[Trigger warning: abuse, sexual abuse, mention of rape.]
There’s many aspects of relationships, both good and bad. Obviously, we lean towards having relationships where the ratio of good to bad favors the good side over the bad. Sometimes, however, that doesn’t always happen, and people can end up in abusive, controlling and manipulative. One of the ways people can cause relationships to become any one of these is to use sex as a means of abuse, control, or manipulation.
These kinds of relationships are sometimes hard to spot, even if you’re the one in the relationship. We often let certain things our partners do slide, simply because they’re our partners, and we don’t even realize it until it affects us consciously. The first thing in breaking a sexually controlling, abusive, or manipulative relationship is to recognize that you’re in one. (Please note that this is for people of ALL gender identities, not just those who identify as male/female.)
- Does your partner often ask you to do things sexually multiple times, even though you’ve stated you don’t want to, and doesn’t stop until you do them?
- Do you often have sex or do things sexually with your partner out of guilt (say, if you’re not “in the mood,” but they are, and you do it to please them without truly wanting to or consenting)?
- Do you often lie to your partner about being satisfied or wanting to engage sexually because you are afraid that they will get angry with you?
- Does your partner often get angry with you when don’t want to do sexual things to the point where you’re afraid or threatened?
- Has your partner ever guilted you into having sex with them for something they think you did wrong?
- Do you feel like you have to have to sex with your partner in order to keep your relationship?
- Does your partner say things like “you don’t love me if you do this” or “if you don’t do this I’ll___?”
- Are you often anxious or afraid when your partner makes sexual advances?
Of course, these questions are not the only ones to ask yourself and review, but anything similar is something to consider. A yes to even one may indicate that you’re in a sexually abusive relationship, and addressing that is the first step.
The next is to proceed with what you’re going to do about it, and how safe you are doing so.
If you’re in a relationship where your partner is violent, uses violence during sex, or is continuously threatening violence or shows excessive anger, approaching the person directly may not be safe for you (and even if it is not, if you feel like you would be in danger in any way, do not approach the person directly.) If you can talk to a friend, a family member, co-worker, anyone who can help, please do so. There are many hotlines out there for people who are experiencing abusive relationships and who need help getting out.
If the relationship you’re in is NOT a physically violent one (and I would consider spousal or partner rape violent, so the above guide will pertain to those situations) and you feel safe with approaching the person about how they’ve been handling your relationship, then do so. It can be hard, rough, and emotional, but nobody deserves to be in an sexually abusive abusive relationship, even if the abuser doesn’t realize they’re being abusive.
The biggest deterrent you will probably face in getting yourself out of an abusive relationship, or changing your abusive relationship into a non-abusive one, is people close to you telling you to “just let things work themselves out” or your partner trying to convince you there’s no problem or filling you with false promises of change while keeping the behavior the same. It can be hard to get yourself out of your situation when so many people are telling you to “roll with the tide” or that you’re overrating, or when you’re partner is using your emotions to keep you where you are. You always have to remember that, no matter what, YOUR feelings matter, and if you’re in a place where you are being harmed, controlled, or manipulated, it is your express RIGHT to not be subjected to such treatment.
As always, feedback is wonderful.