Product Review: Quite Lovely & Associated Publications

You may remember a while ago I wrote a review for Quite Frankly; an erotic magazine made by women for women. Although, truth be told, I would hardly call it a magazine.

Quite Frankly is much more of a brilliant anthology publication; one which looks and feels much more like a coffee table book with its distinctive flare. At £35 (without additional publications) it also retails closer to a book’s price and feel substantial enough to be well worth the money. Quite Lovely follows this trend, keeping up the high standards set by the Quite Delightful Project.

These products are beyond breath-taking in terms of both presentation and content.
These products are beyond breath-taking in terms of both presentation and content.

I was incredibly happy to be given the chance to review this publication and hoped that it would live up to the high standards set by the inaugural issue. In this instance the ladies over at the Quite Delightful Project were kind enough to provide me with the associated publications too. Because of this I am going to give my appraisal on each publication as well as an overall verdict.

Post Card Giftpack: The Quite Lovely Edition

This is perhaps the simplest attachment to Quite Lovely but is no less enjoyable for it. Contained in a beautiful little cardboard folder is a stunning collection of post cards. I personally find them almost too beautiful to part with, as they provide compact versions of the photos featured in the Quite Lovely collection.

Indeed, the post cards are a perfectly curated teaser for what might lie in the pages of Quite Delightful’s second issue. They beckon you to fully explore what Quite Lovely has to offer while still working perfectly well as standalone items. I think that’s the most successful outcome that one could want from these postcards, making them utterly flawless in their own way.

These postcards are sold separately for £10.

Monograph Four: Elegia Self-Portraits

Accompanying Quite Lovely, the Elegia Monograph is a series of self-portraits of Elegia. Elegia opens the monologue by divulging the motivations behind the series; which revolve around feelings of unattractiveness, self-loathing, and self-portraiture as a tool for body-positivity.

The proceeding photos are soft, intimate and undoubtedly beautiful. They have an aura about them that feels a lot like forgiveness in many ways. To quote Elegia directly “I still see the same girl [in my portraits] but I don’t beat her up quite as much as I used to”.

The Elegia Monograph does a lot to promote self-love while also managing to be quite erotic. However, a lot of the images are very soft, not just in principle but also in approach. This gives a lot of the photos a blurring effect which complimented the works to my mind but may not be to everyone’s taste.

These monographs, although presented as supplemental, are brilliant publications in their own right.
These monographs, although presented as supplemental, are brilliant publications in their own right.

Monograph Five: John Stoddart, Portraits and Polaroids

A rather chunky monograph, this edition showcases the work of John Stoddart. Stoddart was very popular in the nineties and early twenty first century. To see his work showcased in this monograph is certainly a treat and each shot is handled with a sense of expertise that only comes from experience.

What I admire most about this particular monograph is the use of paper in order to amplify the erotic photography displayed on the pages. Some pages will be comprised of matte paper while others are glossy. This allows the viewer two polarising manners through which to experience the photography displayed and creates a tactile atmosphere which draws the viewer in.

I certainly found these different paper choices to be incredibly effective and feel like this monograph is a beautiful accompaniment to Quite Lovely. However it does feel like it’s a bit less connected to the themes of Quite Lovely than Monograph Four was, but that’s only a small gripe.

The John Stoddart Monograph is sold separately for £20.

‘I Confess’ Volume Two

‘I Confess’ is a series of short erotic stories comprised by the Quite Delightful team and meant to be more of an intimate read. It’s a lot easier to hold, to rest in bed with, and to flick through without resistance.

Mr. Peaches adored the first volume of ‘I Confess’ and it remains one of his favourite parts of the Quite Delightful Project, however both Mr. Peaches and I were a bit torn on the second volume.

Volume two of ‘I Confess’ explores stories that involve manipulation or coercion. This is a divisive topic which some will be drawn to while others will not (and may have a strong reaction against). As a very monogamous person Mr. Peaches found the stories to be a little uncomfortable and wished there was less deception involved. He found Tara’s story, Entanglement, to be particularly upsetting.

This particular volume might split opinions.
This particular volume might split opinions.

I’m also quite a monogamous person by nature but I also feel that erotic fiction taps into people’s fantasies and, therefore, doesn’t always have to adhere to reality or a person’s moral code as it is practiced on a daily-to-day basis. I also appreciated that consent was mentioned on more than one occasion. Everyone involved seemed to be happy (up until a point) and I found the moments of vulnerability that were included to be endearing rather than off-putting. Still, it’s not to my taste in terms of erotic fantasy.

My favourite story was Janey’s recounting of The One That Got Away, in which she tells of her desire to reconnect with a lost school love at any cost. The description of teen romance struck a nerve with me (as Mr. Peaches and I first began dating at school) while the later parts had a good sense of humour to them. Again, I didn’t appreciate the theme of coercion too much but Janey did seem self-aware of how uncomfortable it may make some people and explored that in her own confession, which I appreciated.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend this volume for anyone who dislikes cheating, threesomes, or manipulation in relation to sexual acts but I know that it will find an audience that does appreciate it.

‘I Confess: Volume Two’ is sold separately for £10.

Quite Lovely

This is the main meat of the review: the 340-page magazine and second issue in the Quite Delightful Project. This particular issue seeks to explore female sexuality through quiet portrayals of intimacy mixed with forthright and confrontational pieces. It focuses heavily on notions of love, affection and admiration; it wants to inspire these feelings (in addition to desire) and prompts readers to explore them fully.

Compared to Quite Frankly, Quite Lovely feels very fine-tuned and engaging, and that’s saying something. Quite Frankly set the bar incredibly high so it was fantastic to see Quite Lovely build off of its previous successes and surpass them. The themes tackled in this issue feel important and incredibly well composed. These issues include (but are not limited to) feminism, the lens of femininity (and masculinity), standards of beauty, body-positivity, body-liberation, and self-acceptance.

I adore the binding of the Quite Delightful magazines.
I adore the binding of the Quite Delightful magazines.

As you can probably tell self-love is explored a lot in this issue and it is handled very well. In this Quite Lovely invited readers to consider their own body. It’s intelligent handling of the topics and introspective properties worked very well in my opinion and left me felling, to be a bit cliché, quite lovely. This issue also includes an explorative series of self-portraits by Alice, which is a first for her. These images provide a sense self-exploration which is wholly in keeping with the issue’s themes and makes the reader feel more connected to the Quite Delightful team.

There’s a lot to love about this issue; so much that I couldn’t possibly address it all in a reasonable word count. So here are a few pieces that I felt did (and didn’t) work for this particular issue.

Porn vs. Erotic by Janey Ballantyne

Generally I am an admirer of Janey’s writing but this piece was the weakest in this issue in my opinion, and it’s the opener.

Janey’s inclusion tackles the idea of porn vs. erotica and argues the point that, to quote her, ‘Porn, in my mind, is designed to achieve a certain goal…It is not designed for foreplay, or to allow you to let your imagination run wild. Porn is functional, clinical’.

In this piece Janey pitches porn as being rather seedy, wholly focused on the end goal, and crude in comparison to erotica. It is an argument that is then used to elevate the titillation of erotica and to align the Quite Delightful Project with the latter.

As part of the article Janey recounts the manner in which a friend of hers describes porn and concludes that ‘I’m not sure that I am completely convinced by this—but I do understand the sentiment’. This is very much how I feel about Janey’s own assertions.

Personally I found Janey’s depiction of porn to be rather narrow and dismissive. The article as a whole doesn’t seem inclined to set up a dialogue but, instead, simply wants to solidify a divide between erotica and porn while declaring one the intellectual and artistic victor. I feel like this ignores a lot of the artistry and effort that goes into some pornographic content (the Crash Pad Series immediately came to mind as a counter).

The article oddly seems to ignore the efforts of feminist and queer pornography too. This is particularly bizarre as Quite Lovely contains an interview from a feminist porn director. It’s almost as if Quite Lovely was hoping that this interview would act as the counter for this article—a means to create a dialogue—but instead it just seems contradictory.

This article also reveals one of my gripes with Quite Frankly (and now Quite Lovely too); these magazines seem determined to align themselves as erotica and set themselves apart from porn.

It’s certainly not wrong to make your intentions known but two articles over two issues trying to establish the divide and situate the magazine seems a bit redundant and irksome to my mind. I kind of wish that Quite Lovely would instead adopt the attitude of John Klukas (as featured in this issue):

‘To some, all nudity is pornographic. I focus on balancing emotional arousal with sexual arousal in my work, and then people can call it what they wish’.

Is the continued appraisal of what counts as porn or erotic necessary?
Is the continued appraisal of what counts as porn or erotic necessary?

An Interview with Anna Arrowsmith

This is the above mentioned interview and it is incredibly engaging. Anna seems to be a determined, well-educated, inspirational figure who isn’t afraid to dive in to the topic of working in pornography. Meanwhile Katherine Wood asks some very effective questions which help the interview flow effortlessly.

I feel like the questions asked allowed us to get the most extensive outcome from this interview and each answer is insightful and thought-provoking.

My favourite section of this interview has to be about types of sexism; namely benevolent sexism and hostile sexism. I don’t want to give too much away so I shall just present this simple quote:

‘The only time the word ‘should’ may form part of a statement about women in general is that ‘women should be equal to men’. Any other sentence that says ‘women should be this’ or ‘women should be that’ is sexist’.

Habitual Grace by Jo Schwab

This is a series of photographs as presented by Jo Schwab and I adore them. Jo is interested in drawing out the sensuality and self-assuredness of his subjects and at this he clearly succeeds. His models are diverse but they all share an arresting gaze and a sense of empowerment that seeps off of the pages. The models confront the reader and create an exchange of looking and being looked at which makes these photographs stand out as exceptional.

To be honest a lot of the photographers in Quite Lovely succeed at this as well. Because of this I have to admit my bias comes from my attraction to the models. Freckles are my weakness.

Long Distance Loving by Rebecca Milford

In Quite Frankly I found Rebecca Milford’s article to be one of the weakest, this time I believe it is one of the strongest.

Rebecca creates a very lengthy article exploring long distance relationships and how to maintain intimacy and sexual invigoration during stressful, often work-filled times of separation.

The article itself reads as part inspiration part erotica; including the antics of one Paul and Anna to illustrate points about building up anticipation and divulging fantasies.

I think Rebecca’s advice is very good, as is her writing style. The included erotica also means that couples could read this article not just for advice but also acts an actual primer to their own sexual exploration.

It’s a brilliant blending or practicality and sensuality which works to maximum effect and it is definitely worth a read, even if you’re not in a long distance relationship.

Untitled by Sarah-Jane Griffey

Another favourite of mine is the intimate disclosure of Sarah-Jane Griffey. Sarah-Jane is a 30 year old woman who has yet to lose her virginity. In fact she has barely had any sexual encounters. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with this but Sarah-Jane does hold a certain amount of self-awareness which is inherently interesting.

Through her contribution (which is presented as a journal entry, written in beautiful cursive) Sarah-Jane walks us through her childhood, her insecurities, her desires, and the ultimate decision to begin exploring her sexuality further.

Sarah-Jane’s story fully embraces the themes of self-love as presented in Quite Lovely as she decides to let go of her apprehensions and take the next step in her life. To quote her:

‘That girl of yesterday who I once knew so well has gone. Yet I’ve still not had the pleasure of meeting tomorrow’s girl’.

Having read the stories of the girl of the present I am glad that Sarah-Jane decided to share her experiences.

Final Thoughts

These were but a few samples of what Quite Lovely has to offer but, I think you can agree, they are incredibly interesting and certainly worth the purchase. There are also many more articles of note in this issue, including two very interesting interviews with an erotic leather worker and the founder of a topless book club. And, of course, there are beautiful photos galore; beautifully shot, beautifully composed, and beautifully presented. Just exceptional all around.

Quite Lovely seems to have found its feet and the central theme of this issue was explored very well. I feel like the Quite Delightful team have solidified the success of their first issue and will, no doubt, go from strength-to-strength from here on out. In the meantime I urge you to purchase the current issue. It is lovely in every sense of the word.

Recommend to:

People who admire artistic erotica.

People looking for an engaging read.

People interested in sex and sexuality.

Do Not Recommend to:

People just looking for a ‘dirty mag’.

People who dislike intelligent content.

(For ‘I Confess: Volume Two’) People who dislike manipulation.