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The sexualisation of male violence: A lethal game for women

Instead of asking women if they consent to violence, the question ought to be: why are so many men eager to use sex as an excuse to assault women? says RAQUEL ROSARIO SANCHEZ

TODAY, November 25, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Public bodies and the media usually note that abuse perpetrated by men against women and girls remains an epidemic.

Oftentimes, they mark the occasion with promises to eradicate a plight which in the United Kingdom on average severs forever the life of a woman every three days.

As a concept, “violence against women” is publicly frowned upon.

Yet if men claim they commit said violence in a sexual context, then slowly but surely society is being indoctrinated into accepting this abuse as normalised. 

The sexualisation of male violence represents a lethal game for women, and a stepping stone towards the dehumanisation of females under patriarchy.

Femicide constitutes the final stage of this dehumanising process.

But for every single woman whose life was claimed by male violence, we know there are dozens whose beatings and stabbings fell short of murder, who received medical attention or who clung to their lives for another day. 

I wonder, for every man who has murdered a woman and later claimed that her death was part of “a sex game gone wrong,” how many more are roaming the streets after leaving their partners permanently injured?

After being groomed into accepting assault as part of their sex lives, how many women will report long-term brain injury, incontinence and miscarriages?

Those are potential side effects of strangulation, and so are seizures, paralysis, speech disorders, cardiac arrest and stroke.

Even when women do not lose consciousness immediately, strangulation increases their risk of brain injuries.

“If your women like being choked during sex, you are supposed to squeeze the sides of her neck with your fingers, not crush her windpipe with your palm,” read a recent viral message on social media which gathered almost 290,000 supporters.

A man choking a woman in the middle of a restaurant warrants a phone call to the police. If he states that strangulating women is a kinky pleasure, then society is being groomed into perceiving him as a sex expert.

This is despite the fact that strangulation is the second most used method for violent men committing femicide in the UK, and that non-fatal strangulation is usually a pattern of relationship abuse. 

Academic research into porn, including the study entitled Aggression and Sexual Behaviour in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update conducted by Chyng Sun of New York University and colleagues, found that 88 per cent of 304 scenes in popular porn surveyed featured physical aggression by men against overwhelmingly female targets (including gagging and slapping), while 48 per cent of the scenes included verbal aggression.

Subsequent research demonstrates a correlation between consuming pornography and changes in attitudes and behaviour, particularly during the sexual development stages of puberty.

The women in the popular porn films that Bridges and colleagues examined pretended to enjoy the violence inflicted upon them.

However, since the 2010 study, watching women endure painful acts has become its own porn genre.

Although culturally framed as a request by women, time and time again they confirm that pleasure in male violence is not often reciprocated outside of porn.

Research conducted for BBC Radio 5 suggests a third of women under 40 have experienced “unwanted slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex.”

Of those women, 42 per cent felt pressured, coerced or forced into accepting these unwanted acts and 20 per cent said they were left feeling frightened.

When porn culture grooms society into sexualising male violence against women, it is no surprise that many aggressive men seize on the perfect alibi.

This is the case of millionaire John Broadhurst who, on the night of December 17 2016, murdered a 26-year-old woman named Natalie Connolly.

Her family describes her as a lively and joyful young woman who loved her 10-year-old daughter.

During the trial, her murderer alleged that Connolly consented to every single one of the 40 injuries he inflicted on her that night.

Britain is recognised worldwide for its medical excellence in treating vaginal haemorrhaging from emergency situations, such as the one Broadhurst inflicted on Connolly, but she did not make it to the hospital.

After the beating, which included bursting her eye socket, Broadhurst left her bleeding to death at the foot of the stairs and went to bed, without even calling an ambulance to help her.

Britain is also renowned for having a relatively solid judicial system, but in October 2020, after less than two years in prison, the man who took Connolly’s life away from her, from her daughter and from her family is now roaming the streets again.

Since 1972, at least 60 men have alleged in court that being killed was a sexual fantasy of the woman they murdered. In half of the cases, this defence was admitted as legitimate.

Curiously, the corpses taken to the morgue the morning after these macabre sexual games are always female, never male.

Internationally, the context is that judicial systems tend to be harsher on women who kill their partners (even in cases of self-defence) than on men who murder women (even after years of documented violence).

In June 2020, Parliament voted to amend the Domestic Violence Bill to prohibit the “rough sex defence.” 

Although an improvement, a part of me wonders about the hidden statistics.

The women who will accept the slaps thinking it represents pleasure, or worse, love.

And the women who will end up with brain damage following strangulation inflicted by a man they wanted to please. 

They may not appear in statistics of women killed by men this year. However, if the sexualisation of male violence continues unimpeded, many could become a statistic next year.

Instead of asking women if they consent to violence, the question ought to be: why are so many men eager to use sex as an excuse to assault women?

Sex has the potential to make us feel so many emotions. Being fearful for our lives should not be one of them. 

Raquel Rosario Sanchez is the Spokeswoman for FiLiA. FiLiA is a grassroots feminist organisation whose mission is to build sisterhood and solidarity among women, amplifying the voices of women, and defending women's human rights.

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