Grace Millane Might Have Been A Member Of BDSM Sites – That Still Doesn’t Explain Her Death

Grace Millane is the 19th British woman to die from a 'sex game gone wrong' in the last five years.

'Sex Games Gone Wrong' Is A Legal Loop-Hole To Getting Away With Murder

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

21.year-old Grace Millane died by strangulation while travelling in New Zealand, after meeting a date online. Her killer’s defence team are calling what happened to her a ‘sex game gone wrong’. She is the 59th British woman to die in a so-called ‘sex game gone wrong’.

It’s an increasingly popular defence. An organisation called We Can’t Consent To This details women who have died at the hands of a partner who claimed it was a sex game. Of the 59 women, almost a third were in the last five years.

There are those who call the sex game gone wrong defence the ‘Fifty Shades Defence’ (despite the fact that there is no erotic asphyxiation in the book), and blame the increased frequency of women dying at the hands of their partners on the prevalance of BDSM in mainstream sex.

But when we talk about ‘sex games gone wrong’ we’re not really talking about consensual BDSM, we’re talking about murdering women and trying to get away with it.

Grace Millane did have an account with BDSM website Fetlife, a trial has heard, so there is reason to believe that she did enjoy specific activities as part of her sex life. That still doesn't explain her death.

The vast majority of the women who have died in an alleged sex game over the last decade had no proven interest in BDSM. No account on Fetlife, no browser history of asphyxiation porn, no text messages indicating a plan to explore. No proof that they would have been actively interested in trying this kind of risky sex. So the fact that Millane did is almost incidental in the context of this cultural conversation.

Rough sex, like spanking, come with limited (though real) risks. Choking can be dangerous. Experienced kink practitioners practise extensively and do their research before trying it on another person. When people undertake BDSM consensually and responsibly it very rarely goes wrong – at least not to the extent that one person ends up dead. Anecdotally, in a decade in the fetish world I never heard of a single serious accident.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that a defence lawyer might reach for the words ‘sex game gone wrong’, having seen it work for other men before, especially if there was an online account linking the victim with BDSM. That could mean that men are murdering women by choice - not by accident - and getting massively reduced sentences by attaching a sexual identity to a woman who cannot contest him because she is dead at his hands.

Harriet Harman recently told Grazia that sexual liberation must not come at the cost of women’s safety, writing: ‘It's ironic that women's sexual liberation should be used against them to justify men killing them.’

The staggering popularity of Fifty Shades demonstrates that women all over the world are curious about kinky sex. Women have every right to consent to whatever sex they wish to enjoy. However, deaths like Grace Millane's are not explained away by an account on Fetlife or an interest in experimenting in the bedroom. Women do not, and cannot, consent to their own murders.

Campaign group We Can’t Consent To This is calling on MPs to bring the Domestic Abuse Bill back to parliament after the election, including a clause that would end the use of ‘consent’ claims in the violent injury or killing of women. To find out more, click here:

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