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Telling the Wrong Stories: Rough Sex Coercive Control and the Criminal Law

Palmer, T. & Wiener, C. ORCID: 0000-0003-0347-209X (2021). Telling the Wrong Stories: Rough Sex Coercive Control and the Criminal Law. Child and Family Law Quarterly, 2021, pp. 331-347.


The relationship between 'rough sex' and the criminal law has recently been subject to considerable scrutiny. Much of this debate has focused on male defendants in homicide cases, who have claimed the death of the female victim resulted accidentally from consensual rough sex. As a result, more commonplace occurrences of rough sex that do not result in death have received limited attention. In particular, the role that rough sex plays in abusive relationships, whether and how this is criminalised, has been largely overlooked.

This article addresses this gap by illuminating the role that rough sex can play as both an instrument and a manifestation of coercive control. We problematise the 'stories' that are told about rough sex and coercive control in the criminal law. Three constructions of 'rough sex' have historically been applied in the case law: 'violent sexual assault', 'deviant sexuality' and 'accidental injury'. The introduction of a new offence of 'control-ling or coercive behaviour' was an opportunity to uncover a new, more accurate narrative of abusive rough sex. We argue, however, that the courts are still telling the same old stories.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Domestic abuse, coercive control, rough sex, sexual assault, sexual violence, sadomasochism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
[img] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 6 December 2023 due to copyright restrictions.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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