Rape Culture and Stock Photos

I hesitated to write this blog post, because it jeopardizes a potential outlet for coverage of disability-related stories. Being a freelancer means that criticizing anybody threatens future income streams.

Tonic, the health page at Vice (and thus a disability venue) has a good article on the failure of colleges to teach consent. It looks at sexual education trainings that take place early in Freshman careers, and notes a lack of clarity or a brevity of content around consent, in particular:

Every administrator contacted for this piece stressed that they have a robust sex ed plan for freshmen. But while learning about how to put a condom on is great, the more pressing issue might be a more extensive conversation about knowing when to back off a sexual situation that isn’t clearly consensual, regardless of how intoxication can blur boundaries. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, there are approximately 327 active sexual assault investigations on campuses across the US.

Good piece.

The piece features a stock photo of an apparently female body clad in jeans and a bra, her back seductively bare and curvy, on the lap of another individual (likely male) clad in a gray shirt and green rugged trousers, his hands on her upper thighs. It’s an erotic picture, chopping bodies into parts without heads, emphasizing the skin of the female on top. I’m deliberately not inserting it into this post, because I don’t want this post on consent to include an erotic image.

And Tonic should have made the same decision.

Associating stories about rape and consent with sexy images perpetuates rape culture. It’s an editorial mistake, and I can’t speculate about why Tonic chose to do this. But as the piece was shared throughout social media, this sexy image kept popping up. It’s the wrong message.

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