The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Kink to murder: normalizing sexual power dynamics

3 min read

Steph Chambers / Tribune-Review


Staff Writer

CONTENT WARNING: descriptions of sexual violence and murder, kink including facets of BDSM

In today’s culture, sex positivity and kink acceptance have become a standard. The feminism of today encourages sexual confidence and acceptance in all genders, and ages young and old. Open discussion of kink can be found all over social media and popular culture, even in memes.

While our sex-positive culture discourages rape culture and slut-shaming in many positive ways, there is one problem that the promotion and normalization of sex, particularly kink, has caused: people are getting murdered, and their murderers aren’t being held accountable.

In Pennsylvania, a woman is on trial for murdering her boyfriend in 2016. On Oct 3, the woman’s defense attorney compared the sexual relationship of the woman and her victim to the popular movie and book franchise “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and argued that man’s ultimately fatal beating was a part of the couple’s sexual dynamic.

At the beginning of this month, in Switzerland, a man claimed that the fatal strangulation of his girlfriend with a towel in April 2019 was a “tragic sex accident.” The same night of the woman’s death, neighbors reported hearing the couple arguing.

In Germany, a man was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence for murdering his wife, having injured her severely with a spiked sex toy following a two-day long extreme BDSM scene. Despite this man having a documented history of abuse against the woman he would eventually kill, the judge claimed that “we can assume it was consensual sex.” It is near impossible to imagine that anyone would consent to their murder during a sexual encounter.

The normalization of choking, through mediums like pornography and social media, is especially of concern. The “sex game gone wrong” defense, like those used in the cases above, seems more prevalent, and its relation to this normalization of consensual sexual violence, including choking, seems likely. When one is killed during sex, the partner left alive is the only one that can speak for the partner left dead. Questions such as did they consent? If they consented to sex, did they consent to specific acts during sex? Was it truly an accidental death? A “sex game gone wrong”? The partner being questioned, accused of the other’s murder, is the one that will answer for both participants, and, with no one to contest their claims, it isn’t hard to imagine what those claims might be.

The normalization of kink, such as choking, has also been counterproductive: women can now find themselves in situations where they are further shamed for not wanting to participate in this more extreme behavior. Worse, this behavior is forced upon them during sex, the assumption being made that it is what people want during sex, due to the standards of today’s pornography.

While sex-positivity is not a bad thing, kink acceptance has only perpetuated and validated the victim-blaming narrative that we encounter all too often. This is the same narrative and social power dynamic that the feminist movement behind kink acceptance actively tries to dismantle.

Kinks don’t exist in a vacuum. Once the bedroom doors are closed, all influence from the misogynistic society we live in doesn’t disappear, nor does the trauma or mental health issues of those participating. Arousal shouldn’t be an excuse for abuse towards either women or men, and their consent shouldn’t be taken as consent to their own deaths, just in case something does go awry.

It can be assumed that, at some point, the people that are killed in these “sex games gone wrong” stopped consenting. Kink acceptance has been counterproductive to feminism and equality. The sexual power dynamic of kink reinforces gender roles and normalizes abuse under the guise of what consent is and encouraging women to reclaim their own sexuality.

However, society at large does not encourage women to reclaim their own sexuality, so while kink and what is considered consensual sexual violence has become a standard, a woman being vocal about what she does and does not like and saying no to certain sexual acts, like choking, is still shamed.

There is kink-shaming, and then there is kink-critical. I encourage everyone to become more kink-critical.