What is sexual coercion and how do I know if I have experienced it?

“If you really love me, you would” is one of those phrases that we have romanticized, but that can be part of a situation of violence, since it is one of the many ways in which violence is manifested. sexual coercion.

Have you ever felt that you are under pressure to have sex?, have you felt that you cannot refuse?, or have they made you feel bad for not agreeing? For these situations are also practices of this act of violence.

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What is sexual coercion?

But let’s go by steps, that the line is very thin between this and other forms of abuse.

For psychologist Paulina Ramírez, this term refers to “any kind of pressure, either physical or emotional, exercised by one person over another to impose acts of a sexual nature..

In addition, it explains that this imposition It can happen in any kind of relationship. regardless of whether it is romantic, affective or erotic, or it can even be presented with someone you just met, with a consolidated courtship or in marriage relationships.

Mónica Bustamante, psychologist and therapist from SORECE (Association of Female Psychologists), explains to Animal MX that when this relationship exists there is a level of trust between the two people, but that also makes it easier for this relationship to develop. power exercise.

How you can identify sexual coercion

At the beginning we mentioned some situations in which this type of violence occurs, and as you can tell they can sound like everyday situations.

Both experts agree that it is very difficult to identify sexual coercion because It is a subtle and gradual practice. “It’s not something that happens in a minute”mentions Monica Bustamante.

However, there are several attitudes that correspond to sexual coercion such as manipulation, blackmail, threats, imposition and pressure which can also be in the form of insistence.

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We could give a lot of examples of these acts, such as when someone says “If we don’t have relationships after a month of dating, I won’t be with you anymore.”

Or also expect that just because they have been a couple for years, they will always want to have sex with the other person. There are also the threats of seeking to “meet needs” with other people or feeling obligated to have relationships as a way to “thank” something your partner did for you.

But both psychologists return to the base to identify any type of violence: The consent. In a context of sexual coercion there is no free consent nor is there a desire to have intercourse.

To take into account: Mónica Bustamante explains that in any act of sexual violence: “even though there is pressure to carry out the act, the body can feel a certain level of pleasure“.

These responses of our body can make us doubt whether what we are experiencing is violence and we can feel upset. In fact, people who exercise violence “justify” the act by saying that “you also enjoyed it” and that is why “it was good”.

But here we insist on what the specialist says: the body can respond to signs of excitement and there can still be violence. She recommends remembering that if “in the moment prior to the act I did not decide freely (without pressure, blackmail, etc.), there was probably coercion.”

Look: Why consent is sexy when it comes to flirting

Another type of coercion: reproductive

Mónica Bustamante also clarifies that sexual coercion can be related to other types of pressure, such as coercion or reproductive control.

This consists of exerting pressure to have a pregnancy. The specialist points out that within these practices we can find emotional manipulation or blackmail to have sex without a condom or remove it at the time of ejaculation.

However, you can also live from the control of the fertile days and pressure them to have intercourse on those days. And yes, there are also the opposite cases where you are forced to perform an abortion against your will.

So is sexual coercion a type of sexual violence?

Both Paulina Ramírez and Mónica Bustamante tell us that sexual coercion yes it is a type of violence; above all because of its character of a power relationship.

Mónica Bustamante specifies that there is a fine line between coercion and sexual assault and that it can break at any time. From his perspective, the assault already involves some degree of physical force and/or threats of violence.

And although we could say that sexual coercion remains at the level of attitudes or comments, that does not mean that it is not a violent act.

It is also important to return to the topic of free consentsince Paulina Ramírez mentions that to share intimacy and sexuality with any person, this must always exist.

The expert also explains to Animal MX that the ideal would be to define consent as a “consensus that defines what our expectation is, what our desire is, and what our practices are at the time of having these meetings.”

If this agreement is broken or not respected, then we could say that there is no consent and that it is falling into an act of violence.

It is also important to remember that consent can always be reversed. You may have already agreed to have a sexual encounter, but if for any reason you changed your reason, you are fully entitled to say no.

Paulina Ramírez also highlights that “when a person does not have their regular cognitive abilities or when a person is in an inconvenient state (be it due to some illness or the use of some substance) this consent is invalid“.

And we repeat: anyone can be a victim of sexual coercionbecause like any type of sexual violence, it can occur in the family, school, work, friendship, etc. context.

Please read: The culture of silence: why minimizing sexual violence against women makes us complicit

What to do if I am a victim of sexual coercion?

To understand if you are experiencing sexual coercion in your relationship, the first thing is to understand what it is and what kind of behavior it entails. We hope that by now we can have solved those doubts.

Second, Mónica Bustamante points out that don’t be afraid to say “no” for thinking that this response could hurt or annoy the other person. We insist that consent is basic in any interaction.

“If I perceive that my integrity is not at risk, I can respond directly that there is no desire, that a message or an invitation has not been sent for this to happen,” adds the specialist.

Paulina Ramírez also points out that the other person can react violently to “no” and is aware that it is very difficult to act in the face of such conduct.

And as we mentioned above, the line between coercion and sexual violence is very thin, and in these cases it can be broken. So, always ask for help, try not to hide the situation and make what is happening visible.

Likewise, both agree on the importance of having a support network, since the emotional impact of any situation of violence is very great.

It is advisable to approach our family or friends to talk about what happened, but also look for specialists. In this way we will find a space to expose what we live, what we feel, our doubts, see what we can do to take care of ourselves and remind ourselves that This situation is NOT our fault.

Let’s stop normalizing this kind of violence

Sexual coercion occurs in a relationship context (of any kind) and that is why we can confuse it with interest or even a way of flirting. Likewise, it must be repeated that it is a subtle practice.

“(It is normalized) because we don’t see a coup, because we don’t see an uncontrolled act of violence; then we convince ourselves that everything is fine”, explains Mónica Bustamante.

Likewise, Paulina Ramírez recommends that we stop romanticizing this type of flirt where we perceive ourselves as an object of conquest that should be desired and where the man has a position of power.

You have to break that stereotype in all kinds of relationships and identify all signs, characteristics and attitudes of the other person that we don’t like.

“These actions could make me feel uncomfortable, annoyed, restless or even anxious, because there is already something that is telling me that I don’t feel safe in this relationship and so I have to pay attention to it,” emphasizes Paulina.

Before you go: Talking about pleasure is preventing sexual abuse: why?

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What is sexual coercion and how do I know if I have experienced it?