>>> ... If provocative imagery is wanted, I feel that imagery of slavery would be much more apt and less contentious than the imagery that was used.
> Thats an interesting distinction. Would images of slavery have drawn the same reaction? I think they probably would have.
I claim no ability at predicting reactions of others (I doubt I'd beat a coin-toss in reliability) but here is my attempt to rationalise the situation.
A significant thrust of Mark's talk was about power plays. I almost wrote "power struggles" but in a lot of cases there is no struggle - just power. Whether it is a large company which gains power over their customers through creative use of the personal information they collect, or national governments which attempt to control information infrastructure through filtering or disconnecting, it is about power and control.
Power is a very big part of many sexual behaviours, and particularly those that were depicted. Whether it is about real power, an illusion of power, and whether it is explicit or subtle, power is often an important issue. When Mark asserted that "we had been .....ed" (or something like that) the implication was clearly that someone had exercised power over "us" without our consent.
I am convinced that the idea that linked Mark's message and the language and imagery under question is power.
Now any sexual imagery is fundamentally asymmetric and polarising. i.e. there are two different sides and people will tend to identify with one side or the other. It should be expected that there would consequently be a polarisation of reactions (though still lots of variability in those polarised sides).
When a power play is paired with sexual conduct, then the polarisation connects some people with the idea of being in power, and others with the idea of being under that power. People in the first group might think it is funny, people in the second group are less likely too.
This is where the discrimination comes in. A sexual image will always look different to one half of the population than it does to the other half. So using sex to make a statement about anything other than sex will always be discriminatory. Equally, using ethnicity to make a statement about anything other than ethnicity will be discriminatory.
Compare this with an image of slavery. There is still a side that is in power and a side that is under that power. But the contrast doesn't need to be paired with anything else.
If the master/slave are clearly of different genders, or different ethnicities or possibly even different socio-economic backgrounds you would have the same problem. But if you pictured slavery in a way that only focussed on the power issues and avoided other distinctions then you might have a very offensive image, but it would not be discriminatory - it would offend everybody equally.
So I would hope and (toss ... heads!) expect people to react differently to an image of slavery used to illustrate power imbalance than to a sexual image used to illustrate that power imbalance.