What is Sexual Coercion?
Sexual coercion is when a person is tricked, manipulated, or pressurized into having sex. It makes a person think that he owes sex to someone and mostly it is someone at a higher power line a teacher, a landlord, or a boss.
It is a type of sexual assault even if a person says yes.
Sexual coercion is an unwanted sexual activity that happens when a person is pressurized in nonphysical ways that include, is being tricked into having sex, is threatened to end the relationship or spreading rumors on denying sexual engagement, or pressured to have sex from a senior or a person at authority.(1)
Sexual coercion is mostly seen occurring in an existing relationship particularly if there is an imbalance. Even if no physical force is applied, it is still damaging.
How Does Sexual Coercion Differ from Non-Coercive Sex?
In non-coercive sex, there is affirmative consent. There is explicit consent given by both sexual partners for the sexual activities without any external pleasure. They are also aware that the consent can be withdrawn at any time with no negative consequence.
In consensual sex there are:
- Mutual respect
- Equal power dynamic
- Freedom of decision
- Physical and emotional safety
- No expectation of sex
Also, involuntary physical responses such as erection or vaginal lubrication may not necessarily mean consent. True consent is not possible under pressure.
Examples of Ways of Sexual Coercion
A person is said to be sexually coerced by someone in the following ways.
Constant asking someone for sex despite them saying no many times is a coercive behavior, especially if giving in means wearing someone down.(1)
Sometimes a person may try to make a person feel guilty by saying no to sex. This means emphasizing on how long it has been since they last had sex, making a person feel that they owe them sex, making it an obligation.
A person may coax someone to have sex with them by using misinformation about them. Myths about consent may be used to convince someone as to they have no right to say no or make them believe they have no right to say no.
Threat to the Relationship
Sometimes a person may threaten to leave a person if they say no to sex. Also, they may play on the partner’s insecurities and say they as to be boring or unattractive, and saying no to sex may make them unfaithful.
Some people may use power to such as a job or status to coerce someone. They may threaten to make someone lose their job or position if they say no to sex.
One may force someone to use drugs or take alcohol to get more complaints and make it easy to coerce sex.
Who is at Risk of Sexual Coercion?
Sexual coercion is less researched but is observed to be common.
A study done in 2018 on Spanish adolescents found, even though both males and females are found to be victims of coercion, males are found to engage in coercive behavior.(2) There are certain attitudes that put a person at a higher risk of coercive behavior, which include:
- Desire for power and control
- Believing that sexually coercive behavior is normal
- Promotes the concept that men should have dominance over women
- Another study done in 2018 noted a link between sexual coercion and sexism, especially in heterosexual relationships.(3)
Is Sexual Coercion Illegal
Sexual coercion is a type of abuse, but its legal status varies in countries.
In the United States coercive sex may be sexual assault under the following conditions:(4)
- A person is finding the act offensive
- Sex is initiated for the purpose of abusing, harassing, degrading, or humiliating
- Knowing the person is unaware sex is taking place
- Impairing an individual’s judgment by giving a substance
- Someone in a position of authority makes the other person have sex with him
Recovering from sexual coercion may begin with the realization of the fact that previous sexual experiences were not healthy and involved elements of coercion. Anyone who has experienced something they believe is sexual abuse should seek help. Any type of abuse can escalate and over time be fatal. It is therefore important to stay safe and seek help.