It can take courage to say no to someone but would you rather say no to others or yourself? When pressured into having sex, we deny ourselves the fundamental right to say no. If you say yes, you’ll be dealing with all the negative emotions of the aftermath.
Instead, learn to say no to unwanted sex by using the understanding and methods provided in this article.
What is sexual coercion?
On the surface, sexual coercion seems simple enough. It’s essentially when you’re forced to have sex despite not wanting to. It gets tricky because everyone is different and being pressured into having sex can sometimes be very subtle.
For example, alcohol and guilt-tripping are potential approaches you’ll see. More obvious signs include threats and emotional blackmail. These threats could be verbal, such that they will leave you or hurt your kids.
It’s worth noting this article on the health impact of sexual harassment. Pressure to have sex leads to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in some extreme cases. Essentially, your body is going into a fight or flight mode, which increases your heart rate and releases cortisol into your system.
As the article continues to explain, both our minds and our guts react when stressed from sexual pressure. That’s why you can feel sick, suffer from headaches and perhaps even have panic attacks.
Of course, harassment is slightly different and is more about intimidation. Nevertheless, coercion removes your freedom to choose and feeling pressured to have sex will also negatively impact your mental health.
Pressured for sex in relationships
Sexual pressure in a relationship is stressful for everyone. Naturally, you’re trying to protect your needs and avoid unwanted sex. On the other hand, your partner can feel rejected and unworthy.
Those are often the reasons people get pressured into having sex. They don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings and undermine their own feelings. Nevertheless, love is mutual respect for both your needs. The key is to communicate those needs openly.
Resisting sexual pressure starts with understanding your needs while boosting your self-esteem. Many of us struggle to say no to requests because we want approval from others. We want to feel we belong to the group, so we say yes when confronted with peer pressure to have sex.
Of course, there are many reasons why people are pressured into having sex. Common reasons include a fear of conflict, a sense of loyalty and low self-esteem. Moreover, sex is a topic that is constantly on social media and the news in general.
Surely, everyone’s doing it, right?
Wrong. Mature and healthily grounded adults in secure relationships respect each other and know how to communicate their desires. Sometimes, it’s simply the wrong time and in that case, it’s not ok being pressured into having sex.
10 ways to deal with pressure to have sex
Whether you’re being pressured into a relationship to have sex for the first time or you’re saying to yourself, “my boyfriend pressured me sexually,” there are options to proceed. Review the following 10 tips to say no the first time.
Remember that if this is the hundredth time, you can still say no. Just because you’re regularly having sex, there will be days when you want to say no.
1. Match your body language with your words
If you’re being pressured to have sex, you might find yourself trying to say no but you’re still leaning in with your body. The build-up to sex could be drawing you in, but deep down, you want to say no, which can confuse your partner.
It’s much better to say no clearly and to step back until what you’re happy with has been clarified. For example, you could be ok with some of the foreplay but not all of it.
You need to make sure that your partner understands all of this to avoid being pressured into having sex.
2. Be clear and sound confident
You need to be assertive when being pressured to have sex. This means speaking clearly, without too many words and while sitting or standing up straight with your shoulders back. Make sure you look your partner squarely into the eyes rather than looking down.
Don’t forget to breathe to calm your worries so you can better explain what you want rather than being pressured into having sex. Remind yourself internally that you have every right to say no and that there’s nothing wrong with that.
Listen to social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how your body language can shape who you are and how you feel:
A helpful technique is to use the word I when you’re being forced to have sex. Research explains that men and women have different views regarding sexual intent, and there could be a misunderstanding.
Sentences that start with “I feel,” “I need,” or “I prefer” come across as less aggressive. Those phrases don’t make your partner feel like a predator and you move away from being pressured into having sex more kindly. This limits the risk of argument.
If you’re dealing with the thought “my husband pressures me sexually,” you first need to know what you’re happy with. Are there trends as to when your husband forces you? Are you tired or not feeling desirable at times?
Whatever it is, make sure you explain why you feel pressured into having sex. You can always counter by setting a time for another day. Another option is to explore what he can do to help you feel more sexually desirable.
If something feels wrong, then it is. It’s that simple. Deep down, we can usually spot when we’re being pressured into a relationship just for the sake of sex. The journey to commitment should be a gradual process that includes both your needs and wants.
Resisting sexual pressure can be hard when you want to please your partner. Although, remember there are two of you in a relationship.
Neither of you will be happy if you’re emotional and depressed because you had unwanted sex. It’s perfectly acceptable to communicate that and to break down the steps that you need rather than being pressured into having sex.
Watch this video to learn how to communicate your needs in a way that they would listen:
You can be physically intimate with someone without having sex. When we’re pressured for sex, we often forget all the other ways to enjoy each other’s bodies. Why not be curious together and see what else you discover?
8. Be kind
Feeling pressured to have sex can be terrifying. Then again, remember that your partner might also be feeling social or peer pressure.
If you reject them abruptly, they might also shut down their negative emotions. Instead, be compassionate so that you can both talk to each other about your motives openly and honestly.
Love and relationships aren’t about forcing people to do things they don’t want. Sadly, many people, especially the younger generation, often pressure each other on various topics, including having sex.
Although, peer pressure to have sex can happen at any age. The best way to counteract this and not be pressured into having sex is to find people who respect you for who you are and not what you do.
10. Exercise your right to say no
To avoid unwanted sex, remind yourself that saying no is part of who you are. You don’t owe anyone anything.
Of course, that isn’t always easy. A practical way to keep reinforcing your belief in your right to say no is to use positive affirmations such as, “I know what my needs are.”
Understanding what you want sexually
Research tells us that you have inner belief systems to help determine how you feel about sex. These come from our upbringing, influences, social circles and everything else we interact with in life.
The way to know how you feel and to say no to unwanted sex more confidently means understanding your inner beliefs about sexuality and where they come from. Moreover, what are your values about sex, relationships and marriage?
It can help write all beliefs down onto paper to communicate them more clearly to your partner when facing sexual pressure in a relationship. This discovery process shouldn’t be interrupted by being pressured into having sex.
Instead, explain your approach to your partner calmly and explore ways to decrease the pressure to have sex for both of you.
No one should ever have to think the words “my husband pressures me sexually.” This is sexual coercion or manipulation. To deal with being pressured into having sex, clarify your own needs and wants to yourself first.
Then, make sure you set boundaries by using I statements along with compassion. Don’t forget that your partner might also feel pressured to have sex. The more open you can be, the easier you can support each other.
On the other hand, perhaps your partner coerced you in the past and you’re thinking, “my boyfriend pressured me sexually.” In that case, you might be dealing with guilt, depression and all the other negative emotions that come afterward.
The worst thing you can do is suffer alone. Seek help either with a therapist or through the Sexual Assault Hotline.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.