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In an era when being openly queer was dangerous, even illegal, the On Our Backs personals provided a safe, anonymous space for women to express their desires — the weirder, the better.

From the beginning, the magazine ran personal ads from readers all over the country, many of whom lived far from the gay meccas of San Francisco, where On Our Backs was headquartered, and New York City.In 2014, she started the Instagram account @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, a hit reel of iconic queer imagery featuring portraits of Audre Lorde, candids from early Pride marches, and probably every photo in existence of Jodie Foster as a baby gay.A couple years later, Rakowski stumbled across a digital collection of On Our Backs, the first erotica magazine for a lesbian audience in the US, which ran from 1984 to 2006.But those moments of connection have vanished as these spaces shut their doors, and not much has emerged to replace them.The queer community, and the lesbian community in particular, has been suffering from a lack of a clubhouse — a gathering space, real or virtual, to replace the rapidly shrinking physical territory we can claim as our own.That’s where @herstorypersonals comes in: Just as On Our Backs opened a door for queer women to own their sexuality, @herstorypersonals is becoming the de facto lesbian bar of the internet, restoring a sense of community to a faction of 21st-century queerdom.The inspiration for @herstorypersonals, On Our Backs, whose name was a suggestive play on the “off our backs” mantra of ’80s feminism, was first and foremost an erotica magazine.Over the course of its 12-year run, On Our Backs became a beacon of sexual liberation at a time when the mainstream women’s rights movement, largely dominated by the anti-porn brigade, was still squeamish about the pursuit of sex for pleasure.In fact, helping landlocked lesbians get laid was partly the point of On Our Backs: In the words of former editor Susie Bright, “we wanted everyone to be having the best damn sex of their lives.”At the time, there were a handful of small papers with a personals section specifically for women in search of women, but their raunchiness was curtailed by pressure from advertisers and printers, who would pull their business from a publication that smacked too much of homoeroticism.As she scrolled through the xeroxed back pages, she discovered the women-seeking-women ads that would become the inspiration for @herstorypersonals.Rakowski, who has an eagle eye for queer social media catnip, began posting some of the vintage ads on @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y.

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  1. DoubleList is the new online personals website that dares to fill the void Craigslist left when it shut down their legendary Craigslist personals ads back in March. There are a lot of positive feedback from users of the website and some mixed feelings with users.

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