She had it coming. She was asking for it. She consented to this. She never said her safe word. These phrases are being used at an alarming rate not only to diminish the severity but to condone violence against women, and it’s not something that’s only started happening in the last decade.
The “rough sex” defense has been around since the 1980s but has become an increasingly popular plea since the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, with at least 58 women in the United Kingdom murdered under the label of “consensual rough sex.”
Recently, a multi-millionaire businessman claimed to have only hurt his girlfriend “within the boundaries of her masochistic desires” when charged with her murder. The Daily Mail UK reported that “the number of men to use the 50 Shades of Grey defence has increased tenfold since 2000.” There is a campaign group based out of the UK called We Can’t Consent To This that reports, “45 percent of defendants in these cases were given a less serious charge or sentence, and in some cases faced no legal action whatsoever because of the ‘rough sex’ plea.”
…45 percent of defendants in these cases were given a less serious charge or sentence, and in some cases faced no legal action whatsoever because of the ‘rough sex’ plea.
The entertainment industry is becoming increasingly responsible for teaching us what is morally, ethically, and socially acceptable in our world. So it’s no wonder that with movies like Fifty Shades of Grey circulating through our movie theatres and Netflix accounts, that sexual violence and abuse is on the rise.
The media gives us cues as to what is appropriate behavior in this newly sexually liberated world of hook-ups and personal gratification. So when we see movies of men using and abusing women for their sexual pleasure, that is what will begin to happen off the screen as well.
Real-life often imitates the entertainment world, and right now, that can lead to some terrifying circumstances. However, when you look past the romantic façade you see that this is a story that not only perpetuates but condones sexual violence and abuse towards all women.
People often glamourize the sex industry by talking about consent, free will, liberation, and opportunities beyond your wildest dreams. The media talks about how prostitution is not only a job but a choice that people freely make. They talk about how these women are sexually liberated and enjoy this lifestyle.
However, the British Medical Journal reported that half of the women interviewed experienced client violence while engaging in prostitution. This violence included being slapped, punched, beaten, robbed, threatened with a weapon, held against their will, kidnapped, strangled, and/or raped.
Movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey only perpetuate the twisted idea that men have the right to do whatever they want to a woman and that women should obey and consent to whatever that might entail. Amidst this cultural shift towards normalizing sexual violence, studies show the correlation between seeing or reading sexually violent material and the after-effects it has on both the individual and their relationships.
One study found that out of 655 females, the 122 who read only the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy were more likely to have a partner who yelled at them and harassed them. They were also reported to be more likely to enter into abusive health behaviors such as binge drinking or fasting, and another study found that women who have been choked by an intimate partner are seven times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner.
The other side of this coin is the aggressor, who may be living in a world so saturated with “acceptable” violence against women that they have adopted this as their new normal.
According to the Journal of Sexual Aggression, when movies or pornography show victims of violence accepting and enjoying being attacked, the viewer receives the message that this type of behavior is not only acceptable but appreciated. This, in turn, leads to an increase in sexual assault against people from all walks of life.
According to the Journal of Sexual Aggression, when movies or pornography show victims of violence accepting and enjoying being attacked, the viewer receives the message that this type of behavior is not only acceptable but appreciated.
In one of the most extensive studies conducted on prostitution, the Journal of Trauma Practice interviewed 854 prostituted women in nine different countries. The survey concluded that 63% of women in prostitution were raped, 71% were physically assaulted, and 68% had post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture.
Statistics like this are a result of society condoning and glamourizing sexual assault. This shift towards aggression is not just a fad, it’s an epidemic, and we have the opportunity to change the direction we’re heading.
Movies such as Fifty Shades send the message to men that eventually, their female partners will grow to like this violent behavior and even see it as romantic. Sexually violent material also spreads the illusion that you can do what you want to whomever you want whenever you want, resulting in an alarming rise in sexual assault on intimate partners and prostituted women.
With the growing trend towards condoning sexual violence, it’s time for us to stand up and declare that romanticizing abuse is never okay and that we will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior.
Photo Credit: A. L.