10 Types Of Sexual Coercion We Don't Talk About Enough

Photographed by: Natalia Mantini.
While sexual assault can take on many different forms, the one thing that remains the same is that assault is never a survivor's fault — including instances in which assault occurs in a relationship.

Even so, sexual violence isn't always easy to recognize. While most of us understand rape as any instance that involves penetration without consent, what's more ambiguous is what a partner might feel obliged or forced to do in sexual relationships.

Cameka Crawford, chief communications officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, tells Refinery29 that this is called sexual coercion, a term that refers to the tactics used to emotionally or physically manipulate someone into sex. According to Crawford, it's a form of violence that is based on abuse.

"Abuse is centered on power and control in all aspects of an intimate partner relationship," Crawford says. "So sexual coercion really is when one partner is trying to control another partner sexually." She adds: "It can vary from being egged on to perform a sexual act to being forced to actually have contact."

Sexual coercion, she says, can be much more difficult to recognize in relationships because the boundaries become blurred.

"People are often made to feel like, Because I’m in a relationship, I have to have sex, even if they don’t want to," Crawford says. However, she assures, "Just because you give consent one time doesn’t make it a given every time. And just because you consent to one sexual act doesn’t mean you consent to other actions."

Not only that, you also have the right to change your mind, even if you've already expressed consent.

"If someone says they want to do something on Tuesday morning, they don’t have to be willing to do it on Tuesday afternoon," Crawford says. "Relationships are about open communication. That includes talking about sex."

With that said, it can still be difficult to see the warning signs of sexual coercion or even sexual violence. Ahead, we've outlined a few ways that sexual coercion can manifest. While this list isn't by any means exhaustive (sexual and domestic violence can vary in different relationships), these are a few red flags that can indicate an unhealthy relationship.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more, here.