Sexual Coercion In A Relationship
- The Details Explained

Before examining sexual coercion in a relationship, let's be clear about what coercion is.

Coercion is compelling another to act in a particular way. There are various forces applied to the victims, often outside their awareness, which violate their free will and get them to act against their own best interests. There may be threats, physical force and also psychologically abusive techniques used to coerce another.

Coercive control in a relationship indicates a power imbalance in the relationship. The controller dominates and manipulates the other. It is never a relationship of equals. Nor is is a healthy relationship.

The coercion occurs over some period of time, in other words, the sexual coercion occurs on many occasions. It is not a one off event. Why is this so? Why does the victim not just run after the first episode? Because the manipulator has very tight control over all aspects of the victim's life. When the sexual coercion begins, typically the manipulator has control over the victim's thinking, ideas, beliefs, emotions, perceptions and behaviors. When the relationship moves into the sexual phase, the overall control of the victim is only enhanced.

So let's look at what happens that allows sexual coercion to occur and who does it and why. But first some examples...


Sexual coercion in a relationship - examples

Sexual coercion includes any behavior that the victim would not normally do as well as anything that they do not want to do at a particular time, even if it's normal for the individual to engage in that behavior.

For example, being forced to have sexual relations with one's spouse or boy/girlfriend when one does not want to, when one is sick or injured and in general not being allowed to say 'no' should be considered sexual coercion.

Having to dress up or role play, including domination-submission situations is another area where people are often sexually coerced.

Having to engage in sexual positions and sexual activities that one does not like fits into this category.

And having to engage in sexual activities with others outside the relationship when the individual would not normally do this or actively does not want to do it, is also abusive, including same sex relationships.

Forced celibacy, forced pregnancies and forced abortions are also considered forms of sexual coercion. In fact, any control over the sex life of another person, that goes against their will, is a form of sexual coercion.

However, many people engage in sexual activities thinking at the time that they want to be involved, and only realize later that they were coerced into it. So how does this happen? And more importantly, how can you stop it?

It's not enough to know what behaviors constitute sexual coercion in a relationship. In order to be able to say no, you have to understand the dynamics of coercive control so that, firstly, you recognize it, and secondly, you are not affected by it. On to the relationship dynamics...


Sexual coercion in a relationship - the control

I will talk about an intimate relationship here but you can apply it to other situations where there is sexual coercion, for example, cults, trafficking etc.

Very briefly, the manipulator presents themselves as the perfect partner. They are friendly, helpful, charming, attentive and loving. They offer the target exactly what the target is looking for, a caring relationship. The target is enamored with this new person in their lives. They feel that everything is great and it makes sense to take the next steps in the relationship. They commit in some way.

Then the manipulator's behavior begins to change. They want more. They expect the target to say and do different things. They expect the target to stop doing and saying certain things. The target wants the nice times to continue and, as in any relationship, compromises are made. Therefore it seems to make sense to go along with the manipulator.

The difficulty, though, is that the manipulator is using influence techniques that the now victim is not aware of. There are punishments and rewards, the manipulator lies, deceives and tricks the victim, all the while the victim not suspecting anything, thinking that the manipulator actually has their best interests at heart.

The manipulator, step by step, changes the victim's perceptions, thoughts, decision making and behaviors. This amounts to a personality change in the victim. This false personality, or pseudopersonality, is typical in abusive relationships. The manipulator changes the victim to be the kind of person they want to have around, submissive, obedient, compliant.

In a cult, the cult personality is obvious, it adores the leader, it believes in and trusts the leader. It does what the leader wants. It gives up it's own dreams and aspirations and assumes those of the group. The very same thing happens in abusive relationships. The victim is forced to switch to having the spouse as the center of their universe. Their life becomes all about making sure the spouse is comfortable. The victim makes decisions in terms of what will be pleasing, or not, to the spouse. This is why friends and family say that they hardly recognize their loved one any longer. The victim reports that they lost themselves in the relationship.

In effect, the manipulator is controlling every aspect of the victim's life. Every moment of the victim's day is taken up with making sure the manipulator is ok. The manipulator uses fear and guilt to control the victim's thinking and behavior.

The sexual sphere is simply one more area of the victim's life that the manipulator takes control over.

The pseudopersonality is also programmed to be dependent on the manipulator. I know that sounds twisted, but this is what happen in abusive relationships. This dependency means that running away is not an option for the victim. Oftentimes, the victim is terrified of not being with the abuser. This is why, for example, battered wives go back multiple times to the physically abusive husband. It feels very unpleasant not to be with the abuser and the only way to relieve the tension and anxiety is to return.

This dependency explains why people stay for years and tolerate so much abuse and sexual coercion in relationships. It's very difficult for someone who has not experiences this to wrap their heads around why people stay in abusive situations, but if you have experienced it, you know what I am talking about.

This pseudopersonality idea is a very useful model to help understand the dynamics in abusive relationships and you can read more about the details in these articles about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands.


Sexual coercion in a relationship - who?

So what kind of person does this? Who sexually exploits others on a regular basis for their own gratification, ignoring any harm of injury to the other person, even if it is their own spouse or family member?

The majority of these people are psychopaths, sociopaths or narcissists.

Why is this important? Because if you try and manage the situation as if you were dealing with a rational, feeling human being, you will not get anywhere.

The important thing about these people is that they do not have emotions, or at best, they have very shallow emotions. They do not feel remorse, guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear, love etc. What does this mean? It means that they can do anything, and not feel bad about it. Let that sink in for a moment. They can do anything, no matter how harmful or damaging to others, and it is not the least bit upsetting to them. They can lie, swindle, cheat, steal, physically injure and generally destroy other people's lives and they do not care what damage they do to others.

This is very important to understand completely.

If you are dealing with someone with a personality disorder such as this, you need to be aware of it. They play by different rules. That's why it's called antisocial personality disorder. They do not conform to cultural norms or legal rules. They basically do whatever they feel like in the moment. Whatever gives them instant gratification is considered fair game for them. The idea that 'the end justifies the means' is a commonly accepted notion here. They want what they want and whatever they need to do to get it is never a problem for them. If they have to destroy someone to get where they are going, then so be it!

They do not play by the rules so if you are dealing with them, you have to play by different rules, too. I am not suggesting that you break the law! But you have to keep certain things in mind at all times.

Their relationships are based on coercion and exploitation.

They are practiced liars.

They are not going to change, no matter what they promise you.

It's impossible to negotiate with them. They say one thing and do another.

Being nice to them in the hope that they return the favor does not work. They consider your being nice as a sign of weakness and they take advantage of it without returning the favor.

You are not special to them. They treat everybody as objects to be used to get what they want.

They consider themselves as special, different, and expect to be treated as such.

They will not take responsibility for their wrong doings. You will be blamed!

They are constantly looking for an angle to get one over on others, and they are not going to lose.

They may do things that are detrimental to themselves but these things give them a sense of controlling you.

This last one is interesting. For example, they may spend a lot of money in court proceedings so you get less money, rather than both of you having more money each. They will sell property below it's value if it means that you get less. Or they will want the kids to stay with them more often even though previously they had little or no interest in them. They know this will upset you but they put themselves out in order to punish you.

Because of the nature of these individuals, it's very important to know if you are dealing with one of them. However, it can be very hard initially to decide if your partner is a psychopath or a narcissist, because the pseudopersonality mentioned above is also programmed to protect the manipulator and to be loyal to them. This 'benevolent filter' is trained only to see the good in the manipulator and to ignore the bad. Therefore it is often useful to talk to people outside the relationship if you have doubts. They may be able to see things that you cannot. You may feel that you are betraying your partner by talking to outsiders about what is actually going on in the relationship, or that you are doing something bad that you may be punished for, but let that be more evidence for you that there is something wrong in the relationship, that you may indeed be in a situation where you are being coerced.


Sexual coercion in a relationship - what to do

You need to understand what exactly is being done to you. Education is fundamental. In this case, knowledge certainly is power.

You need help and support from those who genuinely care about you.

You have to leave the relationship as soon as possible.

Professional help is invaluable in situations like this.


Sexual coercion in a relationship - more reading

You can read more here about what coercive control is, signs of verbal abuse, what a controlling relationship is all about, sex and mind control, leaving an emotionally abusive relationship and recovery from an abusive relationship.

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