Social media has definitely changed the way our society views and deals with topics of sexuality, consent, and abuse. The #MeToo movement has cast into the limelight something once considered taboo, and now we are better able to recognize and deal with cases involving harassment.
Yet sexual misconduct isn’t something we instinctively think of in serious, seemingly functional relationships. Oftentimes we’ve been conditioned in ways to prevent us from realizing that we are the victims (or perpetrators) of sexual abuse when every other aspect of our relationships is “healthy”. Know the signs of abuse and get help (either by talking to your partner or seeking professional advice) if you are experiencing any of these in your relationship.
Sex as currency
You should never feel like you have to have sex in order to receive something that is extraneous to bedroom pleasure. If you find yourself feeling that you have to have sex anytime you want to ask for something – a night out with your girlfriends, shopping trips, or simply to avoid your partner’s bad mood – then you are a victim of sexual misconduct. In a mature and healthy relationship sex should be given willingly, not used as a form of currency.
Sex because you’re afraid
Anytime you’re afraid to have sex and do it anyway is a huge red flag, especially if you’re afraid that saying no will lead to more abusive patterns and behaviors. If your partner threatens you or bullies you for not having sex, or forces you to do things during sex that hurt you or you are uncomfortable with, he is being manipulative and that needs to be addressed. If you’re afraid to address the problem for fear of his reaction, it might be time to start looking for help and a way out of that relationship.
Sex to regulate his behavior
If you find that your partner blames his behavior on whether or not you’ve had sex with him, he is being sexually abusive. You are not responsible for his behaviors. He is responsible for how he treats you, your children, or your family. If he uses his treatment of you and your family members as a way to leverage you into having sex with him, that is coercive and wrong.
Messing with your birth control methods
Having children is a huge responsibility – one that comes with financial and emotional burdens – and the choice to have (or not have) children is one that must be respected by both parties. If your partner restricts your access to your birth control or refuses to wear a condom he can be sexually abusive, and it might be a tactic of creating a disproportionate imbalance of power over you. It’s negligent at least and manipulative at worst.
Sex when you’re not in the mood
Especially in marriage relationships, it is not uncommon for the wife to feel like she “owes” her husband sex whenever he wants it. Whether you’re married or not, no means no. Contrary to archaic belief, choosing to marry or live with your partner does not give him unlimited access to your body. There is no such thing as blanket consent. This goes both ways – before having sex with your partner, make sure that both of you say yes and never make assumptions.
Anonymous. (2018, March 8). We need to talk about sexual assault in marriage. Retrieved April
10, 2018, from Vox:
Escoto, F. (2013, September 30). 6 Lessons Melissa Gorga Needs to Learn About Abuse. Retrieved April 2018, from Your Tango: https://www.yourtango.com/experts/francesca-escoto/6-lessons-melissa-gorga-needs-learn-about-abuse
Futures Without Violence; La Clinica Del Pueblo. (2016, April 21). Sexual Assault Can Happen in Relationships, Too. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from WomensHealth.gov: https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/sexual-assault-relationships
Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program. (2013-2018). Sexual Abuse in Dating Relationships. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from YAAPP: http://www.yaapp.org/sexual-abuse-in-dating-relationships/