People dying accidentally as a result of sexual kinks gone wrong is not new. In 1994 Tory MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in his flat, described as an accidental consequence of autoerotic asphyxiation — where a person strangles themselves for sexual pleasure. Over the years, sexual kinks have become more mainstream through the increase in availability of Bondage, Domination, Sadism & Masochism (BDSM) pornography, the permeation of “50 shades of grey” into everyday society and numerous women’s/teen magazines discussing the top 21 list of kinks and fetishes.
Whatever your feelings about kinks and BDSM, there is a real danger that these can be used as a smokescreen for violent sex, coercion, abusive behaviour etc – to mask men’s hatred of and violence towards women.
In the past decade, over 30 women and girls have been killed by men who have used the “rough sex gone wrong” defence. Nine of these cases led to men being convicted of the lower charge of manslaughter and in two cases the men were acquitted.
In one case, the death of Natalie Connolly, her killer was found guilty of manslaughter and given a sentence of less than four years, despite her having 40 separate injuries including serious internal trauma, a fractured eye socket and bleach on her face. Men are using this as an excuse to batter and kill women in some of the worst ways possible, while claiming that this was all consensual.
The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This are fighting to stop the legal system buying into the “rough sex” defence and wants to ensure that consent, which has increasingly entered popular consciousness as a key concept in rape cases, is no defence to injury, let alone death. They are supporting the domestic abuse bill and urging MPs to do the same.
Rough sex has taken over from “being provoked” or “losing control” as a common excuse from a violent partner and we need to stop this. We need to improve sex and relationships education to teach boys and girls that violence during sex is not the norm and is not obligatory. Men need to know that they cannot get away with torturing and murdering women, with or without sexual thrills attached.