On a dark autumn night in New Orleans, Amanda Henley, aged 29, who years before had lost her older brother to suicide, unexpectedly came across a staged and over-produced photo depicting a pornographically sexualized suicide.
Her brother’s death had affected her profoundly — affected her in a way she’d never been able to articulate. She was very young when it happened, and she loved her brother deeply. She was learning also — gradually but inexorably — that there was something in death-by-suicide that was perhaps beyond explanation, especially when witnessed by a young person, and especially when that young person was thoughtful and loved others with her whole heart.
Thus for days that stretched into weeks, she could not get the unexpected image out of her mind. She found it somehow more than offensive. It struck at something deeper. And though she couldn’t quite name what that something was, she knew it implicitly — just as she also knew that this something was terrible to contemplate: something pitch-black and nihilistic in the act of enshrining such a thing.
One night some weeks later, Amanda sat down and wrote the following:
An Open Letter to Pornographers
When – and only when – as a young person you’ve experienced a loved one’s suicidal brains splattered on the wall, similar to the way in which you splatter sex lives on your social media walls, then – and only then, I repeat – are you legitimately (nothing to do with legalities, understand, because it should all be legal, including consensual dismemberment and cannibalism unto death) allowed to treat suicide vulgarly, lightly, whimsically, insultingly.
What I’m saying is that if as a young person you’ve walked into a room and been the first or among the first to see a loved one’s suicidal brains blown-out onto the wall, then and only then do you have full sanction to publicly and without warning sexualize suicide and blow it up on your social media pages for the world to see.
You can overproduce it. You can unsuccessfully try to look bdsm-hip and edgy and artistic. You can be contrived to your heart’s content, while simultaneously seeking the cool and cutting-edge style you’re after.
You can, in short, play the part that your cock in one hand and your gun in the other hand – the barrel of which gun is stuffed into your mouth, your finger on that hair-trigger – is erotic and playful and creative and valuable and artistically smart and innocuous, because everyone knows all play, no matter how shocking and violent it may seem, is ultimately benign and merely expressive — it of course all being just a part of the forward-thinking scene with which the rest of the world has yet to catch up because the rest of the world has neither the refined and delicate sensibilities nor the so-meta-sophistication of taste nor the appreciation of beauty and brains to grasp pornographically sexualized suicide as the life-affirming, sophisticated art it no doubt is. But only then.
You will, however, try to understand that there are some, myself among them, who are not in the least bit sexually prude and who even enjoy kinks, who have experienced the actual suicide of a loved one, and who therefore find such things rather offensive and, even worse, tacky.
Also, I propose, if you do do this, or if you’re a viewer who responds in any way favorably to this sort of thing, you can never thereafter treat death (human or animal) with the proper gravity and respect and dignity it deserves – never, that is, and actually expect yourself to be taken seriously – because you have thereby relinquished that right. You’ve forsaken it. Agreed?