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She Said Yes: When Consent Is Coerced

I want to talk about some of the ways that people manipulate each other in inappropriate ways into having sex. Any time you coerce someone, guilt them, or manipulate them in any way in order to get them to have sex with you, that is sex without consent. It is inappropriate and unacceptable. However from my experience and the experiences of those around me (yes, this is anecdotal, but no one has done a study on how many people say “if you loved me you’d do it), this kind of manipulation is common. So let’s take a look at some of the more common ways that people manipulate each other and what’s wrong with each of them.

1.”You must be a prude”

Let’s just say it straight out: shaming anyone for their sexual choices, whether to have sex or not have sex, is pretty much just a shitty and not ok thing to do. However if you’re trying to get someone to have sex with you just to prove that they’re cool, forward thinking, liberal, or liberated, then they’re not really consenting to sex with you: they’re consenting to a symbolic act that will keep them from being embarrassed. And what you’re really saying when you say this is that you won’t respect them if they don’t have sex with you. This is emotional manipulation, and if you coerce someone into having sex with you by convincing them that you will not respect them if they don’t, or that they have to do it to prove their liberalism, then you are not respecting their boundaries or their consent.

2.You’re punishing me.

Once again there’s a pretty basic myth underlying this statement: you are not owed sex by anyone. It is no one’s responsibility to give you sex. Therefore not giving you sex is not punishing you. It’s not taking away something that belongs to you. It is not treating you poorly in any way, shape, or form. When you say this, you imply to the other person that you require sex from them, that it’s a basic right of yours. You sound like a child throwing a temper tantrum. When someone says no to sex, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about their right to have autonomy over their own body. Their ability to say no to you doesn’t harm you. Get over it. When you say this to someone you imply to them that they owe you their body. That’s manipulative and creepy. It tells them they HAVE to say yes unless they have a really damn good reason to deny you your toy.

3.What if you never want to have sex with me again?

Oh my sweet Jesus the catastrophizing. Now first of all, someone not having sex with you ever again is still not the end of the world. It’s their right to say they don’t want to have sex with you anymore. Yes, if you’re in a relationship with that person it would suck and you would need to discuss it, but it certainly isn’t something to guilt someone over. In addition, let us repeat again that when someone says they don’t want to have sex IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. If your partner is saying no to sex or feels uncomfortable, the needs of your penis or clitoris are not priority #1 here, your partner’s emotional well-being is. Changing the subject from whatever is making them uncomfortable, or trying to put the entire weight of your sex life on them over one incident is upping the stakes so that if they say no now, it means more and could spell the end of the relationship. It’s a veiled threat of sorts: if you don’t have sex with me now, you won’t ever want to have sex with me and I’ll be miserable forever/break up with you. Veiled threats and emotional blackmail are not acceptable ways to get someone to have sex with you.

4.Are you not attracted to me anymore?

I understand why someone would feel like this if their partner turns them down for sex. It’s highly important to remember that the vast majority of the time when someone says no to something IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. If you suggest to your partner that you’d like to go to a baseball game, and they say they don’t want to go, it probably has more to do with their feelings about baseball or how tired they are or how busy they are than it does about you. Despite the intimacy of sex, this often is the case there too. When you ask a question like this, you imply that if your partner isn’t having sex with you, they’re making a statement about you or how they feel about you. You’re implying that they should feel guilty for telling you you’re unattractive. You’re setting up a kind of false dichotomy: either you have sex with me, or you’re telling me that I’m unattractive. You’re trying to take out the possibility that it’s totally reasonable and not mean at all to say no to sex. And it’s cruel to tell someone that their perfectly reasonable choice is actually mean and disrespectful to someone they care about.

5.You’re being selfish.

This is very much akin to the previous two but takes its own special tactic of nastiness. Saying no to another person, asking them to respect your boundaries, telling someone that they should not continue doing something that upsets you or makes you unhappy, is far from selfish. Particularly when that thing involves your own body. Again, this kind of talk tells you to ignore your emotions and ignore your discomfort because your body is public property, or at least your partner’s property. And this again activates major amounts of guilt, because it tells you that you’re bad, mean, wrong, or immoral for saying no. It paints the other person as the victim, which reverses the roles so that you’re apologizing for asserting your boundaries, when in reality your partner should probably be the one apologizing if they crossed them. Defending yourself is not an aggressive action, but this kind of statement turns it into one. It’s gaslighting to the max.

6.You’re taking away something that makes me happy.

Boo frickin’ hoo. Sorry, I should probably have more sympathy because yes it does suck when you can’t have something that you want, but let’s be PERFECTLY clear here: if you are going to prioritize the happy feelings of your genitals over your partner’s crystal clear right to say no, then you are a douche. They KNOW that it would make you happy to have sex with you. And you know that they know. So by reminding them, all you’re doing is making them feel like shit. In order to try to get them to have sex with you. Look, your partner is not taking away anything by saying no to sex. Sex was not your right in the first place so there’s no way they could have taken it away. Sometimes they consent to give you a part of themselves out of the goodness of their heart and that makes you happy. YAY! But that in no way means they owe it to you in the future to continue giving it to you. Your happiness is not your partner’s responsibility, and if you think it is then you’re setting your partner up for a lot of guilt, a lot of unhappiness, and a lot of ignoring their own interests for yours.

7.Well what if we just…

Compromise is generally a good thing. If your partner shuts down one thing but you’re super into it, it’s perfectly reasonable to say something like “Ok, we absolutely don’t have to do that. I’d be really interested in trying something else. What do you feel about ___”. But there’s a difference between that and the “what about” game. This is the game where every time your partner says no you try a different question, a different version. You wear them down. You make it sound reasonable to demand a blowjob because you aren’t getting sex. You paint your request as really not a very big deal after all, in fact something your partner really shouldn’t have any issue with because it’s so minute, even though it might be a sexual act that they don’t want to perform. And you do this until they give in because they’re going crazy trying to say no to everything and feeling like a jerk for shooting everything down. Sex isn’t haggling. Someone’s body isn’t for sale and it’s not up for a bargain.

8.Why won’t you think about my feelings?

Once again, this kind of statement prioritizes your feelings over your partner’s mental health and safety, and it tells them that they should be doing the same because if they don’t they are being unsympathetic and paying no attention to their partner’s feelings. It implies that if your partner cared about you and your feelings, then there is only one decision that they would or could make: giving you what you want. It’s another way of turning yourself into the victim and implying that your partner MUST owe you sex if they care about you. Let’s be honest, your partner already knows all about your feelings because you’ve made it damn obvious that you want sex and that sex is important to you. Our whole CULTURE tells us that having a healthy sex life is SO IMPORTANT so even if they don’t know about your feelings in particular they know about the feelings that you’re expected to have and so they already know they’re being “bad” by not providing sex. So reminding them one more time? It’s petty and you’re not doing it because you think they don’t know.

9.You’ve done this before, you should be able to do it again.

This is not how consent works. If someone consented to something yesterday and then does not consent to it today, their consent from yesterday is negated. Someone is allowed to change their mind about things! CRAZY! I may have wanted chocolate yesterday and not want any today, but that doesn’t mean I HAVE to eat chocolate today. When you say this, you’re trapping someone into thinking that they are being inconsistent, irrational, and overly emotional by changing their opinion. You indicate that once they have said yes they can’t rescind their yes without being completely crazy. This really makes it hard to say no, to react to one’s emotions, to take care of oneself. It’s not cool.

10.I don’t know how to understand you love me if we don’t have sex.

This is your own god damn problem. If you can’t understand multiple ways of expressing affection, then you are a significantly stunted human being and that’s something you should probably work on. Telling your partner that they have to bend to your whim once again indicates that your inability to communicate needs to be solved with their body. It’s a special kind of guilt trip because it’s the barely logical cousin of “If you loved me you’d have sex with me”. If you want to express love, then respecting your partner’s boundaries is the best way to go. Guilting them into thinking they have to have sex to prove their love for you? Not so much.

11.I just want you to feel good.

If you wanted your partner to feel good, you would listen to what they say they want. If they say something doesn’t feel good or they don’t want it, don’t do it. What this message is ACTUALLY saying is that your partner must be CRAZY for saying no because you only want what’s best for them. They must not be thinking clearly. And not only that, but they probably should feel good because that’s what happens when people who love each other get sexy, amirite? So wrong. Your partner is allowed to not feel good, and allowed to feel good in whatever way they so choose, not the way YOU choose.

12.What about now?

When your partner says no, let them have their fucking no. This question is essentially the battering ram of emotional manipulation. It’s not very sneaky and it’s really easy to say no to…the first fifty times. But eventually most doors are going to get broken down just because your partner is so fucking tired of saying no. Do you really want your partner to say yes just because they’re sick of going through the dance? Probably not, because that’s not really consent.

 

Cross posted from We Got So Far To Go

Olivia

Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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37 Comments

      1. My ex-wife’s line was that it was my marital duty.

        At the time, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to “have sex” with her, but I did know that I didn’t feel emotionally safe with her.

        (I put “have sex” in quotes because I don’t like the phrase — to me, it always feels like it reduces it to a purely physical act and leaves out the emotional part. But it does express how I experienced it. Nowadays, I say I don’t want to have sex, I want to make love.)

        1. Amm1, You sound like my ex-husband. I hope you’re not. Either way, it sucks to be in a marriage where you do not feel emotionally secure. I know. I was there. I don’t think my ex liked/loved me at all after we got married. I think he felt obligated and pressured by our families and society. My ex would spend hours avoiding coming to bed while talking on the phone with his buddies or playing video games, he never wanted to cuddle, and he didn’t even want to so much as hold hands–let alone have sex. He said he wanted kids, so did I–I even went on fertility drugs. But as much as he said he wanted kids and wanted to get me pregnant, he NEVER wanted to have sex. (And by NEVER, I was lucky if it was twice a year.) You can’t start a biological family without at least trying to have sex at least once a month. If you consented to a marriage in which you both agree you want to have kids, and you didn’t want to adopt, and you couldn’t afford in-vitro, then yes, sex IS part of your marital duties because it’s the only way you’re going to start a family! When I asked that we see a marriage counselor, he refused. It was like I was married to my roommate. He knew my sex drive was high when we met. If he was gay or asexual, he should have just said so and we could have both moved on and stayed good friends. I did not consent to a lifetime of celibacy, loneliness, no cuddling, and no children “’till death do us part.”

          1. Addendum: I was lucky if it was twice a year and I did it even if I wasn’t really in the mood because I didn’t know when the next time was that it would (if ever) happen again.

  1. Yes! to this post. Seriously, sex as a duty is not fun. If you really like another person (and that may be part of the problem sometimes) you (a) actually respect their choices and (b) will have a better chance of having fun sex on another occasion if you haven’t made it a thing that is associated with guilt and unpleasantness

  2. While I agree with the central idea of this post (and aspects of it hit home for me on a personal level), on the whole, it falls flat for me. It’s easy to say “Yay enthusiastic consent and boo nefarious manipulation” as if those are somehow the only two options. That’s a false dichotomy, and one that ignores vast levels of complexity, especially in a long-term relationship.

    In most couples, one will have a higher sex drive than the other, and while it is a problem when the person with the higher drive does not consider the effect their actions have on their partner, we on the other side (which to be clear I personally am in my relationship) need to recognize that there is real frustration and pain in being the partner with the higher drive.

    1. I certainly don’t think that was the message I was trying to portray, rather that people who rely on these types of tropes as a way to navigate consent and compromise are not doing it in an appropriate way.
      Yes there’s frustration in being denied sex (which I did in fact note in a number of places) and compromise and open discussion of what can be done about that frustration is good (which I also noted) but these tropes all rely on the idea that your partner owes you sex which is not true, never ever ever, no matter how frustrating it is to be intensely horny.
      Of course there’s more to it, but I know many people who use these thinking they’re appropriate and that’s what I wanted to address.

      1. “people who rely on these types of tropes as a way to navigate consent and compromise are not doing it in an appropriate way.”

        Is there any chance you would elaborate more, either here or in a separate article, about what you would consider an appropriate way to navigate consent and what sort of compromises can be made?

        In my own relationship I found my girlfriend to be using a combination of 4, 8, 10 and 11. It wasn’t malicious or even conscious on her part; just the results of society hammering in that men always want sex and that coercion is something men to do women. Fortunately, we talked it out and she seems to now that understand that a) wanting to skip a day or finish the movie doesn’t mean I don’t find her attractive, or want her, or love her and that b) pressuring me, or making me feel guilty about it only hurts our sex life long term.

        Truth is though, I have no idea what I’d do if the situation was reversed. While I don’t think I’m in any way entitled to sex, I do believe I’m entitled to define my own requirements for a relationship – and a healthy, active sex life is certainly one of them. But even leaving a relationship because it isn’t meeting those criteria seems coercive if the other partner understands that requirement, but enormously unfair if they do not.

        1. To be honest I am still working on figuring out the ideal method of communication because it’s HARD. The reason I cite these as problematic is because when people have used them on me or on friends/family, they have imploded and left both partners with some serious emotional fallout.
          I agree that oftentimes these things aren’t conscious or malicious. I absolutely have had partners who thought these were appropriate things to do and didn’t understand why it hurt so much when they tried to get me to have sex with them by using these methods.
          Overall I think honesty is a good policy, but not honesty with a goal in mind. My current partner has told me that he feels insecure and unattractive when I turn him down, however he did so without then saying “please have sex with me” or exerting pressure on me, and acknowledging that those feelings weren’t my fault. The talking it out that came after seems to be the best way forward to me.
          One important thing to me seems to be to have discussions like this when sex isn’t even on the table. If a partner is having a problem with the frequency of sex, they should set aside a time that’s not loaded or potentially full of pressure and just talk about what they’re feeling and let their partner talk openly about it too.
          I agree that if the situation were reversed it would be really hard, however I don’t think leaving a relationship due to sexual mismatch is coercive but rather pragmatic. Again it depends on how it’s done, but you can communicate to your partner “we clearly are not well-matched sexually and that’s something that’s important to me. We’ve tried to compromise and it hasn’t worked. I don’t want to pressure you and this is in no way an ultimatum, but it is important to me to get these needs met and so I don’t think this relationship is right for me”. It would suck, but when does breaking up not suck?

          What does seem appropriate to me is for each partner to lay out their absolute needs and absolute cannots and then work from there. Does that make sense?
          Again, still something I’m working on, so these are what I’ve figured out up until here.

          1. @Daniel Schealler

            I really like that idea. I’ve often had very similar conversations with my partners, but having things laid out cleanly and in writing I think would be really beneficial. I would say it’s a fantastic tool for navigating and improving your sex life when things are going really well. The problem is that at the end of the day, her solution to incompatible ‘want/will/won’t’ lists is still to end the relationship. Frankly, it’s easier said then done even under ideal circumstances. When you involve financial dependence, living arrangements, children, marriage vows, etc. things get considerably muddier.

          2. I think you may be having a hard time with this because you are describing ethical issues in legal terms. “Consent” is a legal concept. Sex with consent is rape, a very serious crime. Do we really want to say that a guy who tells a woman, “If you loved me, you’d sleep with me?” to try to guilt her into sex is a rapist if she falls for it? I hope not. Is the guy a douche? Yes. But a guy can be a douchebag about sex without being a rapist, and if we don’t make that distinction, we of course are going to have trouble.

            I am kind of a homebody, and I have friends who sometimes put a lot of pressure on me to go out with them when I don’t really feel like it. Sometimes I give in, sometimes I don’t. But, they are NEVER kidnapping me. Because, I could always say no; they aren’t driving to my home and dragging me into their car. If I choose to give in to their emotional manipulation, that’s ultimately on me, not them. Is it cool to try to guilt people into doing things they don’t want to do? No. But it isn’t and shouldn’t be criminal, as long as you are not going to force the issue using actual physical force or threats of harm. And if I choose to continue a relationship with somebody who is consistently guilting or pressuring me into doing stuff I don’t want to do, that is, again, on me. I am making a choice, albeit a bad one, whereas in actual rape a person’s choice is being taken away.

            A boyfriend who tells a woman he’ll leave her if she doesn’t sleep with him isn’t taking away her choice: he’s actually making the right choice pretty darn clear, and leaving her free to make it. Again, douchebag =/= rapist.

            So if you are constantly trying to figure out whether your partner expressing that he wants sex is rape or not, depending on whether you like how he words his request or not, relationships are going to be very hard. Instead, we should accept that every single part of a relationship–often especially sex–requires compromise. As a woman with a low sex drive already who takes an SSRI and has three small children, my first instinct every time my husband wants sex is “No.” I’d rather take a bubble bath or read a book or, ideally, both. But, the truth is that, when I move past my initial reluctance, I realize that it is indeed selfish for me to always put my desire to lay in bed with a book over my husband’s desire to have sex. And, the truth is that I *always* end up enjoying sex when I move past my initial reluctance.

            Life is complicated. I’d say that the legal category of “consent” really shouldn’t play a role in the normal sexual negotiations of couples. That is not to say that rape can’t happen within relationships, but that we simply can’t and shouldn’t approach each discussion about sex we have with our partner with the mindset that, if they say the wrong thing, they are taking away our consent and raping us.

          3. Consent is not only and exclusively a legal concept (although yes it is used in legal settings as well). In this case I was using it in a less strict sense and by no means was I saying that being a douchebag is a rapist. I’m really not having a hard time with anything: I am very clear that these are inappropriate ways to navigate consent. Consent should be something that plays a role in EVERY sexual negotiation because EVERY sexual encounter should have clear consent on both sides. We should approach every interaction with the mindset that our partner needs our consent and should ask for our consent. That is the respectful and appropriate thing to do. I’d suggest looking at some sex positive feminist writings, which often talk about how consent should be incorporated into sexual interactions.
            In these cases consent does end up getting given, and so no, it’s not rape. However it is not an ethical way to obtain consent, nor is it respectful of another person’s bodily autonomy. Pressuring another person into sex is by no means fully consensual. It doesn’t take away your free will but it certainly constrains it.I also think it goes beyond douchebag when someone pressures or manipulates you into letting them do something incredibly intimate to your body. It absolutely can feel like a violation and like a loss of freedom and autonomy. To be clear, I think these are abusive behaviors because manipulating someone for sex is a hallmark of emotional abuse.That’s part of the reason it’s so hard to simply say “I have free will” and make your own choice, and part of why it is so unacceptable.
            Of course compromise is important, and I’m glad that for you when you decide to prioritize your husband’s desire you enjoy it, but that is not the case with everyone (myself included) and simply saying that you’ll prioritize another person’s desires over your bodily autonomy is a really uncomfortable proposition to me. It is incredibly important when differing sex drives are present to have conversations that don’t rely on emotional manipulation when you’re talking about consent and sex and trying to understand appropriate compromises.

          4. Someone else point to a link where they advised setting out a list of Want/Will/Won’t items.

            I think this is a great exercise to do personally even if you don’t share it with your partner. Everyone should think about what they are comfortable with, what they want, and what they won’t do.

            On a different note, I’ve read through the comments here and they’ve been very thought provoking. So many people have said things like: “I thought I had to accept…” followed by something that they really didn’t want to deal with.

            I think it is important that everyone should feel empowered to judge for themselves what they will and won’t do in a relationship and NOBODY should ever feel trapped for forced into something they didn’t agree to.

            That having been said, I think the issue is much broader than sex and applies holistically to every aspect of a relationship. I also think that people are imperfect and needy and that’s okay as long as it’s balanced and neither person feels like they are doing all the giving while their partner just takes.

          5. I am very familiar with “sex-positive feminism.” I have an undergraduate degree and a grad certificate in women’s studies. But, real life bumped up against my ideologies enough that I finally had to concede that a lot of the feminist theory I’d learned about sex was just wrong. (And, studies have found that women with more “progressive” views about sex tend to be the most dissatisfied with their sex lives. So, I’m not the only one, apparently, who finds that the theory doesn’t play out all that well in practice.)

            It’s fun to talk about all the ways in which sex is about power. But if we encounter our own sexual encounters that way–encounters that we’re having with loving, respectful partners–we’re just wrong. But, sex is about much more than power. It’s about more than a battle of one person’s bodily autonomy versus another person’s desires. Instead, what it is and should be about is relationship. It’s about creating and honoring a special bond with another person. It’s about both giving and receiving pleasure. And, realistically, sometimes it’s more about the giving and sometimes it’s more about the receiving, and every single sex act doesn’t have to be perfectly 50/50.

            If maintaining your bodily autonomy is your top priority, much of adult life, especially adult life in relationship, is going to bump up against that. I’m 13 weeks pregnant with my fourth child right now. If you want to stop fetishizing your bodily autonomy, getting pregnant, birthing babies, and then nursing those babies will do so fast. Turns out that some of the coolest things my body can do are not about my own pleasure, but about somebody else. And it will stretch your partner, too. Every morning for the past two months my husband has rolled out of bed to feed, dress, and care for our children before he goes to work so that I can get an extra hour of sleep. Does he have the right to determine how much sleep his body needs? Yes. But, he’s allowing helping out his pregnant wife to take priority. That’s how relationships go.

            Sex doesn’t and shouldn’t belong in some special category, where the only choices are “I want it wildly and enthusiastically” or “It would the result of immoral coercion or even rape if I did it.” That’s no more true of sex than anything else. Sometimes my husband and I are planning to go out to eat but want to eat at different places. We could go two different places, but we want to eat together. Let’s say I want Indian and my husband wants pizza. If he’s like, “I’d rather eat regurgitated shit than eat Indian food tonight,” I’m not going to push it. But, if he’s like, “Eh. Pizza is my first choice, but I could go for Indian,” I’m not wronging him by us getting Indian food.

            Sure, if you are genuinely feel like you do NOT want to have sex at a given moment, don’t have sex. But, I’ve found that much of the time, it’s not that I either wildly, enthusiastically want to have sex or that I truly, passionately do not want to. I’m just kind of “Eh, it’s not my first choice, but I could go for it” about it. That’s pretty much life when you are middle-aged with a few little kids and a job and bills you’re stressed about and knowing that, if you are lucky, you guys will get 15 minutes to finish before one of the kids wakes up and wants something.

            You manage by realizing that sex isn’t quite as deadly serious as all of your women’s studies classes led you to believe, and that you can laugh about it and compromise about it and sometimes schedule it and just in general stop taking it so damn seriously, and it turns out that it’s a whole lot more fun and fulfilling than back when you believed that your very personhood was at stake in every single sexual encounter.

  3. Coercion is, by it’s very nature, wrong. People should not be forced to do something they do not consent to.

    That having been said, and not speaking about sex in particular, I think that there is a huge gray area around how any two people relate to each other where concepts such as discussion, negotiation, commitment, and compromise can blur with coercion depending on how comfortable both people are with each other and the topic at hand.

    Obviously, each partner in a relationship will almost certainly need to do things they don’t enjoy. Perhaps examples might be taking their turn at doing the dishes, visiting a relative of their partner who they don’t care for, or watching a movie that they don’t find interesting with their partner.

    Generally, I wouldn’t consider that to be coercion because there is always the option to say NO, but each partner in the relationship consents to some activities which they don’t enjoy in order to contribute to their partner’s happiness or to be fair.

    Now, in a healthy relationship, ideally, both partners should kiss, hug, hold hands, snuggle, and have sex because they both find the activity to be pleasurable and affirming at that time; however, in reality, this isn’t always the case. There are situations where partners have different expectations or tolerances regarding affection, physical contact, and sex.

    When I look at many of the items listed above, I don’t think they are inherently coercion as something to bring up in discussion provided both partners are talking and listening and both partners come to an agreement about how to address a disagreement whether this is about sex or any other aspect of their relationship.

    That having been said, if a compromise that is not satisfying to both partners cannot be reached on any topic, whether is is sex or spending or how to spend the afternoon, then perhaps the relationship has deeper problems than the particular issue at hand.

  4. My ex husband, in addition to the op’s list, would follow a verbally or physically abusive attack by insisting upon “makeup sex”, the implication being if I said no then I was inviting the abuse to continue. It was not until after I left him that I realized this was rape.

    1. So, you’re saying that he would start a fight just to push you into sex and wouldn’t let it alone until you gave in? That’s pretty horrible behavior.

      I appreciate the specific example. It helps to understand better something I’ve never experienced personally.

  5. You left out:

    13. Fine, I’ll just go jerk off to porn.

    15. OK, I’ll go with someone else.

    I bet 13 is very common. I actually applaud those partners who say “by all means go play with yourself cause I don’t want to shag you”.

    1. 13 doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as both partners are talking openly and it’s not being used as an attack.

      If both partners understand and agree that masturbation and/or porn does not reflect unhappiness with your partner and shouldn’t be taken as such, it can help to suppress physical desire at an inconvenient time. Of course, like a lot of the items Olivia originally mentioned, it’s about communication. It’s one thing to discuss things mutually and come to a consensus, but another to use them to emotionally batter your partner.

      Regarding 15, I guess it depends on if you have an open relationship, but unless you have a firm agreement with your partner that it’s okay to be intimate with others, then I’d say it’s a pretty severe blow to the relationship and any hope of trust.

  6. That’s an impressive Straw Feminist Anonymousmom has constructed up there. Must’ve taken quite a while to build.

    I hate to break it to you, but you have acted on your bodily autonomy by DECIDING to get pregnant and carry to term, by DECIDING to breast feed. Your husband sounds awesome, in that he DECIDES to get up to get the other kids ready so you can DECIDE to sleep in for an extra hour (I’m not being sarcastic about the awesome part, he does sound like a great guy for that).

    Nowhere in this article is Olivia saying you have to be wildly enthusiastic all the time, but that sex is way better when you are. And yeah, sometimes you’re going to have sex when you’re less than all, “WOO HOO!” about it, but think about why you’re doing it when you do. Is it because, “Yeah, sex would be nice…” or is it because “Sweet Zombie Jesus, if I don’t put out my partner will keep whining at me and I won’t get any sleep, and tomorrow is going to be shitty enough as it is”? There is a world of difference between those two situations.

    Anyone trying to coerce you into sex with any of the means above is a douche-weasel and should be treated accordingly.
    “If you loved me you’d have sex with me!”
    “If you loved ME, you’d respect my no.”

    1. Okay, here is the thing I keep coming up against and I don’t understand. And maybe it’s just because I haven’t been in the situation.

      We all agree (I think) that coercion is completely unacceptable.

      However, many of the situations discussed are only coercion if (as you put it) it reaches a point where “Sweet Zombie Jesus, if I don’t put out my partner will keep whining at me and I won’t get any sleep, and tomorrow is going to be shitty enough as it is”.

      NOBODY would want to put up with that on a regular basis and I totally get that. It seems like a relationship breaker and it’s completely wrong that people enter into relationships thinking they they “HAVE” to put out as part of their side of the relationship (and yes, people in this sense is probably 98%+ women, although I’m not making gender assumptions here).

      When I read what Anonomousmom wrote, it took it as saying: I get a lot of pleasure out of pleasing my partner, so I don’t mind if he is needy sometimes.

      And, it seems self evident that, therefore, it’s not coercion, because she doesn’t feel forced and her point is that she doesn’t feel objectified or pushed when her partner is “in the mood” and she is “meh”.

      I’m not sure that this is really a straw man because she’s not trying to dictate what should work for everyone else, but just expressing what works for her.

      So anyway, with the understanding that everyone should have the right to say NO and nobody should feel like they are forced (physically, emotionally, or otherwise), shouldn’t it be okay for everyone to set their own rules in a relationship? I mean, it’s great to make sure everyone knows: Hey, it’s okay to say no when your partner pushes for intimacy and you aren’t into it. But isn’t it also good to say: Hey, it’s okay for partners in a relationship to give what they can to each other and as long as both people feel there is balance, it’s up to them to determine the ground rules?

      I mean, at it’s heart, Feminism is about empowerment, right? So, while I agree that traditional gender roles can be limiting for women and under no circumstances should they feel restricted to what society says they “ought to be”; shouldn’t they also be allowed to choose a traditional role if that is where they are comfortable?

      1. I certainly agree with what you’re saying. If for anonymousmom it works to have sex when she’s not all that into it because she can get pleasure out of it or because she likes making her partner happy, awesome! However she is actually telling others that they should stop taking sex so seriously and stop caring so much about bodily autonomy. That’s where I run into problems, because not everyone is capable of having sex that they don’t really want without feeling kind of icky and objectified. I know that for me personally when my partner just wants sex and isn’t all that interested in my enjoyment of sex I feel a bit like an oversized blowup doll, and as someone who leans heavily towards the asexual side of the spectrum it really is a big deal when someone pressures me into sex.
        Of course everyone can determine their own ground rules. The post was really to say “here’s some things you might be saying to your partner without realizing how manipulative it is”, or to say “If your partner is saying these things to you, you might want to double check whether you’re having sex with them because you want to or because you feel bullied into it”. It was also to say that just because someone finally gives in and says yes it doesn’t mean that all parties are on the same page.
        So absolutely, if someone wants to make their partner happy they should go for it! I just hope they think a little bit about why they’re doing it.

        1. Olivia,

          I think you make some excellent points.

          I think we are all speaking from our point of view and we all need to understand that and not assume that what we are comfortable with would apply equally to our partner or others and their partners.

          At the same time, I think it is valuable and educational to hear other viewpoints, especially ones that diverge significantly from what we ourselves believe as long as everyone understands that they are viewpoints and not some fundamental truth.

          I think this is a valuable discussion because it highlights many ways in which one partner can emotionally abuse or dominate the other to get what they want (and not just sex either) and everyone should be aware of this to avoid doing it or succumbing to it. But, with awareness and empowerment to say no, each partner should also feel free to compromise to the extent they are comfortable in order to find a fair balance for the relationship; and, I think that is the crux of the situation/problem: A GOOD relationship must have a fair balance where both sides compromise to create a degree of harmony (imperfect though it may be).

  7. I personally don’t want to have sex unless my girlfriend is extremely enthusiastic and wants it too, but as a relationship progresses, you are going to run into times where one partner wants it more than the other. Occasionally, I have had obligatory sex offered to me (perhaps my partner had made suggestive ealier comments about what we would be doing later, only to find herself tired or not in the same frame of mind later on). Initially, I would pass on these because that’s not as exciting to me when it feels like I’m getting duty sex, but now I do take these offerings…because hey, it was offered!
    “Do you think you can do it and cum quick, and you’ll do all the work?”
    “Yes”
    “Alright, go brush your teeth and meet me in the bedroom.”

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