbian relationship where in the end, it was the straight girl who was the crazy one.” And in response to the controversially long sex scenes, my lesbian roommate put it pretty well: “Straight couples have sex for like five minutes, but lesbians have sex for like five hours, so if you look at the ratio, it makes sense that a lesbian sex scene in movie-time would be twenty minutes long.”

I finally saw the film a couple weeks ago. I have to admit, when I went to see it, I was not in the most lez-positive mood. For some reason–perhaps a slump in my own relationship?–I had occasionally been falling victim to very stereotypically cynical thoughts about the lifestyle: “Why do so many lesbians dress so badly?” and “What’s with all the frumpy blazers and asymmetrical haircuts and awful shoes?” and “Girls have too many feelings.” Basically, I walked into the cinema thinking, “I love my girlfriend, but being a lesbian can be kind of traj sometimes.” I walked out three hours later thinking, “Being a lesbian is the coolest, hottest thing a person could ever be. I want to be gay forever.”

This freaked me out–not because I’m scared of becoming full on gay or whatever, but because my sudden shift in mood made it so obvious to me how severely and transparently I am influenced by the things I see. We all know this to be true; we’ve been told it a million times: we see skinny models in magazines, therefore we want to be thin; we see Rihanna drinking Vita Coco, so we want to drink it too; monkey see monkey do, etc. However, as a smart, tuned-in person, sometimes it’s easy to be in denial about just how much the media, and the images that make up the world around us, affect the way we think and feel. As someone who works in the media, who’s aware of how trends and the zeitgeist are created and entered into the wider consciousness, I felt that I was in some way uniquely above the brainwashing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

It made me think: why had I, at certain cynical moments, felt that being a lesbian was “uncool.” Well, I hate to say it, but there’s a serious lack of lesbians and bi girls in the media today–both real and fictional–to represent an alternative. Of course, there are amazing women like Beth Ditto and JD Samson holding down the fort, but we need more women like them, especially in the mainstream. Yes, Ellen and Portia and Jane Lynch are great, but are they still all we have?! What about women who us younger generations of girls can relate to? All we get is the one-dimensional, reality-TV-made stereotypes on The Real L Word? Nightmare.

Orange is the New Black is a great new show that portrays lesbians, but we can’t ignore the fact that those lesbians are in jail. One media moment of semi-recent history that I recall as being really amazing and sexy was when Amber Heard walked down the red carpet with her girlfriend Tasya van Ree. I want more of that! And also, I know people love to hate on Lindsay Lohan, but can we please give her some credit for the fact that, as one of the most famous women in the world, she very publicly dated a girl, and never felt the need to make some grand issue about it–it was just, “Yeah, I’m being gay now, so what?” (Oh, and are Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora actually dating? I really hope so!)

Put simply, after I saw Blue, I felt like I had new idols. (Is that cheesy?) I really connected with the characters on screen, and I left the cinema wanting to have sex like they had, and wanting to be in love like they were (in the first half of the film, anyway); being with a girl seemed exciting and erotic, and I suddenly felt part of something special, rather than something “traj.” Of course, deep down these are things I always knew, and always felt. But unfortunately, it’s far too easy to get down on ourselves, especially when we don’t have people and art and words and music and in our lives that support and inspire us. We cannot be what we cannot see, and until we see more smart, interesting, cool, sensual, romantic, powerful gay and bi women in positions of influence, it will be a difficult to aspire toward such an image.