Sadism as Entertainment
MMA fighter Alana McLaughlin's victory mirrors violent pornography
“It is a sign of love for a man to beat his sweetheart, and a sign much appreciated by women... We have to admit that a certain pleasure in manifesting his power over a woman by inflicting pain upon her is an outcome and survival of the primitive process of courtship, and a quite normal constituent of the sexual impulse in man.”
— Havelock Ellis, English sexologist, 1903
“The only way to a woman's heart is along the path of torment… One must do violence to the object of one's desire; when it surrenders, the pleasure is greater.”
— Marquis de Sade
When trans-identified male Alana McLaughlin placed a chokehold around MMA opponent Celine Provost on September 10, he did not release her until a referee intervened. Video of the match depicts Provost tapping out as McLaughlin smiles, delighting in his stranglehold. A moment later, the referee removed McLaughlin’s arm from around her neck, and McLaughlin let out a proud cry of victory.
McLaughlin, a former member of the US Army’s Special Forces, only began training in MMA six months ago, but easily overpowered Provost, who had been training for a decade, in just a round and a half. The match is difficult to watch for several reasons. Besides the cruelty of a man being paid to batter a woman for public sport, and Provost’s apparent shock at the strength of McLaughlin’s punches, he takes obvious delight in choking her. Some Twitter netizens commented on this moment, comparing it to pornography.
The observation of McLaughlin’s pleasure, and the comparison of his expression to one of sexual thrill, is well-founded. We are currently living in an era of extreme sadomasochism, where violence against women is eroticized to an unprecedented degree. Mainstream pornography, easily accessible at the click of a button, depicts brutal cruelty to women and frames the violations not only as enticing, but also as desired by the women themselves, to horrific effect.
On September 7, The Guardian reported that a man in England, Sam Pybus, had been sentenced to a paltry four years and eight months in prison for the murder of Sophie Moss. Pybus had choked Moss to death during intercourse, a situation that led to the lenient sentence. A spokeswoman from We Can’t Consent To This, a UK organization that campaigns against the use of “rough sex” defences in cases involving violence against women and girls, stated: “It seems that strangling a woman to death is still viewed in law as an unfortunate accident, rather than terrible serious violence.”
Indeed, male violence against women, particularly if they are romantically involved, is often described as a ‘crime of passion’, a term which reinforces an age-old belief that women enjoy suffering and that men should delight in causing them pain. Many psychoanalysts and sexologists have purported that pain is integral to female sexuality; Havelock Ellis claimed that the subordination of women by men was necessary for female sexual pleasure. He was far from the only revered male thinker to come to such a demeaning conclusion: Sigmund Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and others have espoused similar perspectives.
The consequences of these sadomasochistic views of women are devastating. Research from 2015 found that more than four in ten teenage schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England experienced sexual coercion. Over a third of young boys in England admitted watching porn and held negative attitudes towards women, and one in five strongly agreed with statements such as, “It is acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she has been unfaithful”. Underage girls are presenting with bowel incontinence and anal tearing as a result of boyfriends who insist on replicating pornographic scenarios they have watched. A study from Japan found that men who consumed violent pornography were more likely to believe that women enjoyed being raped. Exposure to pornography has been linked to teen dating violence and sexual aggression.
In particular, numerous studies have shown that non-fatal strangulation is one of the highest markers for future homicide, and yet it appears to be on the rise as a sadomasochistic sexual practice. Gail Dines, feminist researcher and CEO of Culture Reframed, believes autoerotic asphyxiation has been normalised via two main methods: “For the men, it’s pornography and for the women, it’s in women’s magazines, and both of these media genres legitimise it as a form of ‘play’.” Dines describes strangulation as a “number one standard act” on porn sites and says women look to porn to “see what men want, and they see choking”.
It has been observed by researchers for decades that the male desire to ‘become’ a woman has roots in fetishism and sexual arousal. This was well-documented by Ray Blanchard, an American-Canadian sexologist, whose research in the area of transsexualism led him to conclude that the males commonly referred to as ‘trans women’ generally fall into two categories: homosexual transsexuals, who are exclusively attracted to men, and autogynephilic transsexuals, who are aroused at the thought of themselves as women.
Autogynephilic men typically partake in what is called ‘transvestic fetishism’, or dressing ‘as a woman’ for sexual reasons. The fetishism of the gender identity movement is apparent by the manner in which men go about ‘transitioning’, by means of breast implants and facial surgeries, nearly always striving to resemble a pornified construct of womanhood. They may often become involved in the sex industry in some capacity, especially pornography. Some of these men appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, participate in beauty pageants, and pose in Playboy. Many prominent trans-identified men, and the organizations that support them, advocate for the full decriminalization of sex trafficking.
The undercurrent of misogyny, objectification, and sadomasochism that runs deeply throughout the ideology and movement, once seen, is impossible to ignore. For many such men, being a woman is synonymous with being objectified and embodying the socially and sexually submissive and subordinate role. However, many trans-identified males tend to contradict themselves in this regard by displaying male-pattern sadism.
ACLU @ACLUFACT TWO: Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports. https://t.co/1aTLqi6A8i
Over and over, trans activists threaten to harm women and in some cases, make good on those threats. In doing so, they assert dominance over women and aim to subordinate the female sex back into the restrictive role prescribed to them — that is, as a passive sex object for male use. Crucially, they seem to enjoy tormenting women in this way and get a sexual thrill from terrorizing women and violating boundaries.
In August, it was revealed that a man at the London School of Economics had published a paper sexualizing violence against women labelled ‘TERFs’, the dehumanizing slur levelled against women who reject the idea that men can become women. Audio was leaked of the student, Matt Thompson, reading from his paper titled, Trans* Endemics: Embodying Viral and Monstrous Threat in Times of Pandemic, saying:
“If TERFs think trans* is an endemic threat to feminism, let us be the threat to feminism… Picture this: I hold a knife to your throat and spit my transness into your ear. Does that turn you on? Are you scared? I sure fucking hope so.”
When we entertain the notion that a man who dyes his hair pink, obtains plastic surgery, or takes ‘feminizing’ hormones, is truly and literally a woman, we are participating in his sexualized fantasy about women: who we are, what we are for, and what our role in society ought to be. The image of a man gleefully choking a woman in front of an audience is one which echoes and reinforces the eroticized violence against women in pornography that is motivating abuse, and even murder. As Andrea Dworkin said in Letters from a War Zone, “One lives inside a nightmare of sexual abuse that is both actual and potential, and you have the great joy of knowing that your nightmare is someone else’s freedom and someone else’s fun.”
Only a culture steeped in misogyny, a society that celebrates sadomasochistic abuse, could laud such a spectacle as progressive. Male violence against women is already treated as entertainment on a massive scale by means of pornography, and gender ideology is advancing these degrading ideas into the public sphere and attempting to force us all to pretend that we like it.
Resistance in the face of culturally accepted terrorism requires true courage, and more and more women are standing up to proclaim that no, we do not enjoy being abused, debased, and linguistically erased for a man’s gratification, and we will not accept it.