Sexual Coercion: What Is It and How Can I Stay Safe?
It makes sense that with such so many women dying from gender-based violence, you might wonder what’s causing it. What is the root? Well the truth is that there are multiple factors that can all play a part at the same time.
They have to do with things like sociocultural and personal background. Culture, environment, and learning models all encourage attitudes, gender norms, values, and sexual patterns that seem to be very closely related to sexual coercion.
Factors associated with sexual coercion of women
Factors that make a man more prone to be the perpetrator of sexual coercion lie somewhere in the combination of hostile masculinity with certain variables related to their motivation and sexual experiences. But what do all these terms actually mean? We’ll explain:
- Hostile masculinity: men’s need to control and dominate women.
- Motivation and sexual experiences: the overconfidence some men have about their sexual skills. These concepts also have to do with their interest in no-questions sex and their constant concern with being sexually effective and sexually active.
According to Malamuth’s confluence model, it’s when these two characteristics meet that men engage in sexually coercive behavior.
On the other side, researchers have also done studies about female behavior and their vulnerability to sexual coercion. The most important risk factor for women is simply meeting a man who’s willing to be sexually aggressive. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything to prevent it as women. Here are some ideas to stay safe:
- Self-confidence when it comes to sexual coercion. Women who think they’ll be able to stand firm in this kind of situation are the same ones who are the best at preventing undesired sexual activity.
- Negative expectations about drinking alcohol.
- Assertive conduct in the face of verbal pressure. This is the most important part of staying safe. It means expressing what you do agree with and don’t agree with. Assertive women are better at preventing undesired sexual activity.
Sexual coercion prevention program
The goal of any prevention program is to reduce the risk factors. In this case that goes for both men and women, and it also means teaching ways to protect yourself. A few years ago, the Spanish Ministry of Education started a research project involving these ideas:
- Consensual vs. non-consensual interaction: the goal is to recognize them and tell them apart. To do that, participants would brainstorm about what sexual freedom means to them and about what limits sexual freedom.
- Expectations and myths about sexual relationships and sexual coercion: questioning established beliefs and being aware of how they might lead to coercion. Some of the most widespread myths participants might explore: “a lot of the time girls say no but what they really mean is yes,” or “you prove that you’re a man by having as much sex as you can.”
- Avoiding risky situations: the goal here is to recognize situations that usually go along with sexual coercion or a high risk of experiencing it. To do that, participants could watch a video and go through questions like “do some of the things he say seem sexist to you?“
- Assertiveness and communication training: expressing what you do and don’t want. It also involves negotiating or reaching agreements about what you’ll do.
In short, if we learn about the roots of the problem and some things we can do to solve it, we’re taking a step forward for the sake of all women. Gender-based violence should be a top-level issue in our society so that one day it will be eradicated forever.