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Research into ‘rough sex’ being done at University of Bristol

Doctor Natasha Mulvihill, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Bristol, is researching the concept of ‘non-consensual rough sex’.

By Anna Johnson, Second Year, English and French

TW: Sexual violence

The Croft Magazine // Doctor Natasha Mulvihill, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Bristol, is researching the concept of ‘non-consensual rough sex’. Her survey seeks to explore incidents in which rough sex is a misused term in place of ‘violent sex’ or assault. If you believe you have experienced this upsetting and confusing sort of sexual experience, Mulvihill’s survey is linked here for anyone who feels comfortable enough to write about it.

Films such as Fifty Shades of Grey and, debatably, the porn industry, are sometimes seen to be glamourising rough or even abusive sex. Most problematically with the film, Christian Grey’s dominating characteristics are not only prominent in the characters’ sex lives, but in the relationship too, which is evidently suggestive of an emotionally abusive situation. In cases of coercive control in relationships, the ‘rough sex’ dilemma may manifest itself – questions are raised around at what point the victim can consent to ‘rough sex’ when it is actually violent, and the victim can become conditioned to trust an unequal power dynamic.

‘Rough sex’ refers broadly to aggressive physical or degrading acts during sex

Campaigns such as ‘We Can’t Consent to This’ and ‘Centre for Women’s Justice’ document the stories of victims of this nature and seek a change in the law to ensure that perpetrators cannot represent their violent behaviours as consensual erotic play. Campaigning in the past has led to specific amendments to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (England and Wales), making non-fatal strangulation an offence and prohibiting a victim’s consent to be used in defence of the infliction of serious harm for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification.

In 2019, a BBC survey revealed high prevalence in the female under-40 age group and low police reporting. Just because an encounter began as consensual, it does not mean that one cannot feel uncomfortable or as though something just didn’t feel right and it went too far. It is common for feelings of embarrassment, shame, and confusion to prohibit people from reporting in these instances.

Participation in the survey is entirely voluntary and can be completed by anyone aged over 18, although participants may refer to experiences that occurred when they were under 18.  It is open from Monday 7 February 2022 to Friday 29 April 2022.

Featured Image: Epigram / Holly Beaumont

Fill in the survey here.