“I’ll choke you”: How porn culture promotes violence against women and children

It’s no secret that mainstream porn is dominated by male violence and aggression against women. A report by the French equality watchdog last year found that as much as 90% of porn features verbal, physical and sexual violence towards women, and a significant amount constituted torture. 

As porn has become more mainstream, its messages – that violence against women is sexy, and women desire and enjoy violence and abuse – have seeped into mainstream popular culture. Strangulation or ‘sexual choking’*, an act of violence that has been popularised in porn, has become so normalised it is referenced and promoted in advertising, TV, social media, popular songs and on clothing – even for babies.


Magazines.pngHow mainstream media normalises violence against women as ‘sexy’

From TV shows, music, fashion magazines, clothing and social media, young people are getting the message that men’s violence, control and dominance over women is sexy and desirable. HB_choking.pngA prime example is HBO TV series The Idol, which was branded as “torture porn” and “a rape fantasy” by on set sources.

Some scripted scenes of sexual and physical violence from the series were so disturbing they could not be filmed. One on set source said the show, which was supposed to be about a woman finding herself sexually, “turned into a show about a man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it.” 

The song One of the girls from the series portrays a woman begging a man to use and degrade her:

(Man): “Tell nobody I control you
I broke you just to own you…
I love when you’re submissive
Love it when I break skin…”

(Woman): “Push me and choke me ‘til I pass out…
Push me down, hold me down
Spit in my mouth while you turn me on…
Dim me down, snuff me out
Hands on my neck while you push it out”

As Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper said in a speech for International Women’s Day:

Girls are learning that they are supposed to enjoy men’s acts of aggression and degradation, and if they don’t, there is something wrong with them. If they reject porn sex acts – preferring sexual relationships premised on intimacy and mutual respect – they are branded ‘vanilla’ and sexually boring. Through pornography, girls are being groomed to tolerate and even embrace their own degradation.

Children exposed to porn-inspired sexual violence messages

Even children are not free from the influence of porn culture and its toxic messages. Below is an image of a child 'model' on Instagram, and a SHEIN ad, featuring a little girl tugging on a choker and sticking her tongue out. 


A popular song referencing sexual strangulation has become a popular TikTok dance. Some videos feature smiling children – and even children alongside their parents – mimicking strangulation, with hands around their throats, miming the lyrics “I’m vanilla baby, I’ll choke you but I ain’t no killer, baby”.Untitled_design.png

Last month we exposed Australian brand Teepublic selling countless baby onesies featuring sexualised depictions of women being strangled, bound and degraded. After we called them out, the company removed the 15 items we went out on and fobbed off responsibility to designers. (Help us keep the pressure on - contact the company here.)


We’ve previously exposed Playboy-owned sex store Honey Birdette for sexualising violence against women. Honey Birdette broadcast a video of a woman in BDSM-fetish gear sexually choking herself which was played on a loop in shopping centres around the country.

The sex store frequently displays porn-themed images of women in collars and leashes in its shop front windows.HB_George.pngWe believe that deliberate exposure to adult and pornographic content and messages, including the normalisation of men’s sexual violence against women, is a form of child abuse and grooming.

The reality of strangulation

Strangulation poses a serious and growing threat to women. Domestic violence support workers have revealed “soaring” rates of male violence against women during the pandemic, including “so many more strangulation cases”. Research indicates more than a third of UK women under forty have been subjected to non-consensual choking, slapping, gagging or spitting during sex. Relationship counsellors are calling it a ‘silent epidemic’ and dealing with the fallout daily. An estimated 20,000 strangulations a year are being reported to women’s charities. It has become so common that a strangulation trauma support centre has been set up in Brisbane to treat victims.

Strangulation or choking is a particularly serious form of violence against women. It is a known red flag for future homicide, increasing a woman’s odds of being killed by seven times. Strangulation can be fatal, with victims at risk of brain damage or death even weeks or months later. As Yvonne Roberts notes in The Guardian, “Strangulation does not need to be prolonged or forceful to cause serious long-term damage.” Individuals who have been strangled can suffer strokes, depression, memory loss, seizures, motor and speech disorders and paralysis.

From The Guardian:

Dr Catherine White is the foremost expert and researcher in strangulation in the UK ... Last year, White and colleagues published I Thought He Was Going to Kill Me, a three-year study of 204 adult cases of NFS [non-fatal strangulation] as part of a sexual assault. Some 96.6% of the victims were female. In 27% of the cases, the woman had been strangled before by the same perpetrator. Over one in six had been strangled to the point where they lost consciousness.

White’s study reported that a male handshake has 80-100lbs per square inch (psi) of pressure. It takes 20psi to open a fizzy drink can. It takes only 4psi to occlude a jugular vein. Read White’s study here.

Women and girls are increasingly reporting pressure to submit to violent and unwanted sex acts like choking. A 2019 study from Indiana School of Public Health found that nearly a quarter of women in the US have felt scared during sex, with a number of these having been choked without warning by their male partners.

How a culture that eroticises male violence against women enables perpetrators 

As the propaganda of porn which says that women enjoy violence becomes more widely accepted, it emboldens men who perpetrate violence against them. Where previously it was understood that men's violence against women was unwanted and harmful, now perpetrators can avoid accountability by claiming the women they sexually aggressed against 'wanted it' - and people will believe them. 

Last month, Cairns rugby player Eddie Elia Comi Dap Epseg was on trial charged with eight counts of rape and one charge of choking. Epseg did not deny the incident took place – in which he tied up a woman, choked her and penetrated her with objects for a period of four hours – but claimed he believed the woman was a “willing participant.” (He was later found not guilty on four charges of rape, with a hung jury on five other charges.) 

Shannon Andrew Pakiere Smith, who faced a charge of abduction for sex, four charges of common assault, two charges of unlawful sexual connection, three rape charges and a charge of indecent assault, also maintained that while the “sexual encounters” happened, they were consensual. Smith claimed one of the alleged victims asked him to re-enact scenes from the book Fifty Shades of Grey. The alleged victim’s account was in stark contrast to his, claiming Smith held her down, raped her and choked her, causing her to pass out and leaving her bleeding. 

In 2020, research from Birmingham City University in the UK found that the normalisation of BDSM and “rough sex” in media and popular culture had generated a “culturally approved script” for men who kill women.

Criminologist Professor Elizabeth Yardley wrote:

The normalisation and mainstreaming of ‘rough sex’ in popular culture through films like Fifty Shades of Grey, and the way in which porn and women’s magazines present acts like strangulation as ‘play’ have created a culturally approved script for perpetrators of violence against women – regardless of whether or not they have an established relationship with a victim.

UK-based campaign We Can’t Consent To This has documented at least 60 cases where women have been killed by men who have claimed it was due to “rough sex” or a “sex game gone wrong”. A number of these women were killed by strangulation.

We wrote about this issue two years ago, and in that time, things have gotten worse. Not only is a lethal act of male violence against women still being painted as sexy, but now we are seeing children being introduced to the concept of strangulation for sexual gratification. We must continue to challenge the normalisation of violence against women as sexy - women's lives depend on it. 

*The term 'choking' is technically incorrect, as choking occurs internally when something is lodged in the throat. What is actually happening is strangulation, but given the term 'choking' is the terminology commonly used, we have used both terms (while pointing out the error). 

See also:

“Porn has a lot to answer for”: How sexual choking became mainstream

Lingerie ad glosses over problem of violence against women

'Choking women is sexy': Honey Birdette ads eroticise violence against women

Add your comment

  • Caitlin Roper
    published this page in News 2024-03-25 16:59:41 +1100

You can defend their right to childhood

A world free of sexploitation is possible!

Fuel the Movement