Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Overlooked Taboos: when "depravity" gets more attention than the horror of rape

Recently (3rd June), I saw this headline in the Metro when I was on the tube: 'Monster has sex with his victim after killing her'. 

The journalist's fury here points to necrophilia, stirring up rage and horror at an extremely taboo act that is forbidden. However, this headline barely masks an ingrained cultural trivialisation of rape. The perpetrator did not 'have sex with his victim', he defiled her corpse by raping her. And I am quite frankly shocked that he has only been given a 26 year prison sentence. 

A quick Internet search showed me that several other newspapers have chosen to describe this heinous crime in a way that trivialises the act of rape through a sensationalisation of necrophilia.
  • The Telegraph: 'Violent fantasist strangled teacher, 23, he met on Plenty of Fish before having sex with her body'
  • The Mirror: 'Plenty Of Fish killer who had sex with teacher's body described himself as 'ordinary decent human' on Facebook'
  • Metro (online, headline slightly different): 'Man who killed a teacher and had sex with her dead body described himself as a "decent human" '

The Independent has chosen a less attention-grabbing headline, but one that is written more accurately:
  • Independent: Katie Locke murder: Teacher's killer Carl Langdell 'sexually assaulted her dead body'

BBC News omit the sex crime in this news article, but still stress depravity:
  • BBC News: 'Depraved' killer Carl Langdell jailed for first date murder

I am frustrated by this reporting because the outcry should be regarding the perpetrator's sadistic and violent assault on a woman. Headlines focussing on sexual deviance and depravity merely distract from the terrifying circumstances of the crime: the taboo of necrophilia takes precedence over the incidence of murder and rape. Reportage like this is sadly telling of our media culture's attitudes towards women, when an act of assault is still described as 'having sex', even against the tragic consequences of the victim's death. 

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