Does this Image of Sexual Assault make my Business Blog look Fat?

Sexual Assault: it’s everywhere. In people’s home’s, in hotel elevators, on buses, in the streets, on campuses, in the media, in entertainment, in the military — everywhere.

We read daily about famous celebrities being accused of sexual assault, like Jian Ghomeshi in Canada, and Bill Cosby in the US. Even in the Canadian government, Ministers of Parliament are being accused of harassing women staffers, and MPs are admitting to being assaulted by other MPs.

So, what does sexual assault have to do with blogging?

Nothing, which is why I was surprised to see this post on American Thanksgiving Day, in Linkedin’s Pulse section. happy thanksgiving

The author, Kyle Reyes of The Silent Partner Marketing, wrote about how he doesn’t want vendors to wish him “Happy Thanksgiving” because the message is auto-generated and dammit, he was forced to delete 147 of these annoyingly cheery email messages!

To illustrate his Scrooge-like point, he used an image of a young girl with fearful wide eyes and tape covering her mouth.

I wondered, what does Thanksgiving have to do with the teenager you’re keeping prisoner in your basement?

This image was so wrong on so many levels, but here are the top downsides.

Great Timing

Did the author not know that awareness of sexual assault is at an all-time high? When I showed the post to a client that day, he struggled at first to understand it and then asked if it had something to do with Jian Ghomeshi. Great. The most vilified CBC radio host ever was being conjured by this blog post!

What Context?

If the author’s point is “Don’t wish me Happy Thanksgiving,” an appropriate image would depict self-censorship. Instead, he illustrates his point by depicting the woman as a victim of his own censorship. Like, “I’m going to make you shut up about Happy Thanksgiving, bitch.” 

Influence is Bliss

The worst part is that Reyes is the head of a marketing agency. So here’s a guy in a position of influence, telling his followers that a post about Thanksgiving can be appropriately illustrated with a picture of a gagged girl.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Pardon me for noticing

I immediately commented on the post page, telling Reyes how offensive this image is, and I tweeted the link under #yesallwomen.

Kyle was not only un-contrite, he was defensive and insulting. He quickly responded with, “I’d suggest perhaps spending a little less time making a big issue out of something that isn’t there. Now I’m going to go back to eating my turkey and laughing with family and friends over how silly people can be.”

He called me silly, and all of his sheeple followers supported him.

One woman said, “Do you think you may be reading far too much into the image, perhaps, just a little? Your comment is far more offensive than any photo used to illustrate the article.”

So, my comment is more offensive than the picture of a captive girl on a business blog.

Then Reyes said, “I’m offended that Mari Kane would accuse me of condoning violence against women…I used the picture, Mari Kane, because it fit the piece — not because it had anything to do with condoning violence against women.”

Perhaps how the picture fits the piece says more about Reyes’s judgement than intent. But, still, if the post is about wanting his vendors to shut up, why didn’t he use an image more closely resembling his vendors, like this one:


A gagged white man with clothes on actually veers into the realm of the absurd and might have added some levity.

Or, why not an image of self censorship, like this one?

Sexy, no?

So, why did Reyes use an image of a victimized girl on a business blog?

Obviously, for the shock value. He wanted his post to be noticed so he made it sexy, because sex sells, no matter the ominous edge.

I don’t feel your pain

The problem with depicting violence against women in blogs – or any media – is the desensitizing effect it has on readers.

Studies have shown that exposure to images of violence leads to the acceptance of such images as normal, instead of repugnant.

The less people are repulsed by an image of a gagged girl — especially in a business blog — the more the victimization of women becomes engrained in society. And here we are with a generation of men thinking that rape is an OK thing.

In fact, all you have to do is peruse Twitter threads #yesallwomen, #gamergate and #antifeminist to gauge the attitudes toward women among the online crowd. I’ve already been called a “fucking retarded” and expect to be called worse after this post goes live. But I won’t shut up, so deal with it, trolls.

Clearly, Reyes’s own followers are desensitized to images of sexual abuse or one of them would have spoken up and supported me.

However, when I posted the post’s image and headline on Facebook, here are some responses I got:

“Offensive. I’d never do business with him.”

“Offensive. The girl looks like she’s being Ghomeshied.”

“The taped woman also appears to be naked (bare shoulder) and underage and scared (wide eyes), so it’s suggestive and again not fitting with topic. This kind of image use desensitizes people to the objectification if women, and normalizes abusive, sexist ideas and acts.”


Talk about scary, influencers of digital marketers are off-handedly using images of sexual abuse in their blog, and they think I’m offensive for calling them out.

But that’s not all

I’m not sure the use of gagged images of women is a bona fide trend in the area of content marketing, but I wonder if Reyes was inspired by this Slideshare, which I happened to see a few months ago:

50 blogs

It took me forever to figure out the cultural reference here.

50 Shades of Gray. 50 Blogs on Blogging. Ha-ha! Very funny.

You gotta wonder if Johnson framed his slideshow just so he could make that joke and illustrate it with a frightened woman with tape over her mouth.

Here too, Johnson’s commenters are nonplussed, showing how even the most savvy digital marketers are inured to images of victimized women.

Don’t let sexual assault images become a thing

This is the most difficult post I’ve ever written and I’ve probably smoked half a pack of cigarettes doing it. But I believe that if there were ever a place that exploitive images like these DON’T belong, it’s in the online marketing sector.

My hope for 2015 is that rapey images on business blogs does NOT become a trend, and that the whole online community develop more sensitivity to women in general.

What do you think? Are images of victimized women inappropriate for marketing blogs?

Are you disturbed to see these kinds of pictures on a site where you expect to learn how to be a better marketer? Or, do you think I’m being over-sensitive?

Please tell me what you think in Comments below.

Your silence will demonstrate to me that the digital marketing world condones the use images of sexual assault, so please say something.


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