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8 April 2022 | Podcasts | Article by Alan Collins

Interview with Professor Michael Salter: HJ Talks About Abuse

Interview with Professor Michael Salter: HJ Talks About Abuse Interview with Professor Michael Salter: HJ Talks About Abuse Interview with Professor Michael Salter: HJ Talks About Abuse

In this podcast, Alan discusses with Professor of criminology at the University of New South Wales, Michael Salter, what is something of a taboo subject which is that sometimes sexual pleasure may have been experienced by the victim when being abused.

It might be assumed that victim experiences of sexual violence are characterised by fear and pain, and while this is true for many, but this is more complex than we, perhaps, like to think. Increasingly, sexuality research is recognising that people can desire and have a positive regard toward sexual encounters that they do not consent or agree to, however there is limited scholarship examining victim experiences of pleasure or arousal during sexual violence.

Alan and Michael discuss :

  • How victim arousal or pleasure in the context of non-consensual sexual activity is often conflated with consent by victims, perpetrators and bystanders.
  • Victims whose experiences of sexual violence are complicated by pleasurable physical or emotional dimensions can experience significant shame and self-blame, which inhibits disclosure and help-seeking.
  • Sexuality education and sexual assault prevention strategies should recognise and address the distinctions between arousal, pleasure and consent.

The discussion is based on a research paper prepared by Prof Salter and Hyun Ji Shin which draws on a thematic analysis of 50 posts describing the experience of arousal and/or pleasure during sexual violence drawn from Reddit, the popular online discussion board. The findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between physiological arousal, psychological pleasure and consent, and the significant shame and self-blame of survivors who feel that an aroused or pleasurable response implicates them in their own assault. The paper closes by reflecting on the importance of distinguishing between consent, arousal and pleasure in sexual violence policy and practice, and recognising that arousal and pleasure are features of non-consensual as well as consensual encounters.

Only by discussing such a difficult and sensitive subject might we be able to fully understand what consent means, and how damaging misconceptions and ignorance of the issue can be.

  1. Shin, H. and Salter, M. (2022) Betrayed by my body: survivor experiences of sexual arousal and psychological pleasure during sexual violence, Journal of Gender-Based Violence, vol XX, no XX, 1–15, DOI: 10.1332/239868021X16430290699192

If you have concerns related to the topics discussed, or you just want more information, contact the abuse team today

Author bio

Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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