Sexual Coercion: What It Is and How To Detect It

Consent is a conversation that more people seem to be having today than ever before. Thanks to the power of social media, individuals are expanding this discussion in all forms of a relationship whether it’s business, friendships, or intimacy. That conversation also raises an important question:  What does sexual coercion look like? We hear that phrase get tossed around and some people do not know what coercion means itself. 

According to womenshealth.gov sexual coercion  is defined as “unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way.” Coercion can make you think you owe sex to someone, and it can happen with a serious, committed partner or a casual fling. A few examples of what sexual coercion can look like: 

  • Being asked for sex repeatedly
  • Being pressured to get intoxicated more than one’s limits so they’re more than likely to say yes to sex.
  • A person of authority such as a boss, landlord, supervisor, etc. threatening you to do an inappropriate act
  • Threatening to end the relationship if one doesn’t comply to having sex

Here are some examples of what those scenarios can sound like:

  • “But I paid for your dinner! You owe me.”
  • “But I want you inside of me. You don’t think I’m pretty enough, do you?”
  • “Don’t give me blue balls.”
  • “If you don’t do it, I’ll find someone else who will”
  • “You can’t just make someone stop.”

Albeit that coercion can happen at any age but I personally have seen patterns of sexual coercion happening  among teens and young adults on social media. Screenshots of creepy and forceful DMs which paraphrased some examples I mentioned earlier and some verbatim, seeing people express their stories on social media, and more during my college tenure really opened my eyes on this topic. I did a bit of research myself on this topic and found a few stats. 

In 2013, Rewire news reported on a study from the CDC found that one in ten teens and young adults from ages 14 to 21 had coerced another person to some form of sexual activity. A  2018 from PubMed Central that focused on the prevalence of sexual coercion on college campuses, found that, “fifty-eight percent reported unwanted sexual contact by coercion an average of 2.3 times, 55 percent reported attempted rape by coercion, and 46 percent reported completed rape by coercion.”

What led me to writing this article and presenting some research on this matter was that I was coerced myself.

At first, I had no clue that I was even coerced. I thought that experience was a casual fling as a single person –  I didn’t realize I was coerced until weeks later when I found an informative Instagram post that gave me more clarity on this situation. My coercion happened after I was given much more alcohol than I was accustomed to and was then guilt–tripped by claims of the woman saying I did not find her attractive. The day after the incident,I felt odd spiritually. Any other time I had sex, the day after I felt normal or ecstatic. However, I felt defeated and empty. Later, I realized that my odd feelings were tied to the fact that I had experienced sexual coercion, which led me to write this article.  

It’s important to understand that you can come to the realization you were coerced at any time, there is not a time limit on understanding and voicing your experience. It can be a day, weeks, months even years after the fact. Later, I realized that my odd feelings were tied to the fact that I had experienced sexual coercion.  Another thing about how to handle sexual coercion is that pressing charges is always optional. It’s not required, and reporting is also optional. 

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is a great source to call when you might not know what to do next in handling a situation like this. They will get you to a crisis manager within your region and will walk you through what’s the best plan for this situation 1-800-656-4673. During a time where I was unsure of what to do and wondering if I should press charges or not, this was a great source that gave me reassurance on how to handle the situation. I highly recommend them.

Please remember that No means No.

If a person isn’t comfortable with an action, respect that decision.

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