This Sex Positive Comic Artist Is The Older Sibling You Wish You Had

BIG SIS is here for you.

October 05, 2016
This Sex Positive Comic Artist Is The Older Sibling You Wish You Had Courtesy of BIG SIS

Toronto comic-maker BIG SIS is the older sister I wish I had. The 26-year-old anonymous artist’s black-and-white single panel comics tell unapologetic stories about girls navigating life, relationships, sexual health, and pleasure. I think I probably would have hated my body less if her Instagram account, which is where she almost exclusively shares her work, was around when I was teenager. BIG SIS’s meme-friendly panels about prepping for a first date (masturbate to completion, FYI) and calling out men who think giving head makes them feminists will make you laugh at your vulnerabilities, while also destigmatizing ideas about body and desire.

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Describing herself as “all booked out” after completing a media studies degree, BIG SIS became obsessed with comics and graphic novels like Alison Bechdel’s 2012 memoir, Are You My Mother? In the past year she’s also opened a webshop where you can buy prints and period panty patches, and had her work shown at Toronto’s Xpace Gallery. BIG SIS talked to The FADER about why comics are the perfect way to explore heavy topics like sex positivity and feminism.



It’s really interesting how much a single panel comic can convey. I’m looking at “Give Me Strength." There's a girl holding lipstick with that phrase over top. It instantly resonated with me, there was no need for an explanation.

BIG SIS: My hope is that people are going to get it like you did. If I have to explain it too much then maybe I haven’t done a very good job. This is a little off topic but one of the first graphic authors that I got really into was was Alison Bechdel. She’s written a memoir about each of her parents and incorporated all this psychoanalytical research into the story. It’s incredibly profound and layered. I think there’s something kind of special about being able to do that with so much less text, because a novel of the same size would have 10 times the word count. It’s a fun challenge, especially because most of my comics so far have been single panel. You don’t get very much time to explain yourself and, personally, I like that. It’s kind of helpful for me to have that limitation.

This Sex Positive Comic Artist Is The Older Sibling You Wish You Had Courtesy of BIG SIS

Why is the comics style effective for conveying ideas around sex positivity and feminism?

I mean, if we want to talk about bodies it’s kind of nice to see them and comics lets you do all kinds of things. I find comics to be an engaging and digestible medium so I think it’s a good place to put stuff that’s hard to digest because you’ve taken away the barriers of reading a text. Difficult topics or personal topics are well-suited for that because it’s not an overload. When I think about all the theoretical texts that I had to read in school I found the ideas themselves were made difficult by having to access them through long, wordy text.

How personal is your work?


It’s personal but not necessarily autobiographical. Anything that I’m saying is something that I feel very deeply about, apart from some pretty frivolous comics that are up there, too. It’s stuff that affects me, that I’ve experienced or witnessed. They’re comics about gals like me, in their 20s, growing up in the city.

It’s kind of crazy that somebody might think that we want to be separated from our sisters. It’s sad.

The first piece that I saw by you was the one that has a bunch of faceless women all sharing a speech bubble that says “I’m not like other girls” and that’s something I’ve thought about a lot.

Somebody left a comment that said it better than I could, which was, “You know things are bad when we’re trying to deny our own identity.” I’m paraphrasing but it’s like we’re saying ‘I don’t want to be like other people who are like me,' that identifying with other women is lame, that women’s interests or opinions are lame. A lot of women seem to have heard this phrase in their lives. It’s such a shitty thing. We don’t want to be associated with our gender — I want to be clear that I know gender is much more nuanced but for the sake of this discussion I’m talking about a more cisfemale attitude. I’m using the binary for the sake of explanation — it’s women competing with each other and and somehow wanting to be considered worthy, or one of the boys. Like, I’m with it, I know what you guys are into, I’m not a frilly, pink girly girl—

I can throw back a tall can!

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Yeah! And, like, you can do all those things and still love your friends and think women are amazing. Like, drink as much beer as you want, wear sneakers, wear heels, wear whatever. You can do those things without throwing everybody else under the bus. It comes down to this competitiveness, and thinking that’s what we have to do to get love or attention.

Once a dude told me I was more interesting than other girls because I listened to a certain producer and I was like, that’s not a compliment.

It’s kind of crazy that somebody might think that we want to be separated from our sisters. It’s sad.

A photo posted by BIG SIS (@bigsis666) on

Sex positivity and feminism are becoming buzzwords, because of the way these ideas are covered by some media, but what do they mean to you?

I talk about sex a lot or enough, and I would say most of where I’m coming from in those comics is addressing shame. There’s a bit of troublesome hetero relationship shit in there too but shame around sex is such a cumbersome hurdle. It can really get in the way of having a fulfilling sex life and, I think, ultimately what sex positivity is about is minimizing that shame and also how much of that shame you contribute to yourself.

That gets me thinking about your piece that has a heterosexual couple having sex from behind with the woman saying she’s “still a whole person.”

That’s exactly it. It can be difficult if you don’t feel like you’re supposed to admit that you enjoy sex, or certain kinds of sex, or sex with certain people, and it ends and you feel terrible.
You can feel that the world thinks less of you because of something that you did even if ultimately there’s no harm done, just because it’s taboo.

This Sex Positive Comic Artist Is The Older Sibling You Wish You Had Courtesy of BIG SIS

Do you identify as a feminist?

For sure, yes. I think that feminism isn’t perfect but it’s important.

The Guardian just launched a new series called the Vagina Dispatches, that’s all about speaking to women about the vulva and how much we don’t know about our own sex organs. It reminded me of your comic where the girl’s standing over the mirror and she’s like, “What The Fuck Is That?

It’s a problem. Humans in general don’t know enough about their bodies, not just their vaginas or their genitals. I think we can be a bit clueless. That’s an important one to know about though. A lot can go wrong and a lot can go right too. I think that’s also part of enjoying your body: you need to know a little bit about it. It’s kind of a scary thing to do, to be like, ‘Okay, let’s check her out. Let’s get right in there.’

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This Sex Positive Comic Artist Is The Older Sibling You Wish You Had