Have you ever allowed sexual encounters that you didn’t really want?

Believe it or not, this happens all the time, both with new partners and long-term relationships.

Just because you allowed a partner to take advantage of you once doesn’t mean that you need to allow unwanted advances to continue, though. It’s time that you learn how to recognise sexual coercion and arm yourself with effective strategies to shut down those uncomfortable sexual situations.

First and foremost, what is sexual coercion?

According to Ph.D. John Jay Elizabeth L. Jeglic, sexual coercion is when a person insists on sex even after their partner has already declined. This manipulation isn’t always violent, though. In fact, it can appear very subtle and include emotional pleas, pressure, lies, and threats. Often, the manipulator uses guilt trips or gaslighting to pressure the victim into submission.

Although sexual coercion commonly occurs in our society, most victims doubt their interpretation of events and don’t seek social support. Because coercion often presents itself as emotional abuse, most victims feel disorientated and conflicted after the unwanted sexual encounter ends. What’s more, our society’s growing rape culture and victim-shaming only adds to a sexual abuse survivor’s doubts.

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If you feel insecure about how and why you decided to participate in a sexual act, then your partner may have used coercion to get their way

How do I know whether my partner forced me into sex?

If you feel insecure about how and why you decided to participate in a sexual act, then your partner may have used coercion to get their way. You likely felt obligated to accept your partner’s advances and satisfy their needs.

In fact, you may have even agreed to sex just to avoid additional conflict, even if sex hurts you or causes you emotional turmoil. You possibly even felt as if you had no choice but to have sex. Furthermore, you may feel embarrassed or physically ill after sex. These thoughts and feelings are extremely common among survivors of sexual coercion.

How can I avoid becoming a victim of sexual coercion?

To gain control over your sexual behaviour, it’s important to explore your feelings surrounding sex.

First, try to understand what makes you feel comfortable and safe with a sexual partner. Then, think about how you feel both physically and emotionally when you’re absolutely ready to have sex. When you take the time to recognise your feelings, you’ll learn to notice when your partner breaks your boundaries in future sexual encounters. Finally, if you ever feel confused or uncomfortable in a sexual situation, don’t be afraid to stop, take a break, and sort out your motives. Trust your intuition, and remember that you can withdraw consent at any time.

For both partners in a relationship, recognising the other partner’s verbal and physical signals is extremely important. Furthermore, it’s important to respect each other, even when one partner isn’t in the mood. When you recognise these common signs of sexual coercion, you can make the bedroom a safe space for both you and your partner.

This article was first published on Unwritten.