The death of a British backpacker, Grace Millane, is a tragedy. A young woman lost her life, and that is horrible. Her 28-year-old murderer received a sentence of life imprisonment, and I hope he serves as many years of that sentence as the courts allow.
The perpetrator strangled his victim, according to CNN. Then he took “photos of her body and watched violent pornography while her body lay in the room.”
It’s difficult to read about Millane’s grisly death. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the reporter unfairly frames the deviant sexual component of the story.
Female Dominance Is the Norm
Amy Woodyatt suggests that, usually, it’s the man who does the choking and the woman who, somehow, enjoys receiving it. In fact, the usual scenario is that it’s the woman who does what is called “breath play,” covering the man’s mouth while pinching his nose.
The idea is that, while the man is comatose, or semi-comatose, the sex is more delicious. And she feels the more powerful for being able to cut off his air supply. (This sounds to me like a recipe for causing a heart attack. But this kind of play is fairly widespread, and there haven’t been widespread reports in the press of this type of play causing coronary events.)
The images speak the language of female dominance. She is gloved and booted. She smiles as he struggles for air, or furrows her brown in concentration. Her female friends look on approvingly.
So, before we get all caught up in feminist indignation about choking as yet another means of oppressing women, let’s bear in mind that breath play is more a source of female empowerment than oppression.
My sympathies, of course, are with the family and friends of Grace Millane. Her death will surely be a source of lifelong suffering for everyone who loves her.