It’s my deep and personal feeling that videos of people being burned alive should not be fetishized anywhere on the internet.
To start out, let me say this — I am not really one to shame someone for their sexual preferences or fetishes. However, there is a fine, fine line between safe, sane, and consensual sex and the kind of violent behavior that’s being fostered more and more by our culture, especially online.
The Kim Wall Case
You might have recently heard about the Kim Wall case. She was a well-respected freelance journalist who had followed stories all over the world. She had scheduled an interview with Peter Madsen, an inventor who crowdfunded and built his own submarine in 2008. What was supposed to be a cruise and an interview ended in her violent death.
Madsen originally told the authorities that Kim had an accident while on board his submarine — according to his recounting, she struck her head on the 150 lb. submarine hatch and Madsen claimed that after she passed away he buried her body at sea. It wasn’t until her mutilated and dismembered body washed up on shore that the authorities began to suspect that something more was going on.
I wish I could spare you the gory details of this awful story. But this is important. After Wall’s death, Madsen dismembered her body and tossed her overboard in weighted bags so the individual parts would sink. It was also found that he had stabbed her, likely after her death, and mutilated her genitals. When Wall’s body was discovered, Madsen deliberately scuttled his sub and had to be rescued.
When Fetishes Become More
Madsen was later found to have violent fetish videos on his computer that detailed women being tortured, dismembered, and burned alive. He was also a member of an online BDSM community called “Kinky Salon,” which would host sex parties and claimed to give people an outlet for all of their sexual fantasies. It’s advertised as a safe space for people to explore their sexuality, but there’s nothing in their site that discourages violence.
This isn’t the first time that this kind of story has made the news — a New York police officer named Gilberto Valle was planning to kidnap and rape a number of women and had also made plans to roast one of them over an open fire. His plans were also made public on an online forum where men around the world discussed their violent fetishes.
Cause and Effect
Individuals like Madsen and Valle don’t exist in a vacuum. This behavior is perpetuated and encouraged by online safe spaces like Kinky Salon. It’s validated by torture porn that demonstrates that violence against women is OK, and gives these individuals an outlet for sick tendencies.
It’s important to note that these individuals are the exception, not the rule, for BDSM communities. Sometimes, it’s valuable for people to have a place where things are consensual and they can approach their boundaries without feeling like they are in danger. Yet, how far is too far when unbelievable acts of torture, and even murder, enter the picture?
Violence in porn is nothing new. There is a shocking amount of violence toward women all over even the most generic porn sites — sites that most wouldn’t label as BDSM or kink communities. What this really leads to is a grey area as far as consent goes.
Think about how this spills over into everyday life. Have you ever been catcalled in a violent way? I’ve had my fair share of it personally. A random stranger telling me that he’d “f*ck me until I screamed and cried” was probably the worst of it, but I can only imagine the much worse threats of sexual violence women have had thrust upon them without consent, passed off as some kind of stupid norm of walking down the street in the city.
Have you ever had consensual sex with someone and had them try to take things just a little too far? Maybe they get hostile if you don’t agree. Or worse, they completely disregard whether or not you agree to it.
Nothing I’ve been through comes close to what I know so many women have had to experience, but I can absolutely attest to feeling uncomfortable and pushed by sexual partners to do things that would not feel good for my body.
There’s an alarming amount of this seeping into our culture, especially in my generation. We’re told to be more open, and that traditional sex is “plain vanilla” and “old school.” Movies like Fifty Shades of Grey glorify the intersection of sex and violence, and seemingly suggest that, “well maybe if you just tried it, you’d find you like it.”
I would never judge someone for willingly exploring and choosing to be a part of the BDSM community, and I don’t necessarily like the idea of making them feel like they have to hide away parts of who they are. But what do we do when normalizing this behavior starts to change the very fabric of our culture outside of these consensual communities?
Sure, Madsen might have done something like this anyway. But with an online community supporting him, providing ideas he may have never even thought of, and generally giving him the feeling that it is healthy to want to do these things to women, how much of this crime can we tie back to those who assisted him in getting here? How many of these crimes over history may have been sparked by a separate entity putting an idea in the perpetrator’s head?
I guess we’ll never really know, and it is difficult to figure out what can be done about this. However, it’s my deep and personal feeling that videos of people being burned alive should not be fetishized anywhere on the internet.
But hey, maybe I’m just being old school.
Kate Harveston enjoys writing about social justice and policy change. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking the mountains of Pennsylvania to find inspiration. If you like her work, feel free to visit her at onlyslightlybiased.com.
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