Violence during consensual sex ‘normalised’

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Violence during consensual sex has become normalised, campaigners have warned.

It comes after more than a third of UK women under the age of 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex, research for BBC Radio 5 Live suggests.

Of the women who had experienced any of these acts, wanted or otherwise, 20% said they had been left upset or frightened.

Anna, 23, says she has experienced unwanted acts of violence during consensual sex on three separate occasions, with different men.

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For her, it started with hair pulling and slapping. Then the man tried to put his hands around her neck.

“I was shocked,” she said, “I felt extremely uncomfortable and intimidated. If someone slapped or choked you on the street, it would be assault”.

It wasn’t until Anna spoke to her friends about it that she realised how common it was.

“From then on, pretty much all the guys would try at least one, if not multiple combinations, of these acts.”

On another occasion, she says she was choked by a man during sex – without consent or warning.

Anna, who graduated from university this year, also says she had a partner who handled her so forcefully, that she was left bruised and in pain for days.

“I know some women will say they like this. What is problematic is when men assume that every woman wants this.”

Violence during sex becoming a norm
Violence during sex becoming a norm

Research company Savanta ComRes asked 2,002 UK women aged between 18 and 39 if they had experienced slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex, and if it was ever unwanted. The sample was weighted to be representative of all UK women by age and region.

More than a third (38%) had experienced these acts and said they were unwanted at least some of the time, while just under two-thirds of women had either experienced it and said it was never unwanted (31%), or they had no experience, didn’t know or preferred not to say (31%).

The Centre for Women’s Justice told the BBC the figures showed the “growing pressure on young women to consent to violent, dangerous and demeaning acts”.

It said: “This is likely to be due to the widespread availability, normalisation and use of extreme pornography.”

Adina Claire, acting Co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said it indicated “how frequently sexual violence is being experienced by women under 40, with partners they consent to have sex with going on to humiliate or frighten them.

“Consenting to have sex with someone does not lessen the seriousness of slapping or choking someone.”