The Mix of Violence and Passion on the Cover of Vogue Hommes International
The Terry Richardson cover for Vogue Hommes International has caused a stir. It has also opened a dialogue concerning what is acceptable in terms of the sexualized and violent images of women and children we see represented in media.
Terry Richardson’s photographs remind carry a bit of the days of Studio 54, Halston and beautiful people who were two steps over the line of what was deemed “acceptable” in society.
This is not always a bad thing. He has become a part of the social scene: participating in, as much chronicling the subjects of the scenes he covers. A few of his works are a bit self-indulgent , both on the part of the photographer and his subjects, but this is somewhat subjective and may rest on personal taste and opinion.
However, his photographs, even those of his ill mother, have an edge and hold some sense of shock From Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan to Kate Middleton’s jiggly (giggly) video that Mr. Richardson posted, one gets a sense that he is exposing people and the “nakedness” and sometimes harshness of his photographs are often hard to ignore.
But now Mr. Richardson has produced the cover for Vogue Homes International and groups which work to protect women from rape and abuse have taken a stand. The cover shows model Marlon Teixeira standing behind Stephanie Seymour with his hand wrapped around her neck. To many, the model is choking Ms. Seymour in a grand mix of passion and violence; an image which depicts an unacceptable act on the part of any individual or group who works to protect women from violence.
In May, I wrote an article titled The Evolution Towards Headless Porn. A lot of readers had things to say, especially commentators on our Open Salon blog. The point of the article is that porn and violence has entered mainstream. Images and ideas that at one time we would have found shocking as a society, barely register for us anymore.
What I had asked in the article was that we question the images we are seeing of women and young boys and girls being sexualized in media. I asked that those companies which produce these kinds of images question the effect of the images of violence and sexualization in media.
At the end of the day, Vogue (be it American Vogue or Vogue International) is a business which makes its money from women. And as such, one would hope that the company would understand that it has an obligation to protect women from images which may demean or potentially threaten their well-being.
It’s not okay to sexualize violence, put the image on the cover of an International magazine and then stand back and call it art. It would be even more shocking to me if the editors of Vogue Hommes International didn’t at least question themselves prior to publishing the photograph.
In October 2008, The Journal of Emergency Medicine, published a study which found strangulation was a risk factor in homicide for women who had been abused at the hands of an ‘intimate partner’.
Non-fatal strangulation (meaning a woman was choked but not killed) was evident in 10% of women participating in the study; in 45% of attempted homicides against women; and, in 43% of homicides (the man was successful in killing his partner).
The authors of the study wrote, “These results show non-fatal strangulation as an important risk factor for homicide of women, underscoring the need to screen for non-fatal strangulation when assessing abused women in emergency department settings.”
I have read comments by men and women on various sites about the cover. Some readers have called the cover “passion”.
I disagree and this why: when we allow images of violence against women and children or sexualized images of women and children to enter our mainstream, we are creating an environment for women whereby their experiences of violence are questioned. A woman is choked. Someone asks her, “Was it rough sex? Are you sure it was violence?”