THE BLOG
18/12/2018 16:47 GMT | Updated 20/12/2018 09:30 GMT

'Rough Sex' Doesn't Kill Women, Male Violence Does

Natalie Connolly's death wasn’t a tragedy of the “high-life” or “rough sex” gone wrong. It was another woman’s life needlessly lost to endemic male violence.

PA Wire/PA Images

Recent headlines on the conviction of John Broadhurst who killed his partner Natalie Connolly demonstrated once again how low the media will stoop to grab attention, either ignorantly or deliberately perpetuating myths about male violence against women.

References to his being a millionaire, to their “rough sex” and to the “high-life” they had supposedly been living, are not only tangential to the news story, they are used to titillate readers in a story about a man’s brutal killing of a woman. One article goes into graphic sexual details, including a description of the way Natalie’s naked body was found that is not only absolutely unnecessary, but also dehumanising and objectifying, even in death.

Natalie suffered 40 separate injuries, including a “blow-out” fracture to her eye and serious internal trauma, the court heard. When he finally called paramedics, he reported her to be “dead as a doughnut”. Yet, as so often happens, Natalie’s death was characterised as a mistake by her partner; a fatal loss of control during otherwise consensual “masochistic” sex.

The way that women die at the hands of men is often so brutal, it is not a loss of control that causes death, it is their final act of maintaining control.

Accounts from Natalie’s sister are familiar and should have been all the information journalists needed to do better. Broadhurst, Natalie told her twin sister, liked to have rough sex. She recounted that before him, Natalie had never engaged in sex as rough as he liked it. Natalie reportedly showed her sister the marks left by a belt he had used on her. 

Jurors were told John may have attacked Natalie to teach her a lesson after he discovered she had been messaging other men. Whether or not this is true, her killing is not ‘rough sex’, it is sexual violence. But that is not the headline.

One hundred and seventeen UK women were killed by men or where a man was the principal suspect by 25 November this year. In 2017, men killed 139 women and three quarters of them knew their killer, according to the Femicide Census

Of the women who were killed by ex-partners, more than half were killed within a month of leaving and 90 per cent within a year, according to the report. How dare she.

For the first time this year, the census also tracked the extent to which the force or method used to kill a woman went beyond what would have been necessary to cause death. One victim, for example, was stabbed 175 times, others beaten beyond recognition. This is termed “overkilling”, and was present in 42% of cases last year.

Where men are physically violent towards women in relationships, intimate or familial, the physical violence is usually one mechanism of a control that is constant. It is about men having power over women, and feeling a deep sense of entitlement to that power.

All forms of violence against women: domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based killings, FGM, sexual violence and rape, are about men maintaining control and power over women.

This is why ending violence against women is the cornerstone of the Women’s Equality Party’s political goals. Because, as with individual incidences of violence in relationships being part of a wider pattern of control and abuse of power, we understand that the actual and constant threat of violence against women threatens all women’s power across every sphere. Until all women are free from violence, none of us will be free from the fear of it.

Headlines like those about Natalie Connolly are why it’s so important to prioritise equality in and by the media; to put an end to the objectification of women and the glorification of the violence against them.

Natalie’s death wasn’t a tragedy of the “high-life” or “rough sex” gone wrong. It was another woman’s life needlessly lost to endemic male violence.