If you've ever found yourself engaging in sexual activities despite lacking genuine desire, you might have experienced sexual coercion. Sexual coercion involves exerting pressure or influence on someone to agree to engage in sexual acts. Some individuals intentionally employ manipulative pick-up artist tactics to coerce others, while others may do so unknowingly, assuming the other person is comfortable when they are not.
Regardless of the intentions, the repercussions of sexual coercion are consistently the same: consent is not freely given.
To ensure your safety, familiarize yourself with these indicators of sexual coercion. Remember always that the extent of physical intimacy you choose to pursue is entirely within your control, whether you're with your partner, crush, casual fling, or someone you just met.
A manifestation of sexual coercion involves relentless persistence, where an individual repeatedly asks for sex despite your previous refusals. Regardless of whether you've politely declined or outright rejected their advances, they should respect your boundaries and desist from further pursuit.
- Continuously cajoling you, saying things like: "Come on, it'll be fun... Oh, come ON!"
- Ignoring your objections when they touch your body, persisting even after you've moved their hand away.
- Repeatedly inquiring if you'd be willing to have sex without a condom.
- Those subjected to such pressure might eventually yield just to end the coercion itself. However, this does not equate to freely given consent.
Romantic encounters depicted in movies often depict rapid progressions from kissing to sex. However, in real life, it is uncommon for two strangers to be so in sync that they don't need to communicate and check in with each other. In fact, it constitutes coercion if someone you don't know well suddenly initiates unwarranted physical contact or starts undressing you without seeking your consent. These actions can place you in a situation for which you are unprepared.
- Springing explicit content on you without prior warning.
- Invading your personal space abruptly.
- Introducing another person into your intimate space without seeking your permission.
- Putting on a condom without asking if you are willing to engage in sexual activity, thus assuming you will comply.
- Sudden moves also involve positioning your body in a way that prevents you from giving consent - such as turning you around to obscure your genital area and then proceeding to touch you in a manner you wouldn't have agreed to had you been aware of it.
Have you ever experienced being deceived into engaging in sexual activity? Or perhaps you felt that yielding to sex was easier than risking displeasing the other person? It's essential to recognize that this is not your fault. Manipulators intentionally create power imbalances and take advantage of people's inclination to please others.
When someone complains or emotionally pressures you after you establish a sexual boundary, it can be a tactic to guilt you into consenting to sex.
- "If you truly loved me, you'd do it."
- "It's been so long since I've been with someone. Don't you care?"
- "What, do you find me unattractive?"
Shaming or Punishing
- They may insult your sexual performance to manipulate you into repeating the act or engaging in a different sexual activity.
- Withholding affection to coerce you into dropping a boundary.
- Threatening to break a promise unless you have sex.
Pressuring Your Sense of Obligation
It's coercion if someone attempts to persuade you that you should have sex with them or that you owe it to them.
- "You're my PARTNER. Partners are supposed to satisfy each other sexually."
- "You're leading me on. I'll be left in pain if you don't give in."
- "We've done it before. Why are you making it an issue now?"
- "Doesn't everything I've done for you mean anything to you?"
Normalizing Their Desires
No one should manipulate or make you feel abnormal for wanting something different than they do. If someone gaslights you, dismissing your feelings as wrong, it may be a form of coercion.
- "I know you better than you know yourself. Deep down, you want."
- "We're both sexual beings. It's only natural to indulge in such acts."
- "Most people engage in sex after spending as much time together as we have."
This form of sexual coercion involves showering you with excessive compliments and making grand promises to entice you into engaging in sexual activity.
- "I know we just met, but I feel an intense love for you. I must make love to you right away."
- "You're the most attractive person I've ever encountered. If we were intimate, I'd shower you with gifts constantly."
Influencing Substance Use
Alcohol or drugs can lower your inhibitions. Be attentive if you hear remarks like:
- "Come on, have another drink."
- "I like someone who can keep up with me when I'm partying."
Alteration of Surroundings
This manipulative strategy involves unexpectedly relocating you from a familiar and safe environment with easy exit access to a more secluded place. Changing the environment can serve as the initial step towards physically coercing you into sexual activity, as it positions your body in a way that makes resistance more challenging.
- In the scenario where you are the passenger and the other person is driving: "I've got a better idea! Let's skip the bar and head to my place for drinks."
- While spending time at a lively bar: "This place is too noisy. Why don't we find a more serene spot?" They might then take your hand and guide you towards the exit and their car.
- During your date at their living room: "My couch doesn't seem cozy enough. How about we watch the rest of the movie in bed?" They proceed directly to the bedroom without seeking your input.
Perpetrators who succeed in isolating you in a private location might escalate their coercive tactics to involve you in more manipulative sexual situations.
When you find yourself too apprehensive to voice your refusal, it often means that there's a direct or indirect coercive tactic at play. You might experience an unexplained fear of potential consequences from rejecting the other person's advances, or they might resort to using phrases such as:
- "If you refuse, I'll easily find someone else who will comply."
- "It's alright if you're not willing to do it. However, just be aware that it might lead to our breakup."
- "If you don't comply, I might feel compelled to disclose private information and intimate photos of you."
After Coercion: Be Kind to Yourself
At Planned Parenthood, we advocate for the "enthusiastic yes" principle, where consent is granted wholeheartedly and can be withdrawn at any moment. If you genuinely feel enthusiastic about engaging in sexual activity, that's wonderful! Embrace the moment and trust your instincts. However, if at any point you feel uncomfortable, don't hesitate to speak up and take things slow.
In case you find yourself in a situation where you said "yes" when you truly didn't want to, remember that it is not your fault. Seek support from a trusted friend or counselor to process your emotions. You can also reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline through chat for assistance. If you feel secure and supported, consider having a conversation with the other person if you believe they were unaware of the pressure they exerted on you.