When people think "coercion" when it comes to a sexual relationship, they often describe it as nothing more than veiled threats and statements like, "If you love me, you'll have sex with me." When I was a young teenager, nobody focused on it that much, except to tell young girls to keep their virginity until the "right man" was around, and that they were "weak" if they gave in to the pressure.
However, the reality is that sexual coercion is far more insidious and far more complex than you're told in sex-ed. Sexual coercion is more subtle form of emotional abuse, where a partner will use manipulation tactics to try and convince someone to have sex with them. The best to truly explain this is with personal experience.
A little over a year ago, I was sexually coerced in a short relationship that was manipulative and emotionally abusive. What had started as a simple request for sex turned into constant manipulation and an insidious attempt to get into my head so I would consent to sex. The worst thing about it? For most of the relationship, I didn't think anything was abnormal. After all, guys just naturally want sex, right? It took months for me to realize something was wrong, and it wasn't until long after we broke up that I fully realized how unhealthy my relationship was. So, here we are. I can't stop my ex from repeating, and this post isn't meant to go after him at all. However, I hope that by telling my story I can make others aware of what sexual coercion is like, and show you what to look out for. Here are the things that indicated that I was being coerced.
A constant nagging for sex and a lack of respect for the word "no."
The very first day of my relationship, my ex asked to have sex with me. This, in and of itself, isn't abnormal or unhealthy. I said no because I wasn't ready to have sex for awhile, and I wasn't sure when I'd be ready. This was respected...until the next day. Throughout the next few months, my ex would ask me to have sex with him every single time we hung out (which was a lot), and it got really annoying having to say "no" every time. There were even a few times I considered saying "yes" to shut him up, which you should never have to do in a relationship.
Subtle, and often insidious, manipulation.
When trying to convince me to have sex, my ex would bring up one of his past girlfriends, who he says he had sex with the first date. The insinuation was that I should do things like her, be like her to satisfy him sexually. I never really cared at first because I'm not her and I'm not a fan of changing to be like others. But then I started getting upset. Why be with me if you want a version of me that I'm not? The goal was that I be sexually appealing and have sex with him when he wants. He even brought up his mom about a month into our relationship, saying that she was surprised that we hadn't had sex yet.
Soon, the manipulation became insidious and emotionally abusive. He would start doing things that he knew would turn me on, just to turn around and tell me "that's what it's like for me." Over winter break, he told me that I was incapable of pleasing him and that I needed to learn how to be more sexually appealing. He wanted sex, and he would say whatever he needed to get it.
Victim complex and denial.
Eventually, I stood up to my ex. When I found out that my relationship was unhealthy I slowly started telling him to stop trying to manipulate me, to which he'd always respond with; "But I don't mean to!" His excuses would be that men want to have sex, that I was making things hard on him. A few days after I put my foot down, he broke up with me. The more I learned about the true nature of my relationship, the more he learned to deny it. He ended up telling my best friend that it was my fault that I was coerced, and he even went to joke about it at a stand-up event. He never thought that he was at fault, and I'm not sure he ever will.
The point of this story wasn't to trash my ex, or to make him "face responsibility." It's my hope that this hasn't happened to you, and that it never will. My advice for young people starting a relationship is to just look for warning signs and stand up for yourself if you're not happy. In a healthy relationship, your partner will listen to you and make sure that your sexual agency is just as important as theirs is. If this has happened to you, know that it's not your fault and that it is emotional abuse.
Everybody deserves to be happy in their relationship. Mental stability and communication is the first step.