Femsubs, DV and the Criminal Justice response

Nadia David1
1Charles Sturt University, Beechworth, Australia

In the newly ‘woke’ community environment where intimate partner violence (IPV) is a highly topical subject, and with the cultural spectre of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ hovering in the background, the line between consensual sadomasochistic sexual practice and abuse can be hard to delineate. For criminal justice professionals, particularly police, this line can be profoundly problematic. Sexual behaviour that inflicts bodily harm is unlawful in Australia and women who seek out and engage in submissive sadomasochistic sex with men in the dominant role are at risk from both abusive partners and the criminal justice system (CJS). In addition, while feminism has done a great deal to bring the voices of female victims of sexual violence and IPV to the fore, it has been aggressive in its denouncement of sadomasochism as an ‘anti-woman’ sexual practice. Radical feminists view the consent of women who claim to desire and seek out sadomasochistic sex as inauthentic and a form of internalised misogyny. This presentation presents key findings from a desktop review of current feminist and legal discourse, revealing the voices of women who enjoy sexually submissive sex as conspicuously absent and, while the CJS requires that women prove when they do not consent to sex, their enthusiastic consent to BDSM is considered legally irrelevant. Findings also identify unpredictable application of the law with regard to offences set in a BDSM context and expose an apparently significant knowledge gap regarding the policing of women’s sexuality, questioning the ‘one size fits all’ interventionist approach to IPV.

Nadia is originally from Tasmania and grew up in Launceston. After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy she joined the New South Wales Police Force and was duly sent to Redfern. During her 6-year career in the police, Nadia completed her Master of Criminology while working as a Police Prosecutor, specializing in family violence. She went on to complete a Juris Doctor while working in the Australian Public Service. Nadia now lives in beautiful Beechworth, Victoria, where she lives with her husband and two kids on their horse stud. She is currently undertaking a fulltime PhD at Charles Sturt University.


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