If You Don’t Want To, You Don’t Have To: Info About Sexual Coercion

If You Don’t Want To, You Don’t Have To: Info About Sexual Coercion

In life, we often have to do things we don’t want to do. Homework, attending your sister’s interpretive dance recital, cleaning, mowing the grass, listening to your tone-deaf friend sing karaoke, the list goes on. One aspect of your life that you will always have complete control over, however, is how far you want to take it with your romantic partner. We’re talking your significant others, your crushes and even someone you might just be hooking up with. When it comes to anything in that arena, you absolutely have a voice and do not have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Today we’re talking about sexual coercion. By definition, sexual coercion is “the act of using pressure, alcohol or drugs, or force to have sexual contact with someone against his or her will; … tactics of postrefusal sexual persistence [used are] defined as persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has already refused”*

If the definition isn’t ringing any bells, think back to last week’s MTV Real World where we saw dating abuse. Nany wasn’t the only girl wronged in that episode. Not only did we see physical violence perpetrated against Nany, emotional and verbal abuse perpetrated against Jordan, Adam’s girlfriend back home, we also saw sexual coercion in the scene with Adam and Tina.

Here’s the clip to remind you:

You see Adam repeatedly pressuring Tina. From all of the little “Come on”s and “I just want a kiss” to him actually feeling her up (you see her move his hand in the clip), he just keeps trying. He does not accept her choice, which is disrespectful and wrong.

We found a really great resource online that we want you to read. This breaks down the definition of sexual coercion really well. The authors Kelsey McCoy and James Oelschlager remind you that:

Pressure comes in various forms: emotional, physical and verbal. If your partner uses any of the following to get you to become physical, he or she could be pressuring you:
• Lying
• Blackmailing
• Guilting
• Threating
• Holding you down
• Yelling
• Badgering
• Name-calling

Think of sexual coercion as a spectrum or a range. It can vary from someone verbally egging you on to someone actually forcing you to have contact with them. Rape is the most severe form of sexual coercion. Not all sexual coercion is that extreme. The “sexual contact” in the definition can also include kissing, caressing, petting, etc.

“Postrefusal sexual persistence” is just another way of saying that they continued to try even after the other person said no to their advances.

According to the same document, approximately 70% of college students surveyed reported they have been sexually coerced and 33% of college students surveyed admitted to having used sexually coercive behaviors against their partners. Of the college students who have been sexually coerced, roughly 70% stated they knew their perpetrators, further clarifying the perpetrators were either a boyfriend/girlfriend, a friend or an acquaintance.

This British PSAs that show it:

We want you to know your rights. You should never feel forced into contact with someone. Be clear and direct with your partner if you don’t want to do something. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you don’t want to get physical. Be honest and make sure that you are heard. If the other person is not listening to you, leave the situation. In the words of seemingly every MTV reality show cast-member this year, “You do you.”

Here’s our advocate Lindsey reminding us that we deserve to have our voices heard. She responds to the Adam/Tina situation:

Tell us your thoughts. Do you think sexual coercion is a big issue or do you not think it’s that prevalent?

Comment section

8 replies
  1. *Names Have Been Changed For Safety*

    My boyfriend *John* and I are in the 13th month of our relationship. Just the other day we were talking on the phone and he stated asking me if I would have sex with him. I told him that I wasn’t ready to make that kind of commitment. Then a few days later at school he started like grabbing my butt and he touched my chest in front of his friends. I talked to him after that and he said he did it because he wanted to have sex. I told him that I still don’t want to make that commitment. Now he keeps trying to make out with me in all of our classes and I went to his house to hang out the other day and I sat down on his bed,he took off his shirt and came over and layed me down on his bed and stated touching me. He told me he was sorry when I said I was going to leave and then he did the same thing a few hours later. And he asked me to give him a ______. And the last thing he has done he has been trying to take off my clothes when we are together.

  2. i just wanted to say thank y’all for haveing this website cuz it hase helped me and alot of my friends to get out of the abuse of relationships that we were in and i proply would still be in that kinda relationship if it wasnt for y’all so thank y’all very much.

  3. Guy Code can be a good thing. If they use it for things like, you don’t date your best friends ex, you keep secrets that are personal, you build a trust with another “guy”. It is NOT ok when you are telling personal info about an ex, protecting someone that you know is mentally, emotionally or physically abusive. If a guy is a jerk, and is cheating on his gf…why wouldn’t a reasonable human being be ok? These girls are their sisters, cousins, etc and leaving them open to this abuse is ridiculous if that is what is done.

  4. @Anonymous: What your boyfriend is doing is pressuring you and coercing you to do something you do not want to do or not ready to do. In a healthy relationship there is mutual respect and one person does not pressure the other to do anything they don’t want to do. You have a right to say ‘no’ at ANY point and he should respect your decision. Touching you and then saying he’s sorry but then doing it again is definitely a red flag and I would recommend contacting us through live chat on this site or by phone 1-866-331-9474. We’re 100% confidential. In the meantime, take a look at this from http://www.tnblue.org:

    Both partners are equally free to act.
    The decision to be sexually intimate must be without coercion. Both partners must have the option to choose to be intimate or not. Both partners should be free to change “yes” to “no” at any time. Factors such as body size, previous victimization, threats to “out” someone, and other fears can prevent an individual from freely consenting.

    Both partners clearly communicate their willingness and permission.
    Willingness and permission must be communicated clearly and unambiguously. Just because a person fails to resist sexual advances does not mean that s/he is willing. Consent is not the absence of the word “no.”

    You deserve to feel safe and happy in your relationship. Don’t settle for anything less.

  5. Thanks Izzie for your comment. We hope you keep participating and help us spread the word that you, your friends, and everyone deserve to be loved in a healthy way.

  6. @A. George: Good point. The positive guy code you’re talking about is helpful. We just wish people wouldn’t roll those bad things (the abusive comments, the gossip) into “guy code.” Guy code needs a new definition.

    MTV Real World Cast, we’re looking at you. Redefine it for good!

  7. I do agree that sexual coercion is wrong but, i do not think it should be considered abuse. Normally when two people engaged in sexual activity, the male makes the first move. Its from here on where he will be able to tell weather the female wants to have sex or not. By calling this abuse you are saying that the man should not make any moves on a female. The scene showed in the clip is not a valid example of coercion. Yes he did try more then once to have sex but that is normal. I think that it only becomes abuse when the male is overly aggressive or constantly pressuring the female.

  8. Thanks for writing, Elisha. You bring up a good point and we do want to clarify- initiating isn’t abuse. Expressing what you want isn’t abuse. But sexual coercion is not respecting the other person’s response. In that clip, Tina says multiple times that she doesn’t want to hook up, and Adam not only keeps trying (and even starts feeling her up without her being into it), he kicks her out when she won’t, which is pretty disrespectful. This happened earlier in the night too where he tried to kiss her but she wouldn’t, so we’re counting that as an attempt/shut down too, which makes this bedroom scene a bit more significant.

    Also, we are saying “guy to girl” since that’s what happened in this case, but it does go the other way too. Girls can pressure guys and manipulate them into hooking up. It’s a two-way street.

    Thanks for chiming in!

Comments are closed.

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