Here at CEASE UK, we welcome the statement of Justice Minister Alex Chalk that the so-called “rough sex defence” will be explicitly outlawed in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill. As campaign group We Can’t Consent to This point out, at least 60 women in the UK have been killed during sex as a result of “sex games gone wrong”, with many more having suffered injury. It is a positive step that the Government are willing to acknowledge the prevalence of this sexual violence disguised as “an accident”, and to make concrete promises in an effort to eradicate it.

The very defence itself makes a mockery of the reality of sexual violence, with lawyer Dr Ann Olivarius stating:

“No woman can consent to her own murder through a sexual practice she’s now conveniently unable to clarify, because she’s dead. The “rough sex” argument is a legal impossibility and a cultural abomination. It must go.”

This is just the start. Now is the time for the Government to look at one of the root causes of the increase of this type of sexual violence: pornography. Major porn sites such as Pornhub have been under the spotlight recently for their complicity in criminal acts and the proliferation of child sexual abuse images and videos, but we should not ignore the more subtle impact pornography has on those who watch it, and in this case, its impact on the likelihood that their sexual tastes become more violent.

Research consistently shows that pornography use affects attitudes towards sex, with men reporting that they feel drawn towards initiating more violent acts and experimenting with things they would previously have found to be morally objectionable; and women have reported an increase in porn-style acts done to them with no prior consent or agreement.

This worrying trend speaks to the ubiquity of pornography, and how it has effectively been substituted as a method of sex education, where mutuality and consent are mere afterthoughts, and physical and verbal aggression are commonplace. This is simply not acceptable.

The Government’s intent to get to grips with the damaging impact porn is having on the emotional and psychological development of young people across the UK is good news. It must be accompanied by the promised review of the implementation of age verification technology within the much-discussed Online Harms Bill, to prevent those under 18 from accessing porn sites. But this is no silver bullet.

Age verification is only one way of dealing with the myriad problems posed by this unregulated and unchecked industry. It is no good simply regulating access if the public’s perception of porn is still skewed entirely in favour of the industry. This is a prime opportunity for the Government to get to grips with what is in reality, that contributes to violence against women, both in and outside of the bedroom.

At CEASE, we absolutely applaud the recognition that the “rough sex defence” is indeed unconscionable and inexcusable and that it normalises male violence, but the Government must go further. We are calling on the Government to acknowledge the links between porn use in the 21st century and male violence (which of course includes the “rough sex defence”). Only when we start to deconstruct and challenge all the contributing factors to violence against women will we begin to see its true extent, and importantly, how we can end it. There’s no time like the present.