Fifty Shades of Grey BDSM Rape

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Lawmaker says ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ BDSM lets men get away with rape

Kinksters would like to have a word.

 

Ana Valens

IRL

Published Jul 22, 2020

Analysis

Is Fifty Shades of Grey enabling sexual assault? According to U.K. Member of Parliament Harriet Harman, you better believe it—and her argument has some troubling consequences for anyone practicing bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).

On a Wednesday episode of British talk show Loose Women, the Labour Party member discussed her support for a legislative amendment banning the “rough sex” defense in the U.K., the Independent reports.

The defense, which Harman has long referred to as the Fifty Shades of Grey defense,” is used by defendants on trial for murder to claim that their sexual partner’s death was the result of a dangerous, but consensual, sexual scenario. The defense garnered public attention after a British woman visiting New Zealand was strangled to death by a 28-year-old Tinder date who blamed her death on “consensual choking,” as CNN reports.

Harman argued the “rough sex” defense emerged after Fifty Shades “normalized that some women want pain inflicted on them in sex,” according to a clip shared by the Daily Mail. This, she concluded, “provided a grizzly opportunity for men to twist women’s empowerment of their own sexuality” by arguing “she wanted rough sex.”

“In that situation, it is impossible for the woman—or indeed anybody else—to challenge it,” Harman said on Loose Women. “[A]bsolutely any man who killed any woman, even if it was a perfect stranger, he could say, ‘yes, we hooked up, but she wanted rough sex.'”

The legislation also argues that if a defendant’s actions during consensual sex led to another person’s death, the defense would “have to take responsibility for that, even if she did want it,” because “it’s your hands that killed her,” the Daily Mail reports.

Pinning the “rough sex” defense on Fifty Shades of Grey and kink does a disservice to the BDSM community. BDSM requires play partners to discuss the “boundaries and [comfort] levels of each person involved in the scene,” as Gigi Engle writes for Teen Vogue.

Safety is a core component of the kink community, and BDSM practitioners are expected to understand proper safety measures to protect them or their partners from physical, emotional, or mental injury. Sadomasochism isn’t a violent free-for-all but a practice where mutual consent walks hand-in-hand with erotic pleasure.

This nuance is lost on writers like Lousie Penny who suggest BDSM’s normalization means the “open-minded attitude of juries” come at “a cost” for women, she wrote in 2019. Following in Harman’s footsteps, she declares BDSM’s popularity during the 2010s caused a boom in “extreme pornography that depicts violence against women.” Now, men “are more likely to want violent sex, more likely to kill their partners in the course of such sex (accidentally or not), and then more likely to be treated leniently by sympathetic juries,” she declared.

“[T]he unwelcome truth is that a permissive attitude towards BDSM does allow abusers to hide in plain sight,” she concluded. “[S]hould we then be surprised when some men want to go beyond fantasy, and no longer care if their partners are consenting?”

By linking Fifty Shades to the “rough sex” defense, Harman implies both that the BDSM series recklessly gave men the idea that they could just hand-wave domestic abuse away in court and that the novel and movie franchise conveniently gave abusers an excuse to commit abuse. Both claims stigmatize Fifty Shades and BDSM as the culprit of the problem. In reality, it’s a scapegoat within a much larger cultural issue on rape culture and sexual abuse, one that impacts relationships across genders and sexualities.

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H/T the Independent

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*First Published: Jul 22, 2020, 6:46 pm CDT