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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 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?

(Image credit)

4 thoughts on “hawk eyed feminism: that vogue cover and what the fuss should really be about

  1. “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)” you really had a interesting argument before you wrote such an uneducated and poorly researched comment to supposedly back up your argument. Just a quick correction for you, While Bill Henson’s photographs were removed, it was not because they were deemed to promote child pornography, it was due to an over zealous protester that fuelled an uneducated public. A full police investigation later proved these allegations to be false and his artwork was returned. Also your flippant comment that his work has no artistic merit is also poorly researched. He is one of the biggest contemporary photographers of our time and held in a multitude of international collections. Prior to this furore, Bill Henson had one of the most successful retrospectives at the AGNSW, over 12,000 people viewed these artworks without complaint. While it is fine to have a personal opinion regarding your general likes and dislikes, making false allegations is another situation entirely. Your article had so much potential that was just wasted with such a poor conclusion. With so many examples of the glorification of domestic violence in current culture that really could have strengthened your argument it seems almost wasteful to end it on pure fiction.

  2. Thanks for your comment SandraV but I think you have may have misunderstood me. I didn’t say that Bill Henson’s photographs promoted child porn and had no artistic merit, I said they were deemed to and this resulted in the removal of several pieces. By writing “(that’s a debate for another time)” I hoped to convey that I did not agree with this view and action but wasn’t going to get into the discussion in this space.

    In the conclusion, I was trying to say that people were up in arms about art in an art gallery by a well accomplished artist, for reasons lacking in value and this resulted in the removal of his photographs. Yet very accesable, inappropriate images that add to the damaging layers of porn culture are able to be part of mainstream media and seem to attract far less concern.

    Sorry if that wasn’t conveyed clearly, I have the flu : )

  3. Emmica,

    What a great article, I hadn’t seen this Vogue cover until I read this article. My concerns echo yours and Terry Richardson has even been accused of acting inappropriately with models who are too afraid to say anything because it could mean the end of their career.

    I think you’re spot on about the potential flow on effect on how young men and women perceive sex and sexual relationships.

    Thank you for a really insightful read.

    I do remember the Bill Henson kerfuffle and understood you perfectly – no confusion there.

    Hope you get better soon!! 🙂


  4. Well, your argument was not wasted on me – I think your Bill Henson analogy clearly pointed out the hypocrisy and double standards evident in the media. The Henson debacle was indeed a sort of hysterical over-reaction, fueled it must be said, by the media. And as you point out in your article, there is way less judgement and public outcry about a magazine cover – so pervasively in the public view – that portrays such a disturbing image than there was about an established, respected artists’ work.It raises many issues, censorship, sensitivity, over zealous political correctness, gender disparity, even the role of art in our society, and as you suggest these are debates that will carry forward to another time.

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