Does This Photo Promote Domestic Violence?

Advocacy groups are protesting a new cover of Vogue Hommes International, which depicts model Stephanie Seymour appearing to be choked by a man.

Vogue Hommes International always seeks to provoke, but a recent cover may have gone too far.

Domestic violence and women’s advocacy groups are up in arms over the magazine’s latest cover, which features model Marlon Texeira seemingly choking Stephanie Seymour with one hand and cupping her left breast with another.

Though Seymour doesn’t appear to be in pain, Sanctuary for Families, Safe Horizon, Equality Now, and the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women say the image connotes domestic violence with sex and glamour. The groups have reportedly written a letter to Condé Nast’s chairman and editorial director, blasting them for promoting choking as “a sign of passion rather than violence” and asking that the magazine be pulled from newsstands. They’ve already received some 200 signatures on their online petition on Change.org backing up their request. “Choking is not a fashion statement,” the letter reads, “and certainly not something that should be used to sell magazines.”

The photo was shot by fashion’s notoriously pervy photographer, Terry Richardson, who was accused of sexually harassing some of his models in 2010.That’s not to say domestic violence factored into Richardson’s vision for the Vogue cover, but that hasn't stopped the media from debating its provocative nature. The Huffington Post said the photo "seems to express feelings of lust and desire rather than violent anger... But the image of Stephanie's helpless face resting in Teixeira's grip is too arresting—and too rife with alternative explanations—to simply ignore."

Similarly suggestive fashion shoots have come under fire in the past. Last fall, Tyler Shields photographed Glee’s Heather Morris with a black eye and her hands tied in plastic cord. In response to public outrage, Shields later auctioned off a photo close-up of Morris’s bruised eye and donated the proceeds to a domestic violence charity.

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenom has made BDSM mainstream, but the fantasy is more easily misconstrued on the cover of an international fashion magazine. Surely this won’t be the only Fifty Shades-esque photo to appear in a fashion magazine or ad—but it still raises the question of where and when the industry should draw the line.