Sexual Coercion – Unspoken Non-Consent
Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens when one feels pressured, threatened, tricked, or forced to be sexual with someone in a non-physical way. This can take many forms. It can also be with the use of alcohol or drugs to force someone to have sexual contact against their will, or even persistent attempts with someone who has already refused. It can be a figure of authority, such as a teacher, landlord, police officer, or boss, however, anyone can commit sexual coercion, including friends, dates, partners family members, and strangers.
Obtaining consent isn’t always black and white. It is not a matter of obtaining a “yes” and taking that as a green light to proceed with a sexual encounter. It is a matter of pleasure and eagerness from all parties involved in the experience. For instance, being worn down into saying yes by someone who repeatedly asks for sex is sexual coercion. Being threatened to have your relationship end or your reputation sullied if you refuse sex, is sexual coercion. Making promises to reward one for sex is sexual coercion. Making it feel like it’s too late to say no is sexual coercion.
Examples of sexual coercion (from https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/other-types/sexual-coercion):
If you really loved me, you’d do it.
Come on, are you really going to give me blue balls?
You can’t just make me stop now.
It’s my birthday, we gotta.
Why do you have to ruin the mood?
I’ll make it worth your while.
I’ll break up with you if you don’t have sex with me.
You know, I have a lot of connections in high places.
Don’t worry about the rent, there are other things you can do.
If you don’t, I’ll tell your family you’re gay.
In any healthy sexual experience, consent is necessary and must be enthusiastic. This includes sex, mutual masturbation, oral sex, anal, sex, sexting, or any other intimate contact. Consent isn’t only verbal. It is also shown through actions too. Lack of consent is sexual violence and assault.
How to respond to sexual coercion: It’s important to be clear, firm, and direct with the person trying to coerce you. If this fails, leaving the situation. However, it’s not always that easy. In such situations, it is never the victim’s fault.
How do I know it’s consensual sex? Consent is complex, but also easily learned. During any sexual encounter, it is imperative that everyone involved is of age, capable of making their own decisions, awake, and willing to engage actively in each activity. It is important to ask consent for each activity. Consent is not a blanket statement and can be revoked at any times. Silence and nods are not enough to establish consent. It is not consent if a partner is unconscious, impaired by alcohol or drugs, sexually coerced, or even if they seem unsure about the interaction.
Key things to remember re: consent:
Consent is NOT a given.
Consent is NOT a free pass.
It’s NOT consent if you’re afraid to say no.
Consent can be revoked at ANY time.
Consent is continual.
How can sexual violence be prevented? Education is key. Constant reinforcement about the importance and principles of consent, as well as how to practice it with partners is key to safe sexual practices. Respect of one’s boundaries, gender identity, and sexual orientation is also a key factor in preventing sexual violence. Before any sexual experience, it is important to discuss consent, boundaries, and sexual health to ensure a positive, safe, healthy, and fun experience.
Consent is sexy. Love is respect.