hawk eyed feminism: that vogue cover and what the fuss should really be about
Vogue Hommes International is receiving heat for its latest cover showing model Stephanie Seymour being choked from behind by male model, Marlon Teixeira, who also has his hand on her breast and is doing some kind of weird fish kiss thing to her. Now I’m not too familiar with photographer Terry Richardson but the interweb tells me he’s very successful but also a perverse twat. He has famously said of the fashion industry: ‘It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow.’ Brilliant.
Judgment aside (just put it on pause) the photograph set apart from its maker is still shit. Of course you can all probably guess where the inspiration for this image has come from – a certain book with a certain story that has certainly been inducted into the great hall of pop culture reference fame.
Not for Profit agency, Sanctuary for Families is dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children. Recently they created a petition against the magazine cover on Change.org stating that, ‘The cover photo depicts a woman getting choked by a male, which sends a dangerous message to anyone who sees this magazine – that choking is a sign of passion rather than of violence. Choking is a huge predictor of future lethality, as a recent study found that 43% of women who were killed by intimate partners had experienced at least one previous episode of choking before being killed.’
Whilst I understand that the imagery could be distressing to some women and I acknowledge the terrible statistic presented, I am not entirely convinced that the photo conveys the specific violence that the organisation refers to. To me, the image is not conveying violence rather it is portraying an act of sexual abuse-not any better of course but different.
To quote Lip’s editor in chief, Zoya Patel: ‘To me, sexuality is entirely personal, and as long as the sex is what you want and it’s good, there’s nothing that’s up for debate.’ I agree. If a woman is safe and likes being choking, grabbed, bitten, being submissive and so forth during sex then that’s perfectly fine.What I find disturbing about this image is the clear disengaged facial expression of Seymour and the “beast like” movements of Teixeira. The picture does not convey an act of passion that the woman is consenting to and enjoying and thus we have a problem.
In a time where pornography is at its highest level of influence on young people, I simply don’t accept that this kind of “art” should be able to be viewed so openly. Young girls today often feel that they must have anal sex during their first sexual experience or that they should engage in group and aggressive sex. The rise in porn culture is negatively affecting young people and all this magazine cover does is add to the growing list of inappropriate and damaging media. Not to mention it also displays an image of men as barbaric, primitive animals, which I find highly offensive.
If this cover image was presented in an art gallery, where it was less accessible and “chosen” to be viewed, would it be more acceptable? I’m not sure. Bill Henson’s photographs of naked children were removed from a gallery space as they were deemed to promote child porn and have no artistic merit (that’s a debate for another time), yet mainstream media is able to do what they like in the name of high-end art? Hmm… What are your thoughts?