Stephanie Seymour’s Incest Chic

Would you have guessed that the young men posing here were Stephanie Seymour's sons? (harpersbazaar.com)

Would you have guessed that the young men posing here were her sons? (harpersbazaar.com)

Mary and Jesus were the “it” mother and son for Medieval and Renaissance artists. Mary Cassatt later democratized such portraits, painting less famous mothers interacting lovingly with their children. None of those artists would recognize the latest iteration of mother-son portraiture, though: supermodel Stephanie Seymour and two of her sons posing for the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

This was no cookie cutter family photo shoot. In one picture, the 45-year-old Seymour is clothed in a teddy and thigh-high boots, which her sons help tie. She also poses in two barely-there dresses, as well as a bra and fishnet stockings with strategically deployed decorations. If she’s looking to cement her MILF status, dressing like a woman 20 years her junior may help. However, the real question is, why did she want to appear in such sexually charged images with her sons?

The Brant brothers – 20 year-old Peter and 17-year-old Harry – are atypical young men, as writer Derek Blasberg gushes amidst the cotton candy verbiage accompanying these unsettling pictures. They have grown up around art and fashion, and perhaps they viewed participation as an act of artistic expression or youthful rebellion.

But are the Brant brothers really copacetic about being photographed with their mother dressed as a pin-up, especially if these pictures turn up in their friends’ bedrooms? Further, have they considered that their poses bring incest immediately to mind? Seymour and her sons should be sensitive to such allusions, especially following a 2010 scandal, when Peter “was photographed embracing his mother on the beach in St. Barts, a pose that many ridiculed as borderline incestuous.”

What sort of relationship does Stephanie Seymour have with her sons anyway? These pictures are literally a snapshot, but the relationship they project is an unusual one. I can’t imagine any mother I know posing with her son, nor any grown man I know posing with his mother, in a similar manner. Perhaps this reveals that my friends and I are not supermodels, but it seems that Seymour is the moral outlier.

What were Seymour and her photographer thinking when they snapped these pictures? And what were the editors at Harper’s Bazaar thinking when they curated them? Presumably, the editors hoped to generate buzz and sell magazines, but were they also hoping to use this high-fashion photo spread to help mainstream incest?

For thousands of years, Westerners’ behavior has been tempered by sexual taboos derived from Biblical tradition. Some of those taboos, like premarital sex and non-marital births, have crumbled.

Champions of more fringe sexual ideas have seemingly watched society’s shifting moral landscape and concluded that this is their moment. For example, the family featured on the show Sister Wives sued the state of Utah over polygamy laws and won. Meanwhile, there are scientists who believe pedophilia should be classified as just another sexual orientation.  When the German government refused to recognize the relationship of an adult brother and sister with four children, “the case led to calls for Germany to join countries such as France, Turkey, Japan and Brazil in legalising sex between relatives”. And as if that weren’t enough, bestiality-oriented pornography is now readily available to tweens on Facebook and other online portals.

So, what’s next – incest chic? Is that what the Brant family photo shoot was about? Have we given up on caring about the impact our sexual behavior has on children, whether that means abuse or foreseeable genetic problems? It may be that without G-d, all is permitted, but that doesn’t mean it’s all worth doing.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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