#Sexual Coercion/Force vs. Sexual/Peer Pressure: #Assault or Regret?
With all the reports pinging us daily—almost hourly—from women and men who report having been sexually assaulted, intimidated, forced/coerced, raped, tormented and otherwise abused by those in power, and with my own personal and professional experiences to add to #metoo, I am a great proponent of #timesup and have posted about my excitement about this cultural change before this.
LINKS HERE to previous posts:
#metoo AND #justyournumber and #wherewhatwhowhen from October, 2017
REPOSTING: TEN Ways to Encourage #Victims of Any Age to #Report #Sexual and Other #Abuse, from December, 2017, and 2014 (original post)
HOWEVER, there are some cases in which an adult was NOT forced, not raped, not assaulted, but somehow felt pressured during or regret/remorse after a sexual encounter. Unfortunately, this person had apparently not verbally or physically clearly communicated to said partner their desire for the sexual activity to stop.
Those types of experiences are unpleasant for the person who felt less-than-good after the sexual encounter. However, these occurrences are NOT criminal or ethical violations of any kind and MUST NOT BE REPORTED as such.
I can’t emphasize enough how sympathetic and compassionate I am and hope others are for those who feel regret after having a sexual encounter. I certainly have had experiences like that, myself. BUT, it is unfair, illegal and inappropriate to blame, accuse or report to legal authorities that an incident was a sexual assault when it was not.
—Yes, we can, as adults (especially when younger, less powerful, beholden to the partner), feel intimidated and enter into sexual activity against our own preferences or better judgment.
—Yes, we, as adults, can and do feel or have been silenced by our own conditioning, wishes, emotions, family or trauma histories, into “going along” with someone else’s sexual lead.
—Yes, we, as adults, may frequently feel helpless, overwhelmed, unable to say “no” to sexual activity, particularly when we have been ambivalent about being sexual at that time with that person.
—We may repeatedly have gotten ourselves into sexual situations that we then regret but we were unwilling to leave or say “stop.”
BUT, the above situations (and their aftermaths) ARE NOT OUR PARTNERS’ FAULTS.
Who is responsible for the way we feel after being sexual with someone?
- Was I clear?
- Was I audible?
- Was I putting into action what I said after I said “NO”? That is, did I leave, call for help, fight, yell? Unless we are being threatened with harm, these follow-ups are always options that should be utilized to enforce a “no” statement.
- Was any force involved?
- Was I threatened in any way?
- Does this person have power over me, my job, my grade, my status, and therefore, made me feel forced to comply?
We can see which of these puts the responsibility onto us and which onto the other person. It should be obvious which are actually assault and which are not.
Here are some ways NOT to say “NO”: behaviors and statements that do not communicate “NO” clearly: and should not, by themselves, be expected to get our partners to stop or to know that we want to stop sexual contact or activity.
- Saying: “I’m pretty tired…” or “I’ve got to go…” and nothing else, then NOT LEAVING.
- Pushing our partners away but not getting up to leave when we physically can.
- Saying: “I don’t really want to…” but not getting up to leave when we physically can and not saying “NO, I don’t want to do that!” forcefully and clearly.
- Laughing when we say “Stop!” or “No!” or “Come on!” and only half-heartedly protesting (spaghetti-arms pushing instead of iron-arms pushing and punching, when necessary)—THESE are what make people think “NO” doesn’t mean “NO.”
- Crying but not saying anything, even when asked “Why are you crying?” Some people cry during orgasm, cry when in love and/or happy, cry when frustrated or otherwise upset but not objecting to sex. Clarify verbally and clearly WHY we are upset.
- Moving things along: Helping our partners take off our own or taking off our partner’s clothes, putting our partner’s hands on our body, kissing our partners and acting as if we like having sexual contact. These do NOT communicate “NO,” regardless of how little we actually enjoy(ed) the sexual contact.
- Telling our partners “I’m scared,” but not saying “I want to STOP… [sexual activity] RIGHT NOW!”
- Pretending we’re (or actually)
—a) having our periods
—b) saying that we are not feeling well
—c) indicating that we have to leave early
—d) showing that we have to take this call, etc.
Any of these COULD stop sex, but may not, especially when we are NOT LEAVING when we physically can and have not said “NO” or “STOP!”
When we have not been clear with our partners, we cannot blame our partners for our dissatisfaction, unhappiness, regret or anger afterwards.
We HAVE TO communicate clearly and verbally when we do not want to be sexual at a particular time. Even once sex starts or even if we have had sex with this person before, we have every right to stop sexual activity, any time, anywhere. BUT, there is no way for our partner to be certain that they should stop if we do not SAY “STOP.”
I am very disturbed by this dilemma. I have heard reports from people I love, admire, respect and trust (and I do not trust many people, believe me!) who have told me that they have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct. I BELIEVE THEM (even though my first instinct is to believe those who claim to have been mistreated) because they tell me there was no communication that let them know that their partner was unhappy or wanted to stop the sexual encounter at the time.
We are complicated beings. We often have “buyer’s remorse” or we feel “morning after” regret after we have been sexual with someone. However, FEELINGS are not FACTS. Just because you felt pressured does not mean that you were forced.
Once we have our clearer-sighted review of our actions and the accompanying feelings, we could feel terribly sad or bad about having been sexual with that person. BUT, these feelings do not become actual reasons for us to accuse our sexual partners—quite unfairly and illegally—of having assaulted us. WE HAVE TO STOP DOING THAT.
Everyone who abdicates our own responsibility and falsely accuses someone of sexual assault puts all legitimate reports of sexual assault at risk of being disbelieved.
If we decide to be sexual with someone and later regret it, or, even in the moment, feel ambivalent but continue, anyway, we have no one to blame but yourselves. We need to get some therapy, some personal support, not an attorney.
GET CONSENT! If the person you are wanting to be sexual with is a minor (not a legal adult), or is not in their right mind, or is passed out or asleep or otherwise unable to give consent, DO NOT HAVE SEX. Simple.
Stop being sexual if you are drunk, on drugs, too tired or somehow unable to advocate for yourself.
Be celibate until you can be responsible. THAT is a decision you will not regret.