No Woman Consents To Being Murdered

After Grace Millane’s killer failed to persuade a jury her death was a sex game gone wrong, Hanna Flint reveals the disturbing rise of non-consensual choking

Grace Millane

by Hanna Flint |
Updated on

There was a time when ‘sex game gone wrong’ was a rare murder defence. But horrifically, it has become more prevalent and gained a grim (misleading) new nickname – the 50 Shades defence.

Recently, the New Zealand man who murdered Grace Millane, 21, attempted and failed to use it. The man – who did not call for medical help, took photos of her body and went on another date before burying her in a suitcase in a shallow grave – had anonymity throughout the trial according to New Zealand law, while the life and sexual history of Grace, the victim, was scrutinised in headlines worldwide.

Horrendously, the defence is being increasingly used in UK courts too. The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This has found 59 cases here where women have been killed by men claiming ‘sex game gone wrong’. This means that while the victims are unable to defend themselves, their sexual histories are pored over – and in the last five years, the defence was successful in 50% of the killings that went to trial. ‘We don’t believe women can consent to their death,’ the group says, ‘and will campaign until it is no longer a useful defence.’

It’s disturbing to read about but, as a sexually active single woman, it’s not shocking. In the last few years, I’ve encountered a growing number of men who have tried to choke me during sex without my consent. The first time it happened, two years ago, all was fine – until his hands started to close around my neck. Confused and scared, I pulled his hands off. Not wanting to make a big deal out of it, we carried on, but I made sure to never see him again. Since then, it’s happened with several men. Not once did they ask first if I’m into that kind of thing. I’m not.

And it’s not just me. When I mentioned my experiences on social media last week, within minutes other women shared theirs. ‘This has happened to me,’ one said. ‘What’s happened to make any guy think that’s a normal or acceptable thing to do?’ ‘The worst thing is people not only doing it, but making you feel bad about it,’ another added. ‘If a man’s done it before and someone else liked it, that’s it.’ Too many times I’ve also heard, ‘The last girl I slept with enjoyed it,’ as an excuse for choking me without my consent. It doesn’t cut it.

‘Last year, a man texted me that he would like to “choke me until he saw the light drain from my eyes”,’ another woman told me. ‘When I pointed out that it might be a good idea to check if people like the fantasy of being killed before sending messages like that, he told me off for “kink-shaming” him.’

The 50 Shades effect has pushed BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) into the mainstream, with porn sites flooded with bondage videos. Even regular magazines like US Women’s Health have normalised choking in guides on sex. But the BDSM community lives by the tenets of consent, trust, respect, and what women are often experiencing is not that. It’s abuse and has no place in the bedroom, let alone in the courtroom as a defence for murder.

To support the addition of a clause to the Domestic Abuse Bill to end the use of ‘consent’ defences in the injuring and killing of women, visit

READ MORE: Grace Millane Might Have Been A Member Of BDSM Sites – That Still Doesn't Explain Her Death

READ MORE: The Man Accused Of Killing Grace Millane Has Been Found Guilty

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