How one 2023 calendar is reclaiming erotic poster traditions to support sex workers

Among the annual calendar players, Playbabe’s entry is a “layered political object”. This year’s supports Hydra Berlin, an organisation advocating for sex workers’ rights.

Date
14 December 2022

Traditionally, annual calendars have a theme. When we ask Playbabe founders Aurélia Majean and Lucy Owen Jones to sum up the theme for the 2023 Calendar Edition in a sentence, they say it would be: “Women challenging stigmatisation in allyship with sex workers’ rights.” Playbabe is a non-profit project supporting various feminist associations that often uses calendars to raise funds. Its 2022 calendar raised funds for En Avant Toutes, that works towards gender equality and the end of violence against women and LGBTQIA+ people. The 2023 Playbabe calendar, featuring 12 unique photoshoots, donates 100 per cent of sale profits to Hydra Berlin, which advocates for sex workers’ rights.

When Playbabe began making its 2023 calendar, it wanted each subject to take control over their representation. It also wanted to raise conversations around the stigma of femme nudity, something that founders Aurélia and Lucy point out is still widespread, “despite the intense presence of femme-stripped visuals in our culture”. If those are the subjects Playbabe hopes to tackle, allyship is the fuel driving the project. Though the participants appearing in the calendar are not actively working in the sex industry at present. Playbabe chose not to ask sex workers for labour in a non-paid project built to support them – allyship is the tenet on which it all hangs. So far, Playbabe has raised 1200€ for Hydra Berlin.

When it comes to visuals, Playbabe was “inspired by the aesthetic of erotic calendars”, Aurélia and Lucy tell us. “Growing up with a variety of these popular printed yearly formats, we gathered loads of visual references and decided to create our own.” Though, to recreate these visuals, Playbabe has “reclaim[ed] the traditional making of these images”, valuing collaboration above all else.

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Playbabe: December, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

“The project is constructed through communication with its participants and, by doing so, women are given control over the content that will be published,” says Lucy. Aurélia adds: “Each shoot was organised with a very small team, mostly Lucy, me and the model.” The participants were involved in the preparation of the photoshoot, from collaborating on styling to conversations around boundaries. “It was precious for us to understand what were their fears and expectations before the shoot and how they felt afterwards,” says Playbabe.

This kind of intimate, prioritised working relationship was also key to landing on the empowerment that Playbabe leads with. “Our main motivation was to enhance their singularities. There is a form of vulnerability that can emerge when modelling but the experience here was completely subversive and empowering.” The pair continue: “We sincerely wanted the Playbabe calendar to be a showcase of their most empowered selves. And we felt beyond honoured by the generosity of every woman we worked with.”

The 2023 calendar is available for purchase on the Playbabe site, with a limited number of signed and numbered calendars available. The shop also features a range of upcycled thongs, which appear across the calendar too. You can get in touch with Playbabe at info@playbabe.org.

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Playbabe: April, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: January, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: March, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: November, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: September, Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe website (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: Lara, Fundraiser A0 Poster (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: Calendar Edition 2023 Fundraiser (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: Calendar Edition 2023 Fundraiser (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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Playbabe: Calendar Edition 2023 (Copyright © Playbabe, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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