Sexual coercion is the use of pressure, threats, or emotional manipulation to get someone to do something that they don’t want to do.

Consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. In Canada, if someone is coerced into saying yes to sexual activity then that consent is not valid. A popular misconception is that sexual assault is violent and happens through the use of force or by physically overpowering someone. However, coercion is more commonly used to facilitate sexual violence.

Sexual coercion comes in many forms. Given its manipulative nature, it can be difficult to recognize.

Examples of coercive behaviours include:

  • Pressuring and Badgering
    • Asking for sex repeatedly – Please, come on, I really like you, I need this.
    • What are you waiting for? Don’t be such a prude. Everyone our age is having sex.
    • Come on now, you gave me the impression that you wanted to have sex.
    • It is your duty as my wife to have sex with me.
  • Threats and Intimidations
    • If you don’t have sex with me, I will harm you/harm the children/harm the pets.
    • Shouting, screaming, breaking things.
    • Using their physical presence to intimidate or block movement.
  • Emotional Manipulation and Guilt-tripping
    • If you don’t have sex with me, I will break up with you.
    • If you don’t have sex with me, I will tell your family that you are gay.
    • If you don’t have sex with me, I will send nude photos of you to your parents.
    • You must not love me as much as you say you do. You would do this if you loved me.

Coercion is confusing and distressing.

Those who experience sexual coercion may know that what happened wasn’t right, however, they may be hesitant to call it sexual assault. Coercion often leaves people who have experienced sexual assault feeling like they consented and therefore, are somehow responsible for what happened.

But remember consent is voluntary – meaning that someone says yes to sexual activity because they want to. Those who experience sexual assault are never to blame. Those who choose to use sexually coercive or abusive behaviours to force others into unwanted sexual activity are responsible for their actions.