The death of Grace Millane, a 22 years old British girl, triggers controversial discussions. Because of her interest in BDSM, Millane had asked to be strangled during sex. This “rough sex gone wrong” then became an excuse for the killer to avoid being accused. As a grey area in the judicial system, who should take responsibility for the tragedy? Is it reasonable to blame victims for their special erotic practices? How to distinguish an accident and an attempted murder?
Rough sex is increasingly common these days. A BBC survey indicates that many respondents had experienced rough sex such as slapping, choking, and gagging. However, among 2,002 U.K. women, 56% of them claimed they never feel pressured into rough sex while the rest admit they are frightened or uncomfortable to some extent. This statistic shows two deductions. Firstly, adults can clarify the difference between play and deliberate harm. In this ideal case, both sides of a relationship make a consensus and don’t pass the safety threshold, so the female doesn’t feel threatened or violated.
Another reason is more frightening and general, that is people haven’t realized the danger behind rough sex. Experts explain this tendency as normalization of extreme pornography. Steven Pope, a psychotherapist specializing in sex and relationships, described rough sex as a silent epidemic. “People do it because they think it’s the norm but it can be very harmful. What we see is that for many, it devalues the relationship but – at its worst – violence becomes acceptable,” he said. Similarly, the Centre for Women’s Justice figured that there is “growing pressure on young women to consent to violent, dangerous and demeaning acts.”
To achieve a safe sexual fantasy, a consensual line between delighting sexual activities and dangerous abuse should be set by couples, otherwise, blindly trusting someone without the ability to control their behaviour can be risky. Stuart Hamilton, a pathologist, suggested that “if you are in your right mind and your partner stops breathing, a jury could reasonably infer that the logical thing to do would be to stop strangling them and say, ‘Are you all right, pet?’ rather than maintaining pressure on an unresponsive human being for another few minutes.”
The deeper reason is the “toxic masculinism” in a relationship, that is the man always plays a dominant role and prioritizes their pleasures instead of girls’ feelings. Anna, a 23-year-old interviewee, told the Paper that “I know some women will say they like this. What is problematic is when men assume that every woman wants this.” Pornography also advocates audiences to imitate what they have seen online in real life. Rough sex becomes a way of showing men overpower the woman.
Millane’s death reveals a dilemma of current law. Since the dead cannot speak for themselves, perpetrators can use “unconsciousness” as a tricky excuse to exonerate themselves from a charge. Hence, the public who have raised concerns over rough sex are urging the government to amend the law. According to MP Alex Chalk, laws need to be improved after considering the complicated homicide cases. On 30 June, the U.K. government have announced that any “rough sex defense” was banned.
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