Trigger warning: discusses sexual coercion
I thought for a long time about sharing this story. It was written months ago, shopped to another publication, and now I’ve finally decided to bring it here to BGLK. Trauma can have a dramatic effect on your path to mental health, creating a stumbling block. In support of you dealing with your story, I have decided to share mine. This is a story about rape. This is a painful, awkward, potentially embarrassing topic; but I believe it is this shame and discomfort that keeps us immersed in the same harmful patterns.
Living in denial
We deny the parts of our lives we would like to forget. The hidden parts come calling when we least expect it. That said, I never expected a discussion on sexual coercion to show up when I was checking Twitter on my lunch break. That particular day I came across a tweet and my heart stopped for a minute:
“Too many women have been raped without being raped. Any sexual act without consent is rape.”
I was at work and I couldn’t really afford to enter into the conversation but as I read, I saw people try to argue her down I knew I had to. After all, these weren’t men who were giving this beautiful sister a hard way to go. It was women; including a woman who insisted that it was “white girl shit” she was trying to pull and that the better term was “semi entrapment.”
This story was one I knew too well.
It was midnight and I was just dropping off to sleep when I felt a tap on my shoulder. THE tap as my boyfriend tried to come closer and whisper sweet nothings in my ear, but my exhaustion turned them bitter. “Not tonight,” I declared. I had all the standard excuses ready. We’d been fighting and my feelings were still hurt, love wasn’t currently a resident in our home. Little did I know love was about to move out.
“Not tonight? Why not? Why don’t you ever want to have sex with me? You should be glad I’m not out there cheating. I watch porn but that’s not enough, I want you.” My consistent refusals were each met with another battering of this sort, and my attempts to ignore him and go to sleep weren’t working. Sleep deprivation is actually a form of torture; keep someone up long enough and they’ll do just about anything, ANYTHING for you to leave them alone. So I gave in.
I didn’t know that it was going to become a pattern, with this guy waking me up two, three, sometimes four times per night. I never understood why I felt so bad. Sometimes I would cry for an hour in the bathroom, laying on the floor. Dirty, I felt dirty and I hated the smell of him on me and I felt like I could never shower it off and even if I did the danger of smelling good would risk me attracting his attention again when I went back to bed. Why did this hurt so much? Why couldn’t he just leave me alone? How did my laying in my own bed produce nightmares when I was wide awake?
It wasn’t until I started feeling suicidal that I started looking for the answer. The word for what I was experiencing was sexual coercion.
What is Sexual Coercion?
Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do, like being sexual or performing certain sexual acts. Examples of some coercive statements include: “If you love me you would have sex with me”, “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will”, and “I’m not sure I can be with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.” Coercive statements are often part of many campus acquaintance rapes. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to have sex and is considered rape/sexual assault.
Clark University in an article titled, “A Definition of Rape, Sexual Assault and Related Terms” gives the following definition:
Rape / Sexual Assault
Although the legal definition of rape varies from state to state, rape is generally defined as forced or non-consensual sexual contact.
Rape and/or sexual assault is forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual contact by a stranger, friend or acquaintance. It is an act of aggression and power combined with some form of sex. A person is forced into sexual contact through verbal coercion, threats, physical restraint, and/or physical violence. Consent is not given.
Rape and sexual assault are about power and dominance; they are not about sex and certainly not about feelings of love and/or affection. Rape is a hate crime based on gender, power and control.
Don’t make light of it
I know how easy it is in a misogynistic culture to brush these experiences off. We don’t want to believe we have been raped. Contain rape into a basic Lifetime-movie-knife-to-throat-stranger situation allows us to deny our own abuse. People don’t want to see themselves as victims of sexual coercion. Hiding our heads in the sand won’t save another woman from this fate.
This is more common than you think
In the unofficial poll I conducted for this article, every woman I know has survived sexual coercion (I say women because I did not ask any men/non men/non-binary folks). That blows our statistics on rape out of the water. We don’t report these rapes. Why? Because our society has taught us to place our sexuality in the hands of men, men who will use a set of criteria based on what we drank, wore, shared with them in the past, whether sexually or personally; and how much they felt like they deserved sex to determine what is or is not rape. Women, please don’t accept a man who would accept less than your enthusiastic consent.
My beautiful, incredible, dynamic black women. We are the hardest fighters when it came to this battle. Let me tell you: sexual coercion is rape. It doesn’t matter how strong you think you are. This was wrong no matter how much he tried to tell you it was right. No matter what your mama or your church told you. You don’t deserve that. Please get yourself somewhere safe, shameless and blameless and allow yourself a chance to mourn, heal and cry. And call that shit what it is: rape.
10 thoughts on “Sexual Coercion is the Rape No One Wants To Recognize”
I read this with a mix of joy, and hatred. Joy, because this “feeling” finally has a name, and hatred, because I know it wont get taken seriously. There have been MANY of times that coersion has been used by my husband, and its made me secretly hate him, the thought of him touching me has brought bile to my throat, but would I ever convey to him this is why, probably not. Regardless of how many times weve been in mid marrital crisis, with forgiveness just having been given, does the ole “show me you mean it” request come. When I plead that I cant, my head is not in a place it needs to be, I get the argument that, “well, Ive waited for weeks!! You know I need touch to feel love, and I know you need interaction and understanding, so why are you still holding out?!” Even when said event is in progress, Im wondering if he even hears himself. Its like hes saying you know what I want, I know what you want- but why arent you giving me what I want. Hes even ok with me saying, “fine, go ahead. Do whatever.” It bothers him ZERO that I feel like a common hooker after we are done, and Im near vomiting with disgust. Doesnt even bother him that I just lay there. As long as hes gotten “relief.” I cant even see having a rational conversation with him about it. As soon as what the situation could translate into any form of rape, he would become explosive, and tell me what a horrible person I am for thinking/saying something like that about him. If I felt that way, why in the hell would I stilla be with him. Good question is my thought sometimes.
Great article, and thank you for sharing something so personal, that is also such a sensitive topic. If it does nothing else for the world, it helped me.
This happened to me too, 3 years ago. I had CPTSD afterwards and still have to be on antidepressants. I went to 2 therapists but I still need more help.
It’s so confusing when someone close to you sexually coerces you and sexually abuses you.
I suppressed how angry I was, but now with all of the “me too” stuff happening, my rage and pain are welling up from my gut.
I need men to know that pressuring a woman for sex, subjecting her to sleep deprivation, and telling her that you deserve her body more than her previous partners did IS ABUSE.
Forcing a woman to be in a relationship with you is abuse. Sexual coercion is rape. And the psychological scars take a long time and a lot of work to heal.
Takanya, please forgive my late reply ( ADHD girl, it gets me all of the time). CPTSD is terrible, and it is painful when someone who you love takes advantage of you. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am really hoping that this news will spread and that more women don’t have to suffer like we did. Hang in there girl, and have a happy holiday.
I think … the therapeutic community at large needs to confront its own societal biases and have a conversation with men, at large, about this. As you say, when the answer to certain questions is #YesAllWomen … the problem is not with the women who are victims.
(I’m new to your blog, so I’m just seeing this piece – thank you for letting us “ghost comment” (the specific phrase for when one comments on a post that wasn’t written three nanoseconds ago has slipped my mind for hte time being).)
Hey there! Sorry again for the late reply. But I appreciate your contribution here. It is really important for men to share with fellow men when they learn better so we can all do better as a society. Nobody deserves to deal with this type of abuse at the hands of their loved one.
After being beaten and abused for years I finally left my now ex husband. We have a daughter together and she is terrified of him as well. He delivered the full cycle of abuse to me and all but sexual to her. As soon as our divorced was finalized he flew to where I was to have an unsupervised overnight visitation with our daughter. She was 2 at the time and so scared. I was also afraid he might kidnap her or hurt her to punish me. She begged me not to leave her so in turn I begged him to stay with them overnight. Despite me fears of him I couldn’t let her go through this without me. He agreed but little did I know the whole visit was going to turn into his profession and rant about his desire for me. It started in the day with him touching me and trying to tickle me like we were close. Then it turned into him trying to hug and hug me from behind. By the time we got to the hotel I knew something bad was coming but i thought it would be worse to leave my baby so i stayed. As soon as she fell asleep it started. Him trying to get me to be with him, he grabbed me and picked me up to sit with him to watch a show, then talk. Then he starts to touch me. I had no where to go and we both knew it. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he truly realized how he could loom our daughter over me. I knew it was over then. He told me to climb on top of him and kiss him. When I tried to get away his made responses like ” you dont want to wake her, do you?”. It was heart numbing. I obeyed. Then he flipped me and pinned me down. I begged him to get off but he responded the same. Using our daughter to control me. I was losing my mind at the idea of the monster I had gotten away from on top of me and trying to have sex in front of our baby, but the alternative was worse, her waking and seeing daddy hurting mommy and then having to still have visitations with him unsupervised. Then he said it “if she wakes its your fault.” I broke inside. I begged him to let me go and he agreed but our baby would stay without me, he would have his visit. I couldn’t do it to her, he’d won and we both knew it. He did what he wanted and then demanded I be on top of him. It wasnt enough to rape me again (more than once in our marriage) but he would make me be a participant . Once he had finished having he various ways with me he topped it off with a guy wrenching cherry on top. He got close to my ear to where his breath was hot and I couldn’t stop shaking and told me ,” if you get pregnant with my baby again…..well….you know what to do. Fix it.” Then he laid down and went to sleep. I climbed into the other bed with our baby and dreaded what was to come.
Arianna, I’m so incredibly sorry that you had that experience. It is evil. I hate that any of us have to deal with being raped by the people who are supposed to love and protect us. It is just wrong. Much love to you and your daughter. I’m sorry for the late reply.
So u stayed with someone u didn’t love … didn’t love u … he used u – and u allowed it .. rather than separating…. now ur calling it rape? There are many strong women who would not allow any of this… and that are accountable for their own doings and allowings … then there is this bs. He sounds like a piece of shit … better yet he is a piece of shit … a piece of shit that you allowed in your house, in your bed and in you. of course u felt disgusting … u should
You’re bored. Find a healthy activity.
I’ll be sure to have someone pass your regards to my ex husband though. ????