Rat Chat Magazine

Photo by Bea Scharf-Pierzchala

Rat Chat magazine: Of art and sexy things

An interview with the publication’s editor-in-chief (and former Cult MTL arts editor) Nora Rosenthal.

Flesh and ideas — that’s what the magazine Rat Chat is delivering to readers. 

The budding publication blending art, culture and sexuality through thoughtful articles and striking photography had a first issue released in October, and it’s just getting started.

“This idea of sex and sexuality will wind its way through all future issues,” says Nora Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Rat Chat (and former Cult MTL arts editor). “It’s like a dinner party where nothing is off the table. But it’s also very important to me that it not exclusively be a smut publication.” 

Rather, Rat Chat is committed to exploring societal and artistic realities through their intersection with sex. Like the theme of the first issue: family.

Rosenthal, who recently moved back to Ontario after living in Montreal for years, says her interest in sexuality as it relates to family life came from her and her husband’s experience moving in with another couple for a polyamorous relationship.

“It got me thinking, what does it mean to be thinking about these ideas but within an entirely new family structure?”

She acknowledges that some might find it strange to explore this theme in a publication featuring sexual imagery. 

“I think that is still a giant taboo in the idea that you can be a parent and have a sex life and that those two selves can exist within the same person,” she says. “I see no reason why they shouldn’t be in the same publication.”

An example she points to is how characters in a novel can have family lives and sex lives that are chronicled in the same story.

“The characters can have multiple different lives. They have family lives on one page and they have sex lives on another page and this is not seen as being somehow appalling, it’s part of the narrative of one person’s life.”

Photographer Ariana Molly from Montreal has photographs featured in the magazine’s first issue, including the cover shot, which her mother posed for.

“It was my first magazine cover ever and on top of that, I got to photograph my mom,” says Molly. “It was very special and I think it’s something that I will definitely cherish for a long time to come.”

Rat Chat’s cover shows Molly’s mother posing with her partner, her best friend who she fell in love with during the pandemic.

“It was definitely the pandemic love story that I think all the queer kids need to hear,” she laughs.

Other Montreal-based contributors in the first issue include Marcela Huerta, Hamza Abouelouafaa, Bea Scharf-Pierzchala and Caroline Desilets

As a portrait photographer, Molly often photographs sex workers. Some of that work is also in the magazine. Molly had felt some hesitation at the thought of sharing images of a sex worker to be published, but the subject of the photos accepted to have the photos included.

“I am really grateful to the individual who gave me permission to publish those images in the first place. I feel like it’s a gift to me,” she explains. “I don’t think any of my clients should ever feel obligated to give me the right to print their image, especially when it comes to erotic content.”

Rat Chat Magazine Nora Rosenthal
Nora Rosenthal (right) and fam. Photo by Christopher Wahl

Because of the stigma that persists surrounding creators of sexual content, Rosenthal was expecting writers and photographers to express hesitance about having their work in a magazine with explicit content. 

“But I didn’t anticipate that people who make explicit content would also be nervous about putting their work in something that’s not exclusively devoted to explicit content, that they also really needed to feel safe in this intercultural mashup,” says Rosenthal.

She had numerous conversations with contributors to discuss the content and ensure everyone was comfortable.

“I think as soon as you get into individual culture, into photography, people get very worried about how their piece will be perceived visually and symbolically next to somebody else’s image.”

The magazine is available for sale in nine countries, and can also be bought online through its website. In Montreal, it can be found at Café Odessa. It will also soon be sold online through the PHI Centre.

“Nothing feels better than seeing a piece of work exist outside of the social media bubble or the digital space,” says Molly of the magazine’s print-only distribution. “It’s definitely become harder and harder to see your work actually produced in a way that it’s intended for in a sense and so that was significant for me.”

The theme and timeline of the second issue have yet to be determined, but Rosenthal is very eager to hear from new sources and contributors.

“I’m really looking forward to getting other voices to be a part of this issue,” she says. “I’m willing to talk to anybody, to hear from anybody.”

For anything new and thrilling to be coming out in these trying times is a huge positive for Molly.

“It’s a welcome relief, to have something that is exciting happen. I’m definitely grateful for that.” ■

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Cult MTL. 

For more, please visit the Rat Chat magazine website.

For more arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.