Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Student editor stands by racy cover

The cover came with a trigger warning but many are annoyed the editor conflated sex work with sexual assault. Image / Massive
The cover came with a trigger warning but many are annoyed the editor conflated sex work with sexual assault. Image / Massive

The editor of Massey's student magazine says he will push to keep a sexualised cover on the front of the current issue, despite criticism it depicts sexual violence.

Massive editor Carwyn Walsh said he stood by the decision to run the cover on Massey's Wellington campus, which accompanies a story about students doing sex work.

The image, which has been pulled online and is covered on campus stalls with a trigger warning, shows a cartoon woman bent over reading a course book with a grimace on her face, while two disembodied hands pull her hair and grab her behind.

Mr Walsh said although he recognised the image could cause "strong reactions" from some students he thought it was appropriate to run with Massive issue two's feature story.

"That cover, if you read the story, goes with the story. When you read the story it's about students involved in the sex industry telling their own stories, so it is relevant to that," he said.

"We met this morning with our media advisory board and we made the decision unanimously that the image for the main article in question needed a strong image on the front because it is a very serious issue and we believe strongly we have made the right decision on this.

"We have gone to great lengths to let the student body know there is a cover that might trigger a response."

Students who were triggered by the image could read the article online, he said.

Massive issues typically have three different cover options and Mr Walsh said the cover in question would only run on Wellington's Massey campus.

A meeting with Massey's joint student union association was due to take place this afternoon and Mr Walsh said he was waiting to hear their feedback but for now he was still pushing ahead to put the issue out with its original cover.

"We've been very clear that we respect that students might react strongly to this, we have put warnings on the stalls.

"We believe this is a very strong story, we believe this a story that needs to be told and we stand by our decision to run the story with this cover."

However on Massive's Facebook page, several people questioned the appropriateness of the image.

"Are you raising awareness of the topic or are you trying to attract drama by perpetuating a harmful stereotype about sex work," asked one woman.

"I'm sick and tired of media that portrays sex work as a dichotomy between female "victim" and male "violator"."

Another person commented saying they found the image disturbing.

"Not just the barely dressed woman in a position that is degrading, but added to that the violence with the iron fist grabbing the hair - and the sad pleading eyes- I find it a most disturbing image."

The backlash follows an incident last week when Victoria University's student magazine Salient was forced to publish an apology after printing a satirical interview with its chancellor, Sir Neville Jordan.

The piece included fictitious lines from Sir Neville "saying" his best and worst part of his job was "shaking lots of sweaty hands at graduation ceremonies".

Sir Neville was unhappy about the piece, making it known at a recent Victoria University council meeting, saying it wasn't made clear to him it was a "spoof" and it was "disgusting" and a "travesty".

Massive was also part of that controversy, publishing a follow-up piece in solidarity with Salient claiming Sir Neville had died following the satirical piece's publication.

Massey Wellington Student's Association has made a public statement saying they do not support the cover.

In a statement posted on MAWSA's Facebook page, the association said they felt the image was inappropriate.

"As an association we do not condone or support the cover artwork that has been published on the Wellington campus magazine and vehemently believe it is inappropriate for publication," the statement reads.

"We have student welfare and safety as our priority and believe that this image could be incredibly offensive and triggering for many students and as it is on the cover, we are concerned at the fact that students cannot protect themselves or be warned about the graphic nature of the image."

The association said while it may be legal to publish the image, MAWSA believed it was unethical, adding the association did not have any control over what Massive did or did not publish, as they are a separate entity.

- NZ Herald

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