Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Violence Against Women is Sexy

Sex sells and violence is sexy, especially violence against women. At least, you'd be forgiven for thinking so after viewing some recent ads.

The latest uproar is over this ad from Tasmanian livestock company ShearEwe, featuring Norwegian skiier Kari Traa. She's sitting on the floor of a barn, legs parted, looking like she's enjoying being restrained and treated like an animal.


ShearEwe Ad with Kari Traa


After a complaint to the Advertising Standards Body, ShearEwe issued a statement in defense of the ad, saying it was art.

Ah, but of course. Art. That changes everything.

Provacative ads -- oops, I mean works of art -- that demean women aren't anything new. They've been around since the beginning of advertising. Do you remember this ad, by Canadian hair salon Fluid, which caused a stir last year?




It depicts a woman, sporting a black eye, posed next to (actually, make that beneath) her partner. The message seems to be, even if you're getting the shit beat out of you, it's nice to have fun hair!

Not surprisingly, the ad was met with considerable outcry and the company issued a statement in defense of the ad. I bet you can't guess what they said. What's that? You guessed art? Ah, you're quicker than I thought.

"The ads were our interpretation of a particular art form," read a press release issued by the salon.

Fluid Salon actually released a whole series of artsy ads. Here are just a few:





.





Again, none of this is uncommon. A quick search on the internet produced the images below.


Sisley has a long history of offensive ads.


Valentino


Duncan Quinn. Leaves me speechless.


New Zealand company Superette 'Be caught dead in it' ad campaign


Dolce & Gabbana pulled this ad after complaints that it glorified gang rape



Dolce & Gabbana again. Apparently gang rape is not just for women


From a window display at Barneys, New York


Jimmy Choo thinks you should wear nice shoes when being transported in a trunk to a remote gravesite.



Do we need to take a short break so we can all go dry retch in the corner?

Provocative ads like these do more than just raise ire. They raise awareness of the company, which suddenly receives free press via all the indignant tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts (like this one) and mainstream media articles responding to the controversy.

What's the old adage? There's no such thing as bad publicity?

Company releases a provocative ad. Controversy ensues. Company gets all kinds of free press. Company releases a (sort of) apologetic statement.

In addition to the art defense, what else keeps coming up in these statements?


You're overreacting and making such a big deal out of nothing

"I am not really clear about how she is being depicted as an animal while seated comfortably and clearly not odjecting, [sic] to treatment, guess it depends on your point of view." ShearEwe response

"If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize, that was never our intent as there are people that worked on this campaign who are survivors of abuse. To the rest of you who this has so deeply affected, we truly hope you do something to help stop domestic violence. Truly honor the survivors that you are standing up for. Unfortunately boycotting a hair salon will not accomplish this." - Fluid Salon press release


It's all in fun

"It does not represent rape or violence, but if one had to give an interpretation of the picture, it could recall an erotic dream, a sexual game." - Stefano Gabbana, in response to the 'gang rape' ad


She's enjoying it

"Again depending on your point of view, who is being taken advantage of? You could argue that Miss Traa is taking advantage of the shearer, though I see it as a mutually beneficial arrangement." ShearEwe


It's for her own good

"...we will be actively setting up partnerships to generate donations with appropriate organizations in this community.  To kick things off any person that comes into Fluid from now on and mentions this ad we will donate proceeds from all services booked to the Edmonton Women’s Shelter." Fluid Salon press release


Ooh, look over there! Someting shiny!

"Edmonton is presently the murder capital of Canada. Media’s energy and time may be better spent boycotting dangerous areas, gangs, guns, otherstreet weapons, or a sick justice system, which unfortunately is still sadly lacking when it comes to punishing abusers or any kind." Fluid Salon (again)



Hmmm...I'm feeling as if I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I speak up, the company gets more exposure and issues a condescending statement trivializing my concerns. But if I don't, then I'm condoning what they do. Either way, they win.

Hang on, why does this all feel so familiar?

Blaming
Minimizing
Belittling
Denying
Diversion

Wait. A. Minute.

These are the same characteristics found in psychological abuse!*

What's that you're saying, Mr Ad Exec? I'm being dramatic? Over-sensitive?

Maybe you're right. Maybe my friends and I should stop getting our panties in a bunch over something that is obviously meant in fun, and let you get back about the business of creating your uber-edgy art.

Silly, silly us.

As you were.


*For information on domestic violence and the characteristics of psychological abuse, see this.



62 comments:

  1. I seriously am sitting here just shaking my head. Honestly were there no women working on these campagins? Or if there were, why on earth did they fail to see just how awful the ads were/are. Words seriously fail me. They should be ashamed, ashamed. How on earth are we supposed to explain these things to our children if they stumbled upon them. They are not Art, they are dreadful excuses for shock advertising and creatives with no imagination. Awful.
    xx

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    1. I don't know if there are women working on them, but there are certainly women posing in them. And Fluid Salon is owned by a woman.

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    2. P.S. Oh, and I love the statement from Fluid that the team who created the ad included survivors of abuse. Because, you know, that totally makes it okay.

      Guess what? Most men who beat women are themselves survivors of abuse. Doesn't make it okay.

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    3. Jesse Dulin-SotoJuly 19, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      It is not just the responsibility of women to prevent the acceptance & promotion of violence against women. Society at large, both men & women, need to work toward the collective conscience. Until we can get everyone to understand this principle we are in an uphill battle.

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    4. Also, some men who are abusers were abused themselves yes. But the cycle of abuse as a learned behavior is that most abusers grew up with a male role model who abused his counter female. This leads the the strong societal tendencies to believe abuse is ok, how it's supposed to be. Sighting the women who choose to make a living by there role in these ads as somehow more responsible for them then the men ( both behind the scenes & on film) is somewhat parallel to victim blaming. Victim blaming is probably the most undermining practice out there in the struggle to end domestic violence. Why doesn't she leave him = why does she participate in the ad (you can see where financial & emotional dependence are the primary reason in both situations). And this mentality takes all the responsibility away from the perpetuators I.e. the abusers (profeter) and dismisses it all as a simple cultural norm. We all need to be vigilant about our own role in the cycle of abuse. How we project, how we blame, who we hold accountable. Noting the women as responsible fosters subtle cultural tones that maintain the acceptance of violence against women. Get clear on who the abusers are & how an abuser is created & keep the focus on breaking that cycle to move us forward.

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    5. Hi Jesse, thanks for your comments. I don't think anyone is holding women more responsible for their role in promoting/creating these ads. Far from it. I think it's perhaps just more shocking to see women involved. I fully understand the dynamics of abuse. However, as someone who has experienced both childhood sexual abuse and DV, I also know that I carry the responsibility for all my actions, regardless of my past experiences or conditioning. We all do. Men and women. Abuse offers an explanation for why some people make poor choices, but it is not an excuse.

      I agree that blaming the victim feeds into those subtle cultural undertones that foster an acceptance of violence against women. However, I don't think it's appropriate to only hold men accountable. This is something that has become accepted and promoted by men and women in our society. I think women, as well as men, need to look at their role in maintaining the status quo.

      The dynamic of abuse is a dance. It takes two to play their respective roles in that dance. I played my role for many, many years. I'm not proud of it, but I acknowledge it. In retrospect, I can see how I allowed this to go on for many years. A lot of women would not have allowed that. That doesn't mean I'm bad or somehow to blame. It's simply an acknowledement of the truth. Psychology at work.

      I think what is important is that we all raise awareness, over and over and over, so that we can create social change.

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    6. I can't help but wonder if women on these campaigns who had objections were faced with the same attitudes presented to the media; or worse. I can't help but think that having people mindful of the effect these had can have on women and heaven forbid, young girls, on the projects would do any good.

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  2. It seems we have become a society where anything is ok, if you can justify behind the label of 'art' ...
    Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. ... What about the women in these ads? Why aren't they saying, no, that's not ok. ...
    The constant polarisation that occurs in mainstream media never ceases to amaze me... Campaigns to say no against domestics violence, campaigns to stop bullying.... Advertising that condones both.... What the fuck is wrong with us???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why are the women in the ads not saying no? Perhaps because they work for an industry that requires them to starve themselves down to an unhealthy weight to meet some fictional ideal of the female body. Perhaps they want the money. Perhaps they've convinced themselves that it really is art. Perhaps they're not thinking at all.

      The unfortunate truth is that as long as there is a demand for it, there will always be models willing to pose as dead women, or women willing to be prostitutes, or women who stay in abusive relationships because they don't feel they deserve anything better.

      One of the reasons I feel we need to speak up about this, over and over, and say very loudly that it's not okay, is to change the way society views women and violence. Social movements work. Over time, they work.

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  3. I don't know what to say.... What. The. Fuck. Glad I don't watch TV
    My son doesn't need to see this crap

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    1. I don't watch TV either. I'm glad my kids are missing out on all the ads.

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  4. Speechless. Utterly galled and speechless. I cannot even begin to count the ways each of these dreadful "ad's" is WRONG. It's beyond poor taste. It's beyond depravity. It's certainly beyond "just our interpretation of art". And they will continue with their "art forms" no doubt unabated, unmoved by any challenge or outcry from the free-thinking members of society who see it for what it truly is.

    Such poor form I am left wondering if anyone working on (and therefore, condoning) this sort of advertising is actually human at all. Seriously.

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    1. I think the only point at which they will stop is when a critical mass emerges that does not condone or reward such advertising. As I said above, I think lots of people/organizations speaking out over and over creates momentum, and eventually social movements that are strong enough to change social values over time (much like the civil rights movement in the 60's).

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  5. I had no idea such ads existed. I obviously lead a sheltered life. Utterly digusted and disheartened. Will the world ever change?

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    1. Yeah, I don't read the kind of magazines these appear in. I am hopeful that over time, the world will change.

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  6. You might like to look at Collectiveshout.org - An Australian organisation that speaks out on issues like this! It is absolutely awful that we are exposed to this kind of crap. Well done for speaking out about it!

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    1. Awesome, thanks for sharing. I signed up with them. For anyone else interested, here is their mission statement and a link:

      Collective Shout is a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture.

      http://collectiveshout.org

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    2. Yep, Collective Shout are great - they don't just speak out, they've had a lot of success at ending misogynistic advertising campaigns.

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    3. They also have a FB page to make it easy to sign petitions, etc.

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    4. Thanks Enid, I've also joined the FB group now.

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  7. I hate it when they use that excuse -- "It's art".

    They call it 'art' when they exploit naked and vulnerable children in photographs, too -- and what's the difference between something hanging on a wall in a gallery and something downloaded to some freak's computer? That the person in the image agreed to having the image taken? Oh, yeah, cos that makes ALL the difference to the viewer....

    I don't understand why people are prepared to accept this. Because it's called 'ART', and therefore if you speak up against it, you might be seen as a Neanderthal? Well, bullshit.
    Wrong is wrong, no matter what sort of pretentious arty label you want to stick on it.

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    1. Yes, I've heard pedophiles refer to child pornography as art. Vomit.

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  8. Oh far out...I got that Shearewe pamphlet in my letter box about a month ago...I honestly couldn't believe it...I even blogged about it..maybe not quite as eloquently as you though!
    Some of those other ads are extremely disturbing.

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    1. I'm going to go check out your blog post!

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  9. I was had the start of this conversation on Facebook yesterday when I linked to the article about this. My friend was saying that it gets them extra publicity when everyone cries out about it and how is that a deterrent? My only suggestion was that if we do keep jumping up and down when these awful ads come out the companies are forced to either pull them or redesign them after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their design and possibly millions on getting them in to magazines. The risk of losing that money is maybe the only thing that talks to these people.

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    1. Agree, agree, agree. We should continue to call foul. Money talks. x

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    2. "Money talks" really says it all.

      The fact that few people speak up against it, just goes to show how emotionally blunted our society has become through all the provocative, shocking, and sensationalist media output.

      I'd never seen these ads before. Sometimes it's good to live in tiny ├╝bercorrect Switzerland, I guess.

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    3. Emotionally blunted. I like that. We're so inundated with shocking images that they cease to be shocking. I don't watch TV and the kinds of magazines I read don't have ads like this, do I'm somewhat sheltered too. Thankfully.

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  10. Its such a fine line between making a complaint and giving extra publicity. And its so hard to walk that line.


    I agree with previous commenter Toni - wrong is wrong no matter what!!!!

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    1. I'd rather speak up and give them bad publicity than not say anything. Because it is wrong. If enough people speak up, it will have an effect.

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  11. What gets me even more upset is our kids are seeing this ads and think its normal and nothing wrong with them! That is worse - encouraging our young kids to grow up and see these so called works of art fine. Its even worse when you are in the car and the "sex shop" ads come on! Its something that should be played after 11.00pm not all day long.
    What ever happened to raising our boys into men, who respect our girls who are raised to respect themselves?
    This is not art but I guess sex sells.

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    1. Yes, a lot of these ads are in fashion and beauty magazines read by young girls. Very disturbing.

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  12. I wasn't going to click as I knew it would upset me, but I did.

    I was right. I don't get it. May the women in the lives of these advertising 'creatives' be safe and well - or run away, because if this is all art, then what is reality?

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    Replies
    1. I know, I know, I know. It makes me ill. x

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  13. Crass. All of them. Crass and nasty.

    The worst thing is though, each time they make us outraged or shocked, they will still claim a victory because the worst thing you can do to an advert is ignore it. The "imagineers" who come up with these ideas are morally bankrupt in my opinion.

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    1. The worst thing you can do for a vulgar ad (financially) is to ignore it. But I still think the worst thing you can do for a vulgar ad (from a perspective of fostering social change) is to ignore it. Money talks and produces immediate rewards. Activism produces change over a long stretch of time.

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  14. I'm shocked! In South Africa we have very different ad issues. Those ads would NEVER make it on our TV. NEVER EVER!!! We're not necessarily "sensored" but I'd say we're a bit more progressive in terms of women's rights and more conservative about sex on ads. Our TV is more family driven including our ads. The ads that get cut here are usually those that mock religion or insensitivity to a particular group. For instance a fast food place showed a seeing eye dog lead his owner straight into a pole because he was distracted by the smell ... that ad was cancelled. Also Red Bull had an ad where a guy walked on water after drinking it - naturally that got pulled. We don't live in a sheltered environment where we don't get exposed to what's really happening out there, but programming is broadcast based on audience groups and timed to when children either are or are not awake. We also have very good parental control facilities on our decoders so kids can't see what they shouldn't. We do have high crime and the worst rape statistics (probably in the world) but that's due to poverty and lack of education. Those people don't have access to TV anyway. I would be outraged if ads like this were broadcast in our country - and I would certainly put up a fuss about it. Its disgusting and certainly NOT art.

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    1. Hi Corenne, thanks for your comment. I believe all the ads above are print ads, not TV. Not sure that it matters, other than we have somewhat more control over which magazines our children see (I say somewhat because many of these are in fashion or beauty magazines which many pre-teens and teens read).

      That's interesting what you say about censorship in SA. I would say there is less sensitivity here with religion, but we are equally sensitive about disabilities. As far as sexuality, we are an odd mix of conservatism and extreme liberality (in movies, video games, ads, etc).

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  15. OMG! I have never seen these ads, but OMG do they scream 'WRONG'all over... and certainly no art in them at all. I'm actually shocked that big well known companies would use art as an excuse! Looks like we're treading backwards... I say unfashionlike! x

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    1. Yes, I think it's an interesting exercise to pull all these ads out of the pages of fashion magazines and line them up in one place. When you do that, you can't ignore the message. And it is terribly shocking and wrong.

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  16. I'm always completely staggered when I see an advert like these. Especially considering that, by and large, their target audience is women. Surely this backfires?

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    1. Honestly, I think a lot of (especially young) women just don't see it. We, as a society, have become numb to such images. They might look at an ad and think, 'nice shoes,' and nothing more. There was a time in my youth when I might have looked at these the same way. We're fed a steady diet of violence in movies, video games, media stories, etc. It's lost a lot of it's power to shock. I find that extremely sad.

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  17. Thanks for speaking out!
    Unfashionlike! Thanks Hannah )

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    1. Unfashionlike. Unrespectfullike. Unhumane... x

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  18. Gobsmacked that these ads are out there, not to mention the responses from the companies. Even more outraged that someone somewhere earned a hell of a lot of money setting these up and that the companies fell for it when it was pitched to them.

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    1. Sex sells. Violence sells. People want money. I think it's really that simple, unfortunately.

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  19. These are all pretty revolting- with the exception of the mattress one- where is the connection to leaving an abusive husband and being homeless? To me looks like she just woke up after a night on the turps.

    HOWever, having worked many years in advertising, I can assure you they are simply not the hotbed of the broadminded, equalist, moralistic people you'd like them to be. As an employee- in order to survive you generally either need to decide to turn the other cheek, protest and leave, or hold your passive aggressive distaste firmly in (not that I've seen anything as extreme as these). There are things I miss about the industry, but in this case it is definitely 'good riddance to bad rubbish'.

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    1. Oh I don't see any signs of abuse in the one 'homeless' ad. That was just me being sarcastic, since all their other ads seemed to feature violence againt women.

      I would agree with you that the moral outrage won't change advertising. Until, that is, the outrage reaches a critical mass that does affect their bottom line.

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  20. I am also shocked by these ads, though on second thought, not as shocked as I should be because images of violence -- especially against women -- are so pervasive. And what about the magazines that run these ads? Many of which are run by women!?! Apparently as long as it sells, who cares that you're stomping your stilettos all over women as a whole in order to get to the top. Similarly, do you think for an instant that men would still be getting the equivalent of a mammogram these days when there is another, less uncomfortable option that WORKS BETTER? Hell no. So sick of this male-dominated society. And yes, women all too often collude in this continued subjugation of women, and many don't even realize they're doing it.

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    1. Yes, I agree about the 'not as shocked as I should be' part of your statement. Now that I'm older and more mature, now that I'm a mother and now that I understand the dynamics of abuse, I look at these ads and see them for what they are. But twenty years ago that would not have been the case. They might not have shocked me. And these ads are not marketed to women like me, in their 40's. They're marketed to teens and twenties. Ugh.

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  21. I am horrified by these ads. I didn't realize how bad they had become. These are just shocking. People should boycott these companies! What is wrong with society to think that this is okay?

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    1. I know. I feel a bit sheltered as I'm not much into the fashion scene and therefor miss all this unless it hits the news. Thankfully.

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  22. Loved this post! Thank you for speaking up and speaking about the difficulties of speaking up!. I is totally disgusting!

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  23. I am seriously just sickened at those ads! I am shocked at my naivity when it comes to things like this. i dont know if I turn a blind eye or if my eyes were just closed to all of this. and I am disgusted by the gall of advertisers to be so damn stupid to print things like this.xx

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    1. I think we're just reading the wrong (ie, right) magazines? x

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  24. Those ads are just horrid... I'd never thought about how common of a theme it is in advertising and its terrible how common it is!!

    http://pearlmeringue.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Lisa, when you put all the ads together, it's pretty awful. We are used to just seeing them occassionaly, one at a time.

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  25. I'm completely offended by all those images. I'm dry retching in the corner with you. There is no justification. End of story. I feel a little boycott of products coming on.

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    1. Yes, down with Valentino and up with Hot Milk!

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  26. I'm writing this after a lot of thinking and I really hope you'll not get me wrong. I think saying "looking like she's enjoying being restrained and treated like an animal" makes people think that they CAN treat an animal like that. I just wish we left animals alone - no one deserves to be treated badly, human or animal is what I think..

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