Clothing and underwear brand Andrew Christian has received criticism after it emailed pictures of a POC model wearing a “slave” harness.
Harnesses and BDSM culture are nothing new to gay men or gay fashion. As such, seeing gay brand Andrew Christian selling a few harnesses is unsurprising. But according to the Advocate, some regular customers sounded their alarms when they realized one item is called the “Slave Net C-Ring Harness.” They were especially upset when they saw the retailer market the harness through an emailed picture of a model of color.
“When you climb into our brand new Slave C-Ring Harness, you’re stepping into your role as the submissive slave that you are,” the product’s description reads. “Let him know that you’re here to please in this flattering cut and hot strappy design. Because when you’re wearing this, who could resist punishing a naughty slave?”
After receiving customer complaints, and seeing reports pop up, Andrew Christian announced they will “immediately” replace the images.
As Jeff White, the cofounder of Andrew Christian, wrote in a statement to The Advocate:
“As you accurately noted in your article our ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’ harnesses and underwear only reference the ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’ terminology of the BDSM culture and has nothing to do with anything else. We sincerely apologize if anyone finds the image of the model offensive and we will replace it immediately.”
And to Andrew Christian’s credit, the product’s webpage has already been taken down.
Of course, pointing out the problematic nature of a model of color in the harness is not to condemn BDSM or bondage culture. BDSM culture is dynamic, inclusive, and intricate with many subcultures, spaces, and more. Both inside and outside of a sexual context, BDSM has created a safe space for many LGBTQ people to thrive and express themselves.
But the topic of master/slave play when it comes to people of color, and specifically Black people, is complex. That’s why the Tony-nominated show Slave Play, which deals with three interracial couples who decide to experiment with BDSM and race-play before experiencing serious repercussions, is so important.
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Black people in America still deal with the lasting effects of slavery and racism is still prevalent in America. But does that mean Black men can’t engage in BDSM culture or wear harnesses? No. But, unfortunately, Black men do have experience hurdles and important conversations when engaging in either.
As for Andrew Christian, the company stumbled onto this complex and delicate topic by marketing a POC model in the slave-themed harness. While we appreciate the attempt at inclusion and representation with a Black model using a BDSM-themed product, representation also has to be thoughtful. Or else, it fails the actual group being represented. Thankfully, the company course-corrected quickly. But it has to make you wonder, why did nobody at Andrew Christian see the potential problem beforehand?
Source: The Advocate,
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.