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By Justine Gerardy
Demand for an Afrikaans sex magazine that targets married, Christian women and shatters prissy Calvinistic stereotypes has increased so much that an English version will hit the shelves next month.
The launch edition of Intimacy - which features lap-dancing, submission and a tricky question about parental sex on the cover - follows a 300 percent growth in demand for Intiem magazine, which was launched in 2006.
"We strive to empower Christian women not to feel guilty for enjoying this God-given pleasure which is sex, but rather to embrace it," said managing editor Liezel van der Merwe.
Writing on sex from a Christian perspective had been a difficult challenge, with sex and religion both highly sensitive topics and few guidelines in the Bible, said Van der Merwe.
"You won't find any information on, say, masturbation, oral sex or how to spice up your sex life in the Bible. So the only thing one can do is to take the general guidelines that were given to us and apply it to the best of our knowledge and with guidance from the Holy Spirit."
Readers reacted positively from the start despite the team having braced itself for criticism from religious sources. Some of the most loyal readers were ministers, sexologists and conservative readers and more than a third were men.
An online sex shop (www.intiem.co.za) had also been very successful. Each magazine issue also offered a choice of "mild to hot" toys to spice up readers' sex lives, which are encouraged for use with partners.
"Sex shops are not women-friendly places and lots of women still see them as sleazy and 'dark'. We aimed to provide a friendly place from where women could order toys without having to pluck up the courage to visit one of these places," Van der Merwe said.
The quarterly Afrikaans version, which has a 30 000 distribution run and a LSM 8-10 readership, will be translated and adapted for English-speakers to appeal to a multicultural audience. The original target market's readiness for a controversial, niche publication had been underestimated, she said
"While we believed that it was only Afrikaans women from a Calvinistic upbringing who had a need for a magazine which speaks openly and freely about sex, we soon came to realise that this was not the case. This was the obvious next step."
The magazines were not Christian publications, but written from a Christian perspective, she clarified.
This meant monogamy was endorsed and marital affairs condemned. And while experiments with oral sex might be encouraged, no articles written for gay couples would ever be found.
Readers were left to choose what they felt comfortable with, from their religious perspectives, in the covering of topics such as submission in marriage.
"We believe that if a sex act stays within a marriage, is shared by only husband and wife, and both of them are comfortable with and enthusiastic about doing whatever they are doing, it can only be beneficial to the marriage.
"And this is what God wants for us."