Trigger warnings – nothing graphic but the territory is unpleasant.
The idea that it might be appropriate to kill someone because of their sexual activities, or imagined sexual activities, has been with us for a long time. It may be one of humanity’s fundamental problems, that all too often we are happier to deal with violence and murder, than we are to let people get on with shagging people in the manner of their choosing. The control of female sexuality, and the eradicating of any LGBTQ expressions tend to be at the heart of this.
The need to respond to sex with death tends not to be a reaction to rapists, or child molesters (people talk about it, I grant you, but it tends to be all noise). So there’s no grounds here for suggesting that this sort of violence is born of moral outrage, there’s nothing logical or natural about it. Where adultery is more offensive than rape, where consenting adult sex is more offensive than child abuse, we’ve got something seriously wrong. This is not about disgust, clearly.
My theory is this. People who kill in response to other people’s sex lives, may be doing it as an act of control and keeping power over others. Another possible explanation is that some repressed urge is being projected outwards. How often do apparently homophobic politicians get caught with rent boys? It’s become a cliché. If we think about what other people do, and feel things that we can’t deal with, blaming the person who ‘caused’ that feeling is a way of not dealing with desire, or fear of the power of the other. People perhaps kill not to eradicate the other, but to try and eradicate the feelings in themselves that they are unable to own. And when you get down to it, that’s pretty fucking tragic.
For a long time now, many of us have been saying that a person’s body, their clothing, how they dance, how they walk – these are not invitations to sex. We need to get clearer that a person’s sex life is not an invitation to violence and death. It doesn’t matter how promiscuous and unfaithful a person is, there is no justification in this in killing them. Dump them if you need to, but that’s all the entitlement there is. It doesn’t matter who a person is shagging, who you think they shag, or what you think that means. It is not a motive. We have to do away with the idea that a ‘crime of passion’ is in any way a thing.
We have to name these hate crimes for what they are. It was painfully obvious around the Orlando shootings of 2016 that many people didn’t want to deal with this as a hate crime against gay men. So many people were so quick to talk about how mentally ill the killer was. If we don’t name these acts as what they are – acts of violence carried out by people who think that sex justifies death – there’s a kind of complicity. It’s a silence that enables. We’re going to have to keep saying this one: What people do consentingly with other people’s genitals is not a justification for violence at all ever under any circumstances. What people do unconsentingly to others with their genitals, or to the genitals of others is not justified, or acceptable, ever, at all, under any circumstances.