The Understudied Female Sexual Predator
November 30, 2016 7:53 AM   Subscribe

According to new research, sexual victimization by women is more common than gender stereotypes would suggest. Two years ago, Lara Stemple, Director of UCLA’s Health and Human Rights Law Project, came upon a statistic that surprised her: In incidents of sexual violence reported to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 38 percent of victims were men––a figure much higher than in prior surveys, Results published here[Fulltext]. Intrigued, she began to investigate: Was sexual violence against men more common than previously thought and who were the perpetrators? Other men? Women? In what proportions? Under what circumstances?

Sexual Victimization Perpetrated by Women: Federal Data Reveal Surprising Prevalence.[Fulltext]
This article examines female sexual perpetration in the U.S. To do so, we analyzed data from four large-scale federal agency surveys conducted independently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008 through 2013. We found these data to contradict the common belief that female sexual perpetration is rare. We therefore reviewed the broader literature to identify patterns and provide context, including among high-risk populations such as college students and inmates. We recommend that professionals responding to this problem avoid gender stereotypes that downplay the frequency and impact of female sexual perpetration so as to comprehensively address sexual victimization in all forms.
From the Conclusions:

"In light of this new federal agency data demonstrating that female sexual perpetration is more widespread than previously known, we have sought to enumerate the gender stereotypes fueling its neglect. We call for feminist approaches – expansively interpreted – to challenge these stereotypes, making room to consider women who are abusive, power seeking, and sexually aggressive, while taking into account the troubled background many such women possess. Unless we uproot the simplistic stereotypes that limit understandings about sexual victimization, we will not address it accurately, nor will we respond to victims empathically. Those victimized by women are doubly harmed when we fail to treat their abuse as worthy of concern. Further, we recommend that law enforcement officials, care professionals interacting with perpetrators and victims, and policymakers apply a new awareness of the frequency and impact of female perpetration in practice, so as to address sexual victimization comprehensively. This includes taking account of issues specific to lesbian and bisexual women, youth, people of color, and incarcerated persons."
The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions[Fulltext]
We assessed 12-month prevalence and incidence data on sexual victimization in 5 federal surveys that the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted independently in 2010 through 2012. We used these data to examine the prevailing assumption that men rarely experience sexual victimization. We concluded that federal surveys detect a high prevalence of sexual victimization among men—in many circumstances similar to the prevalence found among women. We identified factors that perpetuate misperceptions about men’s sexual victimization: reliance on traditional gender stereotypes, outdated and inconsistent definitions, and methodological sampling biases that exclude inmates. We recommend changes that move beyond regressive gender assumptions, which can harm both women and men.

This research is based primarily on four major surveys:
The CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

The BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey

BJS's National Former Prisoner Survey

National Survey of Youth in Custody
Male Rape and Human Rights - By Lara Stemple, the primary author of the two research papers.
For the last few decades, the prevailing approach to sexual violence in international human rights instruments has focused virtually exclusively on the abuse of women and girls. In the meantime, sexual violence against males continues to flourish in prison and other forms of detention. Men have been abused and sexually humiliated during situations of armed conflict, such as the highly publicized Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. Childhood sexual abuse of boys is alarmingly common; in fact, the vast majority of those abused at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy in the United States were boys. And sexual assault against gay men remains unchecked due to assumptions that, as was once commonly assumed about women, gay men who have been raped must have “asked for it.”

In Part I of this Article, I discuss the phenomenon of male rape, summarizing research data about the problem and exploring various contexts in which it occurs. In Part II, I show that numerous instruments in the human rights canon, including U.N. treaties, resolutions, consensus documents, and general comments address sexual violence while explicitly excluding male victims. I argue that the female-specific approach is best understood in the political context in which these instruments were developed: women’s issues were historically ignored in international law, and violence against women emerged as the salient issue around which attention to women’s human rights would revolve. I posit in Part III, however, that to continue this approach to sexual violence in light of evidence that males constitute a small but sizable percentage of victims has problematic theoretical implications: it reifies hierarchies that treat some victims as more sympathetic than others, perpetuates norms that essentialize women as victims, and imposes unhealthy expectations about masculinity on men and boys. I also outline why, paradoxically, neglecting male rape is bad for women and girls. In Part IV, I discuss the impact the female-specific approach to rape has in practice, and I point to other rights frameworks and areas of international law that hold potential for more inclusive approaches to the problem.

It is worth noting that in my treatment of this topic I distinguish the use of a gender analysis, which can be as important for understanding the rape of men as it is of women, from a female-specific approach, which explicitly excludes all male victims from efforts to remedy sexual violence, and as such, should no longer continue.
Notably, while the main Atlantic article quotes the paper referencing a previous study thusly,
"A 2014 study of 284 men and boys in college and high school found that 43% reported being sexually coerced, with the majority of coercive incidents resulting in unwanted sexual intercourse. Of them, 95% reported only female perpetrators. The authors defined sexual coercion broadly, including verbal pressure such as nagging and begging, which, the authors acknowledge, increases prevalence dramatically (French et al., 2014)."
The paper goes on to spell out the previous author's justification for why they did this:
"But, the study also found that the resulting sexual activity was a more significant predictor of psychological distress and behavioral sequelae than the type of coercion tactic employed. Specifically, participants whose coercive experience resulted in intercourse showed greater subsequent sexual risk-taking and alcohol abuse, regardless of whether the incident involved force or only verbal coercion (French et al., 2014). Male respondents described incidents that included statutory rape (e.g., “I was coerced into sleeping with an older [woman] because I was told it would make a big boy. I was only 12 at the time and the girl was 18 I believe” (French et al., 2014)) and substance-related incidents (“Well she told me she could drink a ton and was giving me double shots to ‘see if I could keep up.’ After a couple hours things got blurry and I woke up next to her” (French et al., 2014))."
The original article has since been updated with stories readers have shared that feature a broad range of personal experiences and grapple with their meaning, as well as the double standards associated with sexual assault.
posted by Blasdelb (136 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Male victims get subjected to a different flavor of rape culture. Bill Maher provides an egregious example.
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:04 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


[Previously with less data available]
posted by Blasdelb at 8:11 AM on November 30, 2016


After receiving a BA in 1990, I accepted a job in educational research. An eighteen year longitudinal study funded by the NIMH. My boss was an amazing woman, a clinical psychologist, who allowed me to "float" between the four intervention schools, but not the control sites. She had a Jenny Holzer t-shirt fastened to her office door. This was a topic of which she spoke and I'm posting to say it is knowledge that is not new.

And if its progress is twisted and appropriated by any "men's rights" types, I'll not stop throwing up.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:11 AM on November 30, 2016 [20 favorites]


The authors defined sexual coercion broadly, including verbal pressure such as nagging and begging, which, the authors acknowledge, increases prevalence dramatically (French et al., 2014)."

I get that nagging and begging aren't great behaviors to be engaging in with regard to sex, but including them in coercion seems to dilute the meaning of coercion to an unacceptable extent.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:13 AM on November 30, 2016 [59 favorites]


I'm glad this is being studied seriously because it takes some wind out of the sails of the MRA types who claim that "no one cares" about male victims of rape by women.

Sure, some will crow about this "proof" of what they've "been saying all along," but when it comes down to it, this is just another reason why both men and women should have a dog in the fight against sexual violence.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


Male victims get subjected to a different flavor of rape culture. Bill Maher provides an egregious example.

Wow. It's not Bill Maher if it's not disgusting even when it's satire.
posted by Talez at 8:18 AM on November 30, 2016


"I get that nagging and begging aren't great behaviors to be engaging in with regard to sex, but including them in coercion seems to dilute the meaning of coercion to an unacceptable extent."

Agreed. If nagging and begging are by themselves considered coercive, then advertising and charity solicitations should be considered robbery.

That said, so long as you don't conflate nagging and begging for sex with sexual violence, it's worth pointing out that these are not good behaviors and can lead to unfortunate results.
posted by tdismukes at 8:22 AM on November 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


WTF, I saw this on reddit's r/all, I *think* in a r/The_Donald spam post (r/all is all r/The_Donald) spam posts.
posted by My Dad at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2016


I'm glad this is being studied seriously because it takes some wind out of the sails of the MRA types who claim that "no one cares" about male victims of rape by women.

As far as I can tell, most feminists and feminist groups do more actual advocate work (rather than internet complaining or harassment) for male sexual abuse victims on any given day than the entirety of the MRA movement has ever done.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:26 AM on November 30, 2016 [115 favorites]


I don't know, there are varying levels of coercion. Is it unacceptable coercion for a boy to tell his girlfriend if she loves him, she would sleep with him? How about if it's her boss? How about if she tells him if he doesn't have sex with her she'll tell the school he's gay? Or if she's his boss? Or how about a coworker who gets her coworker drunk and takes him home? Is it unacceptable coercion or rape if she takes advantage of his morning erection?

Honestly, I know it makes it more of a minefield for people, but I can't see how making people aware that coaxing people into sex, by whatever means is slightly sketchy and you might want to reconsider how you get sex.
posted by teleri025 at 8:29 AM on November 30, 2016 [25 favorites]


"I get that nagging and begging aren't great behaviors to be engaging in with regard to sex, but including them in coercion seems to dilute the meaning of coercion to an unacceptable extent."
As noted in the FPP, the authors of the paper that includes nagging and begging in their explicitly broad definition of sexual coercion justify their choice to do so by pointing out how their data shows that the kinds of verbal pressure that men will self-report as "nagging and begging" have largely the same impact on their wellbeing as other coercive tactics that involve force, and that the the resulting sexual activity was a much more significant predictor of resulting distress.

This would seem to suggest that maybe we need to adjust our cultural expectations for what kinds of verbal coercion are acceptable to apply to men to be closer to the expectations we already use to determine the kinds of coercion that are acceptable to apply to women. I mean, why exactly is it culturally acceptable and normal for women to harass men into sex they do not want? Maybe thats not ok?
posted by Blasdelb at 8:30 AM on November 30, 2016 [35 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "nagging and begging" and other verbal forms of non-force coercion have been counted as sexual assault for quite some time now so I don't see why it's somehow strange that it is counted in these new studies.
posted by some loser at 8:31 AM on November 30, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm glad this was posted here. I saw it on Reddit first and could not bring myself to read the discussion in the comments. At least here it might get a nuanced treatment.
posted by theraflu at 8:34 AM on November 30, 2016


I'm pretty sure "nagging and begging" and other verbal forms of non-force coercion have been counted as sexual assault for quite some time now so I don't see why it's somehow strange that it is counted in these new studies.

Really? I think if the kinds of bad sex women are subjected to explicity included nagging and begging, you'd see the numbers of sexual harassment and rape statistics be much higher. Then it wouldn't be "numbers of women raped" it would be "numbers of women raped 'N' times."

I think this is really important research and I think this conversation is important. But there are still plenty of people that think if a woman isn't injured during a sex act or injured in trying to protect herself, she hasn't really been raped.
posted by amanda at 8:38 AM on November 30, 2016 [22 favorites]


Can we all agree the whole wide world needs a thorough lesson in CONSENT? Can we start with required viewing of:

If you’re still struggling with consent just imagine instead of initiating sex you’re making them a cup of tea.
posted by pjsky at 8:39 AM on November 30, 2016 [18 favorites]


A lot of modern sexual violence messages that focus on an affirmative consent model also focus on defining and reinforcing a healthy idea of masculinity, and while that message could reach some female perpetrators and male victims, it likely isn't sufficient for the whole population, and could lead to the destructive belief that women can't be perpetrators, or that sexual violence is the only kind of victimization. A lot of work has been done to open up the definition of rape beyond "assaulted by a complete stranger at night" - this seems like similar work.

This is definitely some food for thought.
posted by muddgirl at 8:39 AM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


This comment on the updated with stories version of the article stuck with me:

I find that even using language to express sexual predation is difficult for men. We don’t have an easily accessible vocabulary.

In seventh grade, there were two girls in one of my class who would regularly corner me in the library and act sexually interested and flirtatious with me; the bolder of the two often stuck her hands down my pants and grabbed me. The joke was "haha, let's see if we can make this nerd think two cool girls* are actually attracted to him." It was probably ten years after before I thought of that as anything other than simple bullying. Better sexual assault/harassment education would have helped me at least contextualize and describe what was happening.

*With the benefit of hindsight, they weren't that cool, which I think was probably a driver in what they were doing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:43 AM on November 30, 2016 [34 favorites]


I've heard a few "nagging and begging" stories very similar to Blasdelb's last link.

Would that be a criminal sexual assault? I don't know. But I don't know if I'd call that consensual etiher.
posted by bonehead at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is important work and I'm glad it's being done. I hope that in the future people will stop being gross and saying "Lucky kid!" about male teens who get coerced into sex with their teachers, for example.

Power imbalances are power imbalances and coercion is coercion.

And if MRA types are so concerned, they are welcome to start some shelters and services for male victims. Knowing them, I'd be more inclined to believe they'd actually shame male victims for feeling assaulted/being weak/etc. and it will continue to be feminists who actually help them.
posted by emjaybee at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2016 [24 favorites]


"Really? I think if the kinds of bad sex women are subjected to explicity included nagging and begging, you'd see the numbers of sexual harassment and rape statistics be much higher. Then it wouldn't be "numbers of women raped" it would be "numbers of women raped 'N' times.""
Examining sexual coercion of women by men is already increasingly a well examined topic in the literature and already looks at exactly this verbal coercion if only with the greater granularity that comes with more data and scientific interest. This isn't scientists addressing a public health problem in men that they don't consider an issue in women, its researchers finally taking seriously a problem in men that is already long problematized and studied in women.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:50 AM on November 30, 2016 [29 favorites]


As far as I can tell, most feminists and feminist groups do more actual advocate work (rather than internet complaining or harassment) for male sexual abuse victims on any given day than the entirety of the MRA movement has ever done.

There are some outliers, however; I saw this issue being discussed on a Facebook friends' feed today, and one of her male friends commented that once, in response to a prior discussion of male rape, he'd discussed his own case. Another woman replied simply to post a picture of herself drinking from a mug with the words "Male Tears" written on it.

Most feminist and feminist groups are on board, but there are indeed some jerks amid the feminist camp, as there are in every camp, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2016 [36 favorites]


By "quite some time" i mean years, not decades, if that helps clarify my comment?
posted by some loser at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2016


I think this is really important research and I think this conversation is important. But there are still plenty of people that think if a woman isn't injured during a sex act or injured in trying to protect herself, she hasn't really been raped.

Maybe I'm just being overly prickly about word choice, but I don't understand how this is a "but" and not an "and". How are those two things in conflict? Surely more research and talk about consent is better?
posted by ODiV at 8:54 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am a sexual assault researcher. I have an under-review paper that meta-analyzes every single published report from 1970-2014 examining how sexually assaulted and unassaulted people differ in their mental health. We found almost 200 studies that gave us 500 estimates of the relationship between sexual assault and mental health. This allows us to draw more rigorous conclusions across a body of literature than can be drawn from a single study. Some of the findings are relevant to this.
  • Gender did not appear to affect whether sexually assaulted people were worse off than unassaulted people in terms of mental health.
  • 122 of the studies in our sample included only women, while 8 included only men. This reflects a tendency in the field to exclude men from studies of sexual assault because sexual assault of men is considered to be a different phenomenon and it's often hard to recruit enough of them to do a good subgroup analysis. I have a problem with this exclusion and am glad to see that it's been changing as our field evolves.
  • "But, the study also found that the resulting sexual activity was a more significant predictor of psychological distress and behavioral sequelae than the type of coercion tactic employed. Specifically, participants whose coercive experience resulted in intercourse showed greater subsequent sexual risk-taking and alcohol abuse, regardless of whether the incident involved force or only verbal coercion (French et al., 2014)." - [Note: We included this study in our analysis.] Researchers often have to make decisions about where to draw the line between assaulted and unassaulted people, given a population of people with a wide range of sexual assault experiences. We looked at how the researchers defined the phenomenon of sexual assault in their research- meaning, what kind of experiences would lead someone in their sample to be "counted" as a sexual assault survivor. When studies limited their definition to only penetrative sexual assault, the sexually assaulted group was more similar to the non-assaulted group in mental health. It wasn't a *huge* difference, and including non-penetrative assaults (e.g., fondling, groping) in study definitions still resulted in big differences between the assaulted and unassaulted groups. This suggests that there *is* something about penetrative sexual assault that is harmful over and above the harm associated with fondling/groping. However, when studies included coercion and/or incapacitation in their definition, as opposed to force only, nothing changed. This suggests that, regardless of the tactic used, unwanted sex acts are harmful. Thus, our findings support this decision.
I would wager a bet that one of the big differences in research that ends up excluding male victims is how the construct of sexual assault is measured. There are two main ways to assess whether someone has been sexually assaulted- you can ask, "have you been [sexually assaulted/raped]?" or you can behaviorally define a variety of sex acts (e.g., "has someone ever put their mouth on your sex organs when you did not want them to"), matched with a bunch of tactics that are criminal ways to accomplish the sex act (e.g., "by threatening you with force"), and see whether people endorse each one. Unsurprisingly, more people tend to endorse the specific questions than the vague questions that use a term like "rape," given that the term "rape" is pretty loaded and relies on people calling up a culturally-biased definition of what it means to be raped. Indeed, in the US, the cultural definition of the term "rape" still includes lots of problematic ideas, like that it only "counts" if it's penetrative sex perpetrated by a man against a woman (indeed, the FBI's definition of rape and resulting crime stats were only recently updated to include male victims), which certainly affects who endorses that question. My guess is that many men don't endorse those kinds of questions for that reason. In our analysis, most studies used behaviorally-specific questions, but it's just not feasible to do that in a lot of huge surveys that don't centrally focus on sexual assault. Using behaviorally-specific questions has also been somewhat controversial among non-researchers- some critics say that sexual assault researchers use this to inflate the prevalence of rape.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2016 [69 favorites]


amanda: The language used was "sexual assault", not "rape".
posted by XtinaS at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most feminist and feminist groups are on board, but there are indeed some jerks amid the feminist camp, as there are in every camp, is all.

Eh, this is a little too close to "both sides can be equally bad" for my taste. I can name several major regulatory and/or reporting actions in the last couple of years alone that address both male and female (including trans) sexual assault where feminist groups were instrumental in their implementation or passage. I can't think of a single one where men's rights groups were involved outside of harassment campaigns.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "nagging and begging" and other verbal forms of non-force coercion have been counted as sexual assault for quite some time now so I don't see why it's somehow strange that it is counted in these new studies.

It is true that it's been counted increasingly since the late 80s, when Mary Koss and colleagues did a study of "the hidden rape victim" for Ms Magazine. This was really a sea change moment- sexual assault had previously been studied only as a form of trauma in the clinical psychology literature, and this was one of the first moments where it was examined as a social/cultural phenomenon in academia.

One important thing to keep in mind is that sexual assault, as a broad social phenomenon, includes but is not limited to assaults that our criminal justice system deems to be criminal. I haven't looked at statutes state-by-state in quite a while (and please correct me if I'm wrong), but last time I checked, standard rape statutes were mostly limited to forced sexual contact. I think some people feel uncomfortable with the term "sexual assault" being used to mean [things we deem to be criminal sexual contact] and [things that we deem to be wrong] and not have those spheres totally overlap, but it's pretty clear that the area of the Venn diagram where the "criminal" sphere doesn't fully cover the "wrong" sphere is still an area where tons of harm occurs. In my opinion, this makes that area worth including in a research context.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:14 AM on November 30, 2016 [28 favorites]


I wonder how prevalent is the idea that men can't be raped by a woman (i.e. they cannot penetrate her under coercion). I'm curious how many sexual assaults fall into that scenario. I can't comment on the probability or lack thereof.
posted by AFABulous at 9:19 AM on November 30, 2016


Zombie - totally agree with you on the MRA team dropping the ball on advocacy. At the same time, I encourage other feminists to not stop themselves from calling out those few feminists who do act like jerks about this.

Precisely because I don't want the MRA jerks to pull up incidents like that and say "see? This proves feminists want men to be brutalized" and that just gets all stupid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


quiet coyote has this right, I think. This is a victimization survey and therefore isn't and shouldn't be limited to our current legal definitions of "sexual assault" or similar.
posted by sfred at 9:24 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, why exactly is it culturally acceptable and normal for women to harass men into sex they do not want? Maybe thats not ok?

I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on November 30, 2016 [62 favorites]


I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.

corb, this is a totally great point. The measure used in the French study* to assess sexual assault is one that I've never seen before. The gold-standard measure, called the Sexual Experiences Survey, is much more specific about what nagging/begging/pressure looks like:
    a. Telling lies, threatening to end the relationship, threatening to spread rumors about me, making promises I knew were untrue, or continually verbally pressuring me after I said I didn’t want to. b. Showing displeasure, criticizing my sexuality or attractiveness, getting angry but not using physical force, after I said I didn’t want to.
So maybe it's somewhat reassuring to know that most studies that include nagging/begging would probably not pick up instances where women ask politely.

That study is actually French et al., 2015, not 2014, and was not included in the analysis I described earlier.

posted by quiet coyote at 9:34 AM on November 30, 2016 [49 favorites]


I knew somebody once with lifelong fears of abandonment due to trauma who kept falling for women who would use those fears and withhold intimacy and affection as psychological leverage in negotiations over big life choices. Eventually his wife used the threat of divorce to pressure him to try to start having a child with him when he was reluctant and that led to bigger problems.

The same dude got deflowered at age 15 by a woman who was almost 30 and who had actively colluded in secret with some of his friends to make the encounter happen. I don't think the dude ever considered himself victimized and he probably felt grateful to his friends for arranging those events at the time, but you know, there's something unhealthy and coercive there and it seems to be a running pattern that people apply different standards when thinking about the scenarios once gender constructs get imposed on the scene.

There are also clearer cut cases of predatory abusers among the women in the world--the mommy dearest tropes have roots in real stories. And there have been outright pederasts among female caretakers, too, so it's especially important to be honest and it's more in keeping with the broader aims of feminist thought anyway. Idealizing womanhood unrealistically and putting women as a class on a perch or pedestal isn't consistent with any strain of feminism I've seen.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2016 [22 favorites]


I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.

I grokked the arguments in favour of including those forms of coercion, but I still wasn't entirely comfortable with them. I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I think this comment nails my discomfort precisely.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


However, when studies included coercion and/or incapacitation in their definition, as opposed to force only, nothing changed. This suggests that, regardless of the tactic used, unwanted sex acts are harmful. Thus, our findings support this decision.

I had two experiences that I talk about as sexual assault. The first was pretty cut-and-dried. My attacker pressed me up against the side of a car and groped me.

The second is a bit more ambiguous. I had sex in the middle of a very ugly relationship fight that was part of an extended pattern of abuse. My partner, a woman, had over the previous few hours been physically violent, both physically against me and destruction of property with me present. That alternated with ugly bouts of crying and threatened suicide. It wasn't physical coercion, I wasn't in fear that I'd end up in a hospital or worse. But it was emotional coercion. The consequences of saying "no" would likely have been repeating the same ugly fight we just had.

I take it for granted people reporting "nagging and begging" as a precursor to sexual assault are likely coming out of similar toxic relationships.

Note that I don't particularly care about prosecuting either party 25 years and 35 years later. What I care about is being able to walk into a therapist's office and talk about how my personal crazy might have elements of sexual-assault PTSD. What I care about is how that kind of violence is disturbingly epidemic for bisexual persons (pandemic for bi women).

On preview:

Telling lies, threatening to end the relationship, threatening to spread rumors about me, making promises I knew were untrue, or continually verbally pressuring me after I said I didn’t want to. b. Showing displeasure, criticizing my sexuality or attractiveness, getting angry but not using physical force, after I said I didn’t want to.

Yeah, I can check off at least half of these.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2016 [19 favorites]


I agree that the phrase "nagging and begging " is problematic, but women's "reasonable needs" do not include sex with unwilling participants.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:41 AM on November 30, 2016 [30 favorites]


quiet coyote: "But, the study also found that the resulting sexual activity was a more significant predictor of psychological distress and behavioral sequelae than the type of coercion tactic employed."

Thanks, that goes a little way toward answering a question that has been rolling around in my mind since I read an account of childhood sexual assault at a fundamentalist bible school. It got me wondering whether the coercion that's used to make victims feel ashamed and guilty - with the goal of keeping the victims quiet - maybe does as much psychological damage as the assault itself.

Based on your research, I guess not?
posted by clawsoon at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I get that nagging and begging aren't great behaviors to be engaging in with regard to sex, but including them in coercion seems to dilute the meaning of coercion to an unacceptable extent.

There's a tough grey area here. We recognize the problem of social context and manipulation in the words "harassment" and "hostile environment" and "power differential," even if we're not sure about "nagging" and "begging," but a lot of those situations aren't clear cut either. Sex (sometimes) has an emotional and social context, the contexts means there can be real costs to engaging or not engaging, it is absolutely possible to find yourself in a situation as a man where your personal choice might not be to engage in a given sexual activity but the choices you can see as far as the emotional and social landscape go push you in that direction anyway.

I'm not willing to label experiences like this that I'm familiar with as rape, which I think signifies an entire other dimension of trauma. I stop hesitantly short of the term abuse, depending on the situation. Coercion... that's debatable, but seems pretty close to dialed in; everybody knows coercion has both direct gunpoint-style forms and much more subtle means. And if you accept the idea that women are more practiced in various forms of emotional labor/intelligence, you could imagine the latter means are more likely to be what men face.

I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.

I'm still not sure how to sort nagging and begging between "negotiation" and "coercion," the former being compatible consent-culture and the latter not.

Then again, my guess is that there's an entire category of mis-steps we make between consent-culture and rape-culture that are because the boundary between negotiation and coercion can be subtle and even subjective. I'm sure there's a lot of men who are making mis-steps who also think what they're doing is asking politely for their needs in a negotiation.
posted by weston at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


It got me wondering whether the coercion that's used to make victims feel ashamed and guilty - with the goal of keeping the victims quiet - maybe does as much psychological damage as the assault itself. Based on your research, I guess not?

Basically, my research suggests that all tactics contribute equally to psychological damage. But I'm not sure that I would necessarily think about the sex act itself and the violation of nonconsent as separate things when understanding what causes harm. From the perspective of cognitive theory (as used in one of the gold-standard treatments for PTSD, Cognitive Processing Therapy, which was originally developed to treat sexual assault), experiencing a trauma like sexual assault can cause PTSD by substantially changing how you see yourself, others, and the world. Before the assault, you might have thought that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. But after the assault, the world might start to feel totally dangerous; you might feel inadequate or at fault for the assault. That could arise from coercion or force; it could come from groping or penetrative rape.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.

I don't think you're wrong, but I am also uncomfortable with slippery slope arguments in these contexts either. It does come across as a #notallwoman kind of statement. This is one of the reasons why these discussions are so hard to have even when everyone is trying their best and hardest.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think corb's comment is a slippery slope argument at all, so much as a request for more gender-neutral terms to describe what is meant by "nagging and begging".
posted by tobascodagama at 10:32 AM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think my concern with definining "nagging and begging" by women to men as sexual coercion is that I think that our culture already unduly defines "women asking men politely for their reasonable needs" as nagging.

Regardless of whether or not any particular man sees a woman asking him politely for her reasonable needs as nagging, if a woman's polite ask convinces that man to engage in an unwanted sex act that's a problem that needs addressing. Maybe it doesn't fall into a defined category of criminality, but if we want a world where no one has sex that they don't want to, it's worth looking at.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Telling lies, threatening to end the relationship, threatening to spread rumors about me, making promises I knew were untrue, or continually verbally pressuring me after I said I didn’t want to. b. Showing displeasure, criticizing my sexuality or attractiveness, getting angry but not using physical force, after I said I didn’t want to.

Some of these I think would definitely count as pressure, but others really concern me. Things like "threatening to end the relationship" - well, wouldn't it be reasonable to end a relationship based on sexual incompatibility? I imagine an Asker coming in with 'I really want to have more sex in my relationship, but my partner doesn't want to have sex with me'. We would advise them to leave and find a relationship with someone who could meet their needs.

Likewise, the whole "showing displeasure" thing really, really bothers me. When someone showing their actual emotions can be interpreted as pressure, that's a problem. It's normal and healthy to show your actual emotions! There's no reason women should feel pressured not to show their emotions because the mere sight of their emotions could be viewed as pressure.

It's the old "men fear women will laugh at them / women fear men will kill them." The reason anger without physical force can be pressure for a woman is because the threat of physical force is always in the room. It's not the mere fact that the man is angry, it's because the man is angry and might start using his fists.
posted by corb at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2016 [19 favorites]


As an asexual person, the discussion about what counts as "coercion" is very interesting to me. It's impossible to separate my decisions about whether to have sex from the massive pressure there is to say yes.

Most asexual people that I know have had unwanted sex at some point.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


Things like "threatening to end the relationship" - well, wouldn't it be reasonable to end a relationship based on sexual incompatibility?

I didn't include the whole measure, but those tactics are tied to single instances of unwanted sex. So person A says they don't want to have sex, person B says "I will break up with you if you don't," and they have sex.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2016 [18 favorites]


Boo, it's paywalled. But that makes a lot more sense.
posted by corb at 10:40 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's the old "men fear women will laugh at them / women fear men will kill them." The reason anger without physical force can be pressure for a woman is because the threat of physical force is always in the room. It's not the mere fact that the man is angry, it's because the man is angry and might start using his fists.

There's a lot to unpack here, but it's not necessary to have the ability to physically overpower someone in order to project violence in a scary way at them. Maybe the dude could take her in a fight, but she could break his nose in the process. Maybe the anger includes/implies a non-physical threat (you'll never see your children again).

I mean, the fact of the matter is that the men behind these statistics are feeling psychological distress after sex. Sure, there's some cultural reasons behind it, and sure, maybe the distress is "irrational" but that doesn't change the fact that the psychological distress itself is bad.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


In addition to what is labeled "verbal coercion," the French study includes a category of "unwanted seduction." I'm not sure what the limits of that behavior are, but in evaluating the conclusion that 43% percent of the men in the study experienced "sexual coercion," it's useful to note that these two categories were the most commonly reported forms of coercion.

The study also included Peer Pressure ("pressure from friends, not sexual partner to have sex") and Internal Obligation ("pressure comes from within, not from other person").

Given these factors, I think the definition of sexual coercion used in the study is broader than most people would assume if they just read the results.
posted by layceepee at 10:46 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Some of those measures don't imply any motive on the part of the partner, too. If you have sex with your girlfriend because you think it's what you're 'supposed to do' (internal obligation), she might not even know and it sure as hell isn't her fault.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


I just want to say that I support all of the men here who are being brave and coming forward with their difficult pasts that they haven't worked through, or can't label, or have pushed to the side. I am proud of you. I know it's hard when society doesn't give you words, or frames, or help when trying to figure out something complex and overwhelming and uncomfortable. Society tells us men are supposed to constantly want sex, especially at a young age. It's seen as an accomplishment. I'm sorry these things are forced on you.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:52 AM on November 30, 2016 [41 favorites]


At the risk of digression (or my favorite analogy of arguing algebra in a discussion of calculus), the term assault confuses many, many people because legal definitions are misconstrued as actions but their definition involves intent. An assault is a threat, a physical component (so much as a touch) can be defined as battery and (as illustration) using a feather could be defined as aggravated battery.

I mention this because as the thread explores and evolves the distinctions of negotiation/coercion and fault, I want to emphasize quiet coyote's post in the term of harm.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:01 AM on November 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


corb: Likewise, the whole "showing displeasure" thing really, really bothers me. When someone showing their actual emotions can be interpreted as pressure, that's a problem. It's normal and healthy to show your actual emotions! There's no reason women should feel pressured not to show their emotions because the mere sight of their emotions could be viewed as pressure.

Indeed. But if you want to make sure that you have active consent from your partner, knowing that you're with someone who has a tendency to go into an "okay I'll do whatever you say!" panic in the face of negative emotions should inform how you negotiate consent. If you know that your partner will agree to anything immediately after you express anger, for example, then you should also take care not to ask for sex immediately after being angry. You're putting yourself into a situation where you don't know whether their consent is sincere.

It's similar with threats to end the relationship; some people panic when faced with that ultimatum, whether or not ending the relationship would be a reasonable thing for them to do.

I'd suggest that there's nothing wrong with expressing negative emotions, but if that expression puts your partner in a position where they are unable to consent sincerely, then don't ask for sex immediately afterwards.
posted by clawsoon at 11:06 AM on November 30, 2016 [21 favorites]


similar to what clawsoon said, if Person A feels intensely guilty about not wanting to have sex as often as their Partner B, then B should break up with A, unless B can be sure that Person A is not having sex out of guilt.
posted by AFABulous at 11:19 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


If a person tells you they can't have as much sex as you want, then breaking up is fine. What is not fine is saying "Unless you have sex, I will break up".

That is where the coercion comes. If you already know they will be unhappy with the amount of sex you want- you already have your answer. If you "negotiate" from there, you are looking achieve sex with a person who is unhappy about the sex and that needs to be considered an innately problematic thing to try to achieve on purpose.
posted by xarnop at 11:25 AM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


That is where the coercion comes. If you already know they will be unhappy with the amount of sex you want- you already have your answer. If you "negotiate" from there, you are looking achieve sex with a person who is unhappy about the sex and that needs to be considered an innately problematic thing to try to achieve on purpose.

You have a broader definition of coercion than I do. I think people can consent to do things they don't want to do, since "because I want to" isn't the only reason a person might consent to do something. When you remove this from the context of sexuality, it's pretty clear. There are many mornings that I consent to get out of bed and go to work, but it's not because I want to.

You may think that sex shouldn't be something that's in the category of things you consent to do even if you don't want to, but I'm not convinced that's the case. Therefore, I can see ways of convincing a person to consent to sex that I wouldn't consider coercive.

There have been times in my relationship when my partner wanted sex and I didn't. Agreeing to participate wasn't the result of coercion, but the same thing as agreeing to do any number of things with or for my partner for reasons other than "because I want to."
posted by layceepee at 11:34 AM on November 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


This thread has been really cool for me and I'm glad I've posted it even with how much the sexual coercion that was labelled as 'nagging and begging' for lack of better terms is being dismissed by a lot of posters. I have myself experienced what would be annotated in these statistics as non-consensually being made to penetrate, which I have brought up on the green before. In my last relationship I also experience what I probably wouldn't have called 'nagging and begging' on my own for the reasons brought up here, but also wouldn't have really had a better way to describe it. I guess I mostly want to echo just how weirdly debilitating it has been to not have words that are culturally understood as appropriate to describe really shitty things that happened to me.

Like CBrachyrhynchos, I would easily tick off at least half of the list that quiet coyote posted, and I guess I'm still grappling with the really negative effect it had on me not that unlike how it took me a while to grapple with having been sexually assaulted - and having data and context with which to understand my experience and the harm it caused me has been really powerful.
"I don't think corb's comment is a slippery slope argument at all, so much as a request for more gender-neutral terms to describe what is meant by "nagging and begging"."
I don't really have a concrete suggestion for what language we should be using exactly, but I do think its important to acknowledge that this is very much a gendered phenomenon being discussed and that it the language we do end up using shouldn't be gender-neutral. There are important and distinctly gendered ways in which we as a culture teach both women and men that women are entitled to men's bodies, that men are not entitled to say no, and that it is not possible for a woman to rape a man. I agree that the nomenclature 'nagging and begging' has serious problems, and that there should be a better set of terms even if we have to invent them de novo, but it does still describe a set of ways in which women who tend to be more emotionally competent then their male partners can often end up hideously coercive in a way we desperately need to be able to acknowledge and talk about.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:36 AM on November 30, 2016 [20 favorites]


I guess, well, a lot of this litigation regarding "nagging and begging" is starting to come across as victim-blaming and denial. The French 2014 paper uses the word "nagging" once in a table heading as a summary of a more complex instrument of "verbal coercion." Unfortunately I don't have time this afternoon to go down the rabbit hole of references.

Especially when we're having a conversation about the consent issues in how "Baby It's Cold Outside" can be interpreted in a generation of PUA and using alcohol to push consent elsewhere today, the double-standard strikes me as absurd.

No means no. Period. Not, "ask me again in 15 minutes, (and again in 30, and again sometime in the next hour)" not "say pretty please" not "do it anyway."

corb: Likewise, the whole "showing displeasure" thing really, really bothers me. When someone showing their actual emotions can be interpreted as pressure, that's a problem. It's normal and healthy to show your actual emotions! There's no reason women should feel pressured not to show their emotions because the mere sight of their emotions could be viewed as pressure.

Then maybe don't interpret in that way? I don't call this particular case sexual assault, but I spent an uncomfortable afternoon upset over a dying pet with a partner who complained constantly that the date weekend wasn't going according to plan. I'd call that pressure. So would most people if the genders were reversed.

Yeah yeah. Two people are disappointed in not having sexy fun times. "Make me happy by having sex with me anyway," is not a valid response. All of this is happening in the context of unwanted sex resulting, in many cases, in harmful trauma. So it's pretty clear that we're not talking about just "showing actual emotions."

corb: It's the old "men fear women will laugh at them / women fear men will kill them." The reason anger without physical force can be pressure for a woman is because the threat of physical force is always in the room. It's not the mere fact that the man is angry, it's because the man is angry and might start using his fists.

You do realize that verbal abuse is abuse, and is damaging?

Mitrovarr: Some of those measures don't imply any motive on the part of the partner, too. If you have sex with your girlfriend because you think it's what you're 'supposed to do' (internal obligation), she might not even know and it sure as hell isn't her fault.

Why is that relevant in a conversation about research regarding how we as survivors experience damage?

xarnop: If a person tells you they can't have as much sex as you want, then breaking up is fine. What is not fine is saying "Unless you have sex, I will break up".

Even more specific, "fuck me now, or we're finished." That may come with a bunch of other threats and button-pushing. Taking that out of the context of specific cases of unwanted sex into some referendum on sexual frequency in a relationship is missing the point.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:36 AM on November 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


It seems all well and good to approach the topic of sexual coercion and emotional abuse from an algebraic formula of Person A and Person B ending things amicably if their sexual interests do not coincide but let's pretend for a minute that life doesn't happen as an equation on a chalkboard. Most of these Person A/Person B scenarios as listed in the thread come at this as an uncomplicated relationship where there are no further ties between the couple: children, marriage, joint finances, etc.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Some of those measures don't imply any motive on the part of the partner, too. If you have sex with your girlfriend because you think it's what you're 'supposed to do' (internal obligation), she might not even know and it sure as hell isn't her fault."
I find it kind of darkly fascinating how much threads about how patriarchy impacts men reflect many of the worst impulses of threads about how patriarchy impacts women, just in reverse. Seriously, maybe its just a bit ridiculous to center women's guilt in a thread all about the impacts of sexual assault and coercion by women on its survivors?

I mean, the novelty and unfamiliarity of this kind of self-centered pushback makes it a fundamentally different phenomenon from the constant and inevitable grind of its male counterpart, but you'd think there'd be more cause for self-reflection about it.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised at how much reaction people are having to some of the "relationship coercion" scenarios. Having sex you don't really want at the moment with someone you are otherwise happy to sleep with seems to me a totally different animal than having sex with someone you don't want to sleep with at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:50 AM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


I would love to hear more about statistical methodologies surrounding the use of self-reported survey data-- to a layperson's eyes, it looks as though there are so many mutually contradictory underlying narratives for this information that it's difficult to see how truth is to be teased out of it.

For instance, one of the linked articles says that in a survey of ~8,000 men, the men who reported "forced sex by women" were also likelier to report some high-risk behaviors like drug use and a greater number of sexual partners. (In the abstract's closing sentence, the study phrases this finding as "Many men experience sexual victimization" and "[They] have elevated risk behaviors," which seems in itself like a problematic degree of overstatement.)

In looking at that finding, a couple of different narratives suggest themselves:
-- Perhaps c. 500 /8000 men were deliberately coerced into sex by women, and this traumatized them in ways that caused risky behaviors.

-- Perhaps a population of men who's likely to end up with risky behaviors is also likely to end up in dysfunctional relationships with women who coerce sex, owing to some third causal factor (SES? Childhood trauma?)

-- Perhaps the drug use is causal: maybe men who use drugs more are also having more sex, and thus on average likelier to randomly encounter a woman who's coercive about sex (even though the coercion did not produce the risky behavior), or likelier to be in a condition of impaired consent when having sex with a woman.

-- Perhaps the criterion of reporting itself is a sorter: maybe male sexual coercion by women is on average not traumatizing and has no effect on risky behaviors, but men forthright enough to report their experience of sexual coercion are also more honest in reporting other embarrassing behaviors like drug use.

-- Perhaps the condition of "framing sex as coercive" is actually the phenomenon: maybe the fraction of men reporting the experience of coercive sex (particularly of the "nagging, negative emotion" variety) did not have markedly different types of sexual encounters from anyone else, but there's some third factor (childhood trauma? personality type?) that causes some people to perceive themselves as powerless in their interactions with others, and that factor also correlates with high-risk behaviors.

--Since you can apparently get 4+% of people to agree with just about anything in a survey, including that lizardmen are running the Earth, perhaps the reported 6% populationwide experience of male sexual coercion by women is not really a thing at all, and there's just a small population of jokester dudes who sit in interviews with the NSFG gleefully claiming to have had all the sex and used all the drugs, and btw, been forced into sex by desperate women, sure, plenty of times.

I mean, most of these narratives (at least excluding the last one) are consistent with the single conclusion "These are people in genuine pain, something should be done." But the implied interventions (campaigns directly educating women about men's consent, vs. better support for healthy families, vs. policies to reduce drug use, vs. mental health services and/or better communications training for people feeling powerless and ill-used in their relationships) are pretty different. For those folks currently doing research in this area, are there good methodologies to distinguish between these narratives? What are some of the steps researchers might take to remove sources of uncertainty and reporting bias from survey-based data like this?
posted by Bardolph at 11:52 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised at how much reaction people are having to some of the "relationship coercion" scenarios. Having sex you don't really want at the moment with someone you are otherwise happy to sleep with seems to me a totally different animal than having sex with someone you don't want to sleep with at all.

No. Means. No.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2016 [15 favorites]


In my friend's case, the way he tells the story, in addition to the trauma in his past, he was also traumatized by the difficult and emotionally painful struggle he and his partner had on their way to having their first child and felt coerced by other pressures outside the relationship. So when his spouse suggested trying for a second child, after a couple of years of withholding physical affection after their first child was born, he felt hurt and coerced when she started threatening divorce. The guy claims he only asked his partner to go more slowly and possibly consider therapy or counseling to work through the issues with him but only got shamed and his feelings dismissed in reply until finally he just gave in and tried to give his partner what she wanted anyway. Relationships are complicated. Negotiation is a normal part of it, but his partner knew he had these emotional vulnerabilities and used them to force him to put out. Spousal rape isn't just about forceful sex, it's also about the cultural and social expectations that a partner in a marriage is obligated to consent to sex as a condition of legal partnership with personal risk and threat of financial harm used to coerce consent. In the end, I think my friend was grateful to have a second child and wouldn't characterize his wife's actions as anything like rape but he definitely sees it as something that caused deeply emotional harm and their relationship never recovered.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


Mitrovarr: I'm honestly surprised at how much reaction people are having to some of the "relationship coercion" scenarios. Having sex you don't really want at the moment with someone you are otherwise happy to sleep with seems to me a totally different animal than having sex with someone you don't want to sleep with at all.

Sexual assault can happen within long-term relationships, especially when we're talking about sexual assault as a part of intimate partner violence.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


Mitrovarr: Some of those measures don't imply any motive on the part of the partner, too. If you have sex with your girlfriend because you think it's what you're 'supposed to do' (internal obligation), she might not even know and it sure as hell isn't her fault.

Why is that relevant in a conversation about research regarding how we as survivors experience damage?


I think it's relevant in a thread headlined "The Understudied Female Sexual Predator."
posted by layceepee at 12:03 PM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


Having sex [with someone] you don't really want at the moment

That's an obscenely loaded hypothetical. I advise against engaging with it. No good will come.

Back to the main story ...

"Childhood sexual abuse of boys is alarmingly common"

Unfortunately, that's not news to anyone who's been a boy. Talking about it honestly with our children ... now that would be new.

Any advice on how to start/maintain that dialogue, particularly with young children (4-6)?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:06 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm honestly surprised at how much reaction people are having to some of the "relationship coercion" scenarios. Having sex you don't really want at the moment with someone you are otherwise happy to sleep with seems to me a totally different animal than having sex with someone you don't want to sleep with at all.

No. Means. No.


Of course. But, I would totally consider having sex I wasn't in the mood for right then in order to make my partner happy. In that case, I probably wouldn't even tell them. I imagine that probably goes on a lot.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not directly related to this research, but I did want to say that I was intrigued at how "Transparent" included and has been dealing with the Josh Pfefferman/Rita subplot. Not something I'd have expected to see in a show that was already tackling other major issues.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:17 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


But, I would totally consider having sex I wasn't in the mood for right then in order to make my partner happy. In that case, I probably wouldn't even tell them. I imagine that probably goes on a lot.

How is this relevant to this post, which is about coercion and assault?
posted by AFABulous at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


How is this relevant to this post, which is about coercion and assault?

It feels like their definitions are overly broad and include many things most people would not recognize as coercion or assault.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


If a woman grabs your crotch without consent as you're walking through a bar, would you consider it an assault? I knew a woman who on a recent night out, got her ass slapped without consent by a stranger as she was walking into a club. Does it matter the person doing the slapping was a lesbian and not a man? Would it be assault in either case? It gets even more complicated to say when it's a question of emotional and psychological coercion rather than more obvious physical assault.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:46 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another reason some of these issues need to be addressed is that they'll require different solutions. Affirmative consent is great, but it won't help at all with peer pressure or internal obligation, for instance.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:54 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Spousal rape isn't just about forceful sex, it's also about the cultural and social expectations

There is so much to unpack in that story! But I think that you're right in one respect - the often-unspoken cultural and social expectations around marriage - and the different views different people can have of them - cause a lot of difficulty and harm.

Many people, in the big EL thread, talked about how men often have difficulty with intimacy - that their wife or girlfriend is often the only person who's their emotional repository, the only person they can talk about feelings around. Blasdelb linked to Eyebrows' great comment about how men don't often have safe spaces to practice negotiating reciprocal emotional needs, and so they're often figuring it out on a low level fairly late in life.

So what happens when men get into a serious relationship, or worse, a marriage, because they like having access to that emotional world - which fulfills a human need, companionship - and then view any loss of that as a threat? When "threat of divorce" can be perceived as an actual coercive threat, rather than a consequence of a relationship pattern? (in the case you noted, not being willing to have another child).

And if that's the case, how does anyone engage in a married relationship at all? Because marriage in particular is so often a series of trade-offs. I'll go to your boxing match if you go to my political meeting. If you have sex the way I like this time, we'll have it the way you like next time. You want five kids and I want no kids - we'll compromise on two. You want to live in the city, I want to live in the country: we'll live in the suburbs. And at the bottom of everything is the "if this relationship isn't ultimately giving me what I want, if it becomes intolerable, I'll walk."
posted by corb at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


corb, I'm really trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but all this handwringing over "well, divorce is ultimately the threat in any relationship, therefore threats of divorce aren't meaningful" is hard to take. We engage in relationships because they make us feel safe and secure, and threats of divorce are different from other stresses. I can't believe I'm even typing this.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


It feels like their definitions are overly broad and include many things most people would not recognize as coercion or assault.

There you go. That's a much better way of presenting it (IMO).

I disagree, tho. Nagging and harrassing can certainly can be coercion, yes. As long as they are defining it the same all around (MvM, MvF, FvM, FvF, etc.), I'm OK with it.

how does anyone engage in a married relationship at all?

I've been asking myself that for a damn long time now (married 8 years) ... I do not have a good answer.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


If a woman grabs your crotch without consent as you're walking through a bar, would you consider it an assault?

Yes.

Does it matter the person doing the slapping was a lesbian and not a man?

No.

Would it be assault in either case?

Yes.
posted by cooker girl at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


"The "freeze out" is literally a PUA technique to overcome "last minute resistance"-- to having sex. The assumpation is that if you've gotten a woman alone somewhere and started making out with her that if she pulls back it's because you need to overcome her resistance.

So the idea of saying "if you won't have sex I'll leave right now" with an already hesitant person often you're having sex with the first time who may or may not have even intended to have sex to begin with is already a really loaded situation that might already feel like pressured sexual acitivity to the person on the receiving end of the advances.

And yes that situation carries different connotations of pressure than a couple figuring out what sort of sexual compromises they might be able or willing to make if they notice they have some variation of desires. Even in the situation of a couple, if you're doing these negotions the main idea is to step back from an individual moment of pressure for sex and refrain from issuing ultimatums while you're on top of your partner and they are pulling back.

Take a breather, let them know it's ok.

Take about differences in sex drives or how to make the reliationship work later at least disconnected from the immediacy of pusing a hesitant or withdrawing person into sex.
posted by xarnop at 1:09 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


If a woman grabs your crotch without consent as you're walking through a bar, would you consider it an assault?

If you mean the general "you," then I think it varies. I know men who would honestly not mind all that much, or even like it,* if they were unexpectedly grabbed by a woman. I guess they consented "after the fact"? I've been grabbed by women and I didn't like it - first because it's wrong, second because I'm gay - but while it's technically assault, it's on par with someone cutting in front of me in line at the movies. People shouldn't be grabbing people, but self-applied labels are going to vary.

* I'm pretty sure this is why some of these men think that women won't mind if they are "playfully" grabbed.
posted by AFABulous at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


at the bottom of everything is the "if this relationship isn't ultimately giving me what I want, if it becomes intolerable, I'll walk."

That's how professional relationships work. Not marriages. I don't approach my marriage that way at all, nor does my wife. Believe me. If it becomes "intolerable," we work on a way to make it "tolerable." If we can't do that, then it becomes a decision for both of us about what to do.

Anyway, marriage is not a business model. Justmy2c.

So the idea of saying "if you won't have sex I'll leave right now" with an already hesitant person often you're having sex with the first time who may or may not have even intended to have sex to begin with is already a really loaded situation that might already feel like pressured sexual acitivity to the person on the receiving end of the advances.

Interesting. My wife picked me up and on our first night out (well after 10 minutes), asked me if I would take her home. To be honest, I didn't really want to have sex but I did it anyway because I liked her and didn't want to lose her.

It's not the same thing as a PUA technique (at all), but it did remind me of that. Interesting. Sex and human relationships are infinitely complicated.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


corb: So what happens when men get into a serious relationship, or worse, a marriage, because they like having access to that emotional world - which fulfills a human need, companionship - and then view any loss of that as a threat? When "threat of divorce" can be perceived as an actual coercive threat, rather than a consequence of a relationship pattern? (in the case you noted, not being willing to have another child).

And if that's the case, how does anyone engage in a married relationship at all? Because marriage in particular is so often a series of trade-offs.


If you're not good at give-and-take, not good at asserting your needs while simultaneously respecting your partner's needs, a lot of your relationship interactions are going to end up being coercive in one way or another. If partners aren't good at finding creative solutions to their differences, they often fall into patterns of rigidity and buckling, ultimatums and panics. And the marriage relationship doesn't work.
posted by clawsoon at 1:17 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think people are really getting confused between compromise and coercion in relationships.

Compromise: I don't really want Chinese take-out again, but sure, I'll pick it up on the way home and next time we'll get Mexican food.

Coercion: I'm going to leave you/you're a bad person/I'm going to kill myself if you don't pick up Chinese takeout on your way home.
posted by AFABulous at 1:18 PM on November 30, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm honestly really mad right now that there's so much great, scientific, thorough information, on a subject has been grossly ignored (in part due to the attitudes y'all are exhibiting!!), and here we are stuck in some petty, objective debate about what is really coercion, but what about if you do it this way? like this? these circumstances? well i had a buddy one time ...
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:18 PM on November 30, 2016 [32 favorites]


I think it's hard for many people to believe that women can be sexual predators in any appreciable amount, or that men can be victims of women, so they get caught up in the minutiae of "well, but does this really count as predation?"
posted by AFABulous at 1:25 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you mean the general "you," then I think it varies. I know men who would honestly not mind all that much, or even like it,* if they were unexpectedly grabbed by a woman. I guess they consented "after the fact"? I've been grabbed by women and I didn't like it - first because it's wrong, second because I'm gay - but while it's technically assault, it's on par with someone cutting in front of me in line at the movies. People shouldn't be grabbing people, but self-applied labels are going to vary.

* I'm pretty sure this is why some of these men think that women won't mind if they are "playfully" grabbed.


AFABulous, I recently had my crotch grabbed, hard, by a drunk woman attending a bachelorette party at a gay bar I was at, and I wouldn't compare it to someone cutting in line at the movies, I'd compare it to someone grabbing my dick. Because those are two very different things.

"Technically assault," you can fuck right off with that.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 1:28 PM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


AFABulous: "I think it's hard for many people to believe that women can be sexual predators in any appreciable amount, or that men can be victims of women, so they get caught up in the minutiae of "well, but does this really count as predation?""

Yes, of course. This is also precisely what happens in threads about women being raped as well, however, because people also can't imagine men being sexual predators.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


We engage in relationships because they make us feel safe and secure, and threats of divorce are different from other stresses.

I guess - okay, let me give you more of a sense of where I'm coming from.

Marriage, for me, culturally, is about having children, and building a home together and melding finances to provide for those children. I know this isn't everyone's marriage, but this is my cultural expectation of marriage. Love and deep emotional connections are nice, and I definitely have those with my husband, but like my mother and grandmother before me, I get most of my emotional intimacy from my female friends, and most of my deep satisfaction from children.

So from my perspective, the kind of traditional-type marriage I'm culturally used to kind of sucks for a woman. You do a lot of work and a ton of emotional labor! It's exhausting! You're often a personal assistant, cook, housekeeper, teacher, dog trainer, sex worker, entertainer, therapist - you fill so many roles in a traditional gendered marriage, which is essentially what I have no matter how progressive my husband is. But in my cultural understanding, it's the price you pay for children and a stable home for those children. My husband, despite loving our daughter, is kind of 'meh' on kids. If he were living in a vacuum, I don't think he would want them - they're expensive, noisy, take time away from him, you can't have vacations as easily. But he knew before we got married that I wouldn't get married without that - so the price of having me as a wife, is having children.

For me, if there weren't going to be any children, I'd rather live on Crone Island and not have to care for a man. The things that I do as a wife aren't things I do because I want to, they're the price of admission to a stable home with children. If there were no kids I wouldn't be studying French cookbooks and learning how to polish silver, I'd be living in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan, eating shitty Chinese takeout, and blowing my money on quilting supplies. So yeah, if my husband suddenly did a 180 and was like "no kids, ever", I would be calling up divorce attorneys.

So I think I'm kind of strongly bristling at what seems like this suggestion from saulgoodman that saying "If you're not willing to give me procreative sex, I'm out of this relationship" is rape or sexual predation. Because if you strongly, strongly want children, what's your other "non-coercive" option? Just leave the person without offering them an opportunity to bid for you to stay?
posted by corb at 1:38 PM on November 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


the uncomplicated soups of my childhood, I'm sorry you had that experience and your feelings about it are valid. I made it clear that was my perspective when I was grabbed.
posted by AFABulous at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2016


It's not just the threat of divorce that was predatory or psychologically abusive: it's the fact my friends partner knew from counseling and history that her partner had a stress disorder and PTSD related to childhood emotional abandonment and neglect and deliberately used that threat tactically to pressure her husband to have sex, even when her husband tried to explain he wanted children if she did, but just felt personal anxiety about having to start having sex on a scheduled basis again after years of almost no physical intimacy after their first child was born. Basically, the way he tells it, she cut him off sexually for years, then started escalating threats to leave him to fend for himself if he didn't start putting out on demand, and privately and publicly shaming him for having abandonment fears.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification, and apologies if I misread you! I'm still pretty stressed from the Trump debacle, so have maybe thinner skin than I normally would have.
posted by corb at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, of course. This is also precisely what happens in threads about women being raped as well, however, because people also can't imagine men being sexual predators.

I think it's more like people realize the clear boundaries they've set for themselves may not be as serviceable as they'd hoped. These kinds of threads can upset personal belief systems in ways that can theoretically posit us as abusers in contexts we may not have understood previously, and that's deeply uncomfortable.

I'm a little too uncomfortable with the way the thread's been going to get into this much, other than to suggest that much of the dissonance around this topic in the culture clearly does come from the patriarchal structure of the society, which has wider ranging effects than the more noted male abuser/rape culture aspect. Men are often expected to be the initiator in relationships, both in seeking them and in physical gratification. This can create an imbalance and help form more rigid distinctions of the "right" and "wrong" ways of acting as a man or woman in a relationship and shapes how the culture views male and female sexuality in unhelpful ways.

If men are expected to be the ones acting and women the ones being acted upon, then the whole hetrosexual process is skewed from the onset. This is all too common an expectation from my experience and it helps explain both why men are reluctant to see themselves as abused and why some women don't see some abusive behavior as being the same scope of a problem as others.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


I feel like the general trend on metafilter has been more and more to respect a person's NO to sex at face value.

However in this threat I am seeing more and more people arguing that "no" to sexual advances or requests should be seen starting grounds for negotiation.

Makes one wonder?

I'll be curious how the next thread on consent "YES MEANS YES" and enthusiastic consent issues goes when it's in the context of pressure/coercion/assault done to women rather than by women.
posted by xarnop at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


"threat" what a Freudian slip there!
posted by xarnop at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: It feels like their definitions are overly broad and include many things most people would not recognize as coercion or assault.

That's a feature, not a bug. The classical model of sexual assault, or sexual abuse, or whatever you want to call it, needs to expand to account for traumatic sexual experiences including emotional, social, and economic coercion as well. That's why we are having this research that says, yes, emotionally coerced sex can also have the same sort of consequences as violently coerced sex.

It's complicated in that many of the behaviors that constitute emotional abuse can be expressed in ways that are not abusive. But the abusive context needs to be assumed here rather than trying to litigate whether this or that behavior is inherently abusive or not.

corb: So what happens when men get into a serious relationship, or worse, a marriage, because they like having access to that emotional world - which fulfills a human need, companionship - and then view any loss of that as a threat? When "threat of divorce" can be perceived as an actual coercive threat, rather than a consequence of a relationship pattern? (in the case you noted, not being willing to have another child).

When it's being used as a direct threat to coerce sex. "Fuck me right now, or I'll get a divorce." Again, we're talking about sexual assault, not divorce, breakups, or emotional work in a relationship. We're not talking about sober conversations over the breakfast table or on the therapy couch. We're talking about a specific ultimatum used by abusers in order to coerce someone else. And yes, when that ultimatum is shouted at you in the context of a fight in an abusive relationship, it's not always easy to take that objectively.

To me, this is shockingly similar to a lot of date-rape apologia. Instead of talking about the experiences of survivors we're litigating nuances of sexual compromise in healthy relationships.

corb: I guess - okay, let me give you more of a sense of where I'm coming from.

I can't say I really care. Your relationship preferences are your relationship preferences. Hopefully you negotiate them through conversation and consensus rather than hurling them at your partner as a form of emotional abuse. It's the latter that's of concern to this post.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


corb: "So from my perspective, the kind of traditional-type marriage I'm culturally used to kind of sucks for a woman. You do a lot of work and a ton of emotional labor! It's exhausting! You're often a personal assistant, cook, housekeeper, teacher, dog trainer, sex worker, entertainer, therapist - you fill so many roles in a traditional gendered marriage, which is essentially what I have no matter how progressive my husband is."

I'm really very sad this is how you feel. Thanks for providing your context.

I guess what I'd say is: in most relationships, there is a very unspoken agreement about sex. Like my wife and I have our own ways of indicating to the other that we want or don't want to fool around, we know vaguely whether we're due to have sex, etc. etc. But we haven't codified most of this, it's just the pattern we got into. The only topic we've talked about extensively is kids, and how we don't want them for a few years.

But yes, despite the fact that she and I are more equal than you and your husband are (from what you've indicated here), I also have the expectation that at some point in the future, I will be strongly asked to have sex for children, and if I don't, the relationship will suffer greatly. If my wife refused to have kids with me and I wanted them, I would strongly consider divorce.

So all that is to say that I do understand what you're saying.

So I guess the question you're wrestling with is: if denying love is rape/coercion in some cases, how do we differentiate?

And unfortunately, the ultimate answer is: if someone feels victimized, there is a problem. If my wife tells me that she'll give me a backrub if I go down on her, and I do and she does and afterwards I feel like there is an imbalance or something went wrong or whatever, we talk about it and figure out how to make sure we feel better.

So if you go to your husband and say "It's baby time now, daddy," and he says, "No," and you say, "We gotta make this baby sometime, dude," and he says, "Yeah, okay, let's do this thing," and he's fine with it after? Not rape, not coercion, even though dude says no and you didn't take it for an answer. It is certainly compromise or negotion or whatever. Also, I know this flies in the face of no-means-no, but that is a very black-and-white characterization of something that is anything but.

OTOH, in a situation that is extremely raw to me, my buddy has two kids and is dying constantly over the work to raise them, and his wife keeps asking (and asking and fighting) to just have one more. It's a serious pattern of ugly emotional abuse, and I've been asking him for months to leave her. She literally has tried to get him drunk before so that he might slip and have sex with her. Seriously rapey.

In any case, yes, it's all complex. I see why you are sad/confused/angry about things. But yeah, when someone tells you they're hurting, there is a problem. That's it. If these labels bother you, forget them.
posted by TypographicalError at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


Bardolph: For those folks currently doing research in this area, are there good methodologies to distinguish between these narratives? What are some of the steps researchers might take to remove sources of uncertainty and reporting bias from survey-based data like this?

Briefly, it's not possible to untangle the causal direction of any relationship between two variables using cross-sectional research, so all of the explanations mentioned are possible. Feel free to memail me if you'd like to see the under-review meta-analysis I mentioned, which raises essentially the same set of possibilities. To really unpack causality, you'd need random assignment to conditions, which is obviously beyond the pale in terms of ethics for research on sexual assault. The best we can do would be to follow a group of people longitudinally and see how pre-assault characteristics predict assault risk and how assault predicts mental health outcomes, controlling for pre-assault characteristics. This kind of research is incredibly costly and labor-intensive, and also only sorta gets at causal relationships, so it's not the norm. It also becomes morally murky to focus on characteristics of people, rather than the contexts in which they exist, as risk factors for sexual assault- it can easily slide into victim blaming territory without any real utility in terms of preventing rape. All that said, there is decent evidence from this work that sexual assault does, itself, increase risk for mental disorders.

In terms of just lying on surveys, yeah, that happens, and often we can catch it from other egregious comments they're making. If people are just taking the survey mindlessly and clicking whatever, that can be caught- answers don't match up, they have "c" all the way down, etc. Some people include items like "I am a human" to detect liars, There's very little real benefit to straight up lying- even if you're taking it for money, it doesn't benefit you to lie.

Aside from all this, though, in my research and clinical/advocacy work, I've seen too many men suffering from the fallout of sexual assault to have any doubt that it's a real, harmful phenomenon.
posted by quiet coyote at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


Also this thread should be a clear reminder to everyone that consent is actually NOT easy and people need to be taught and to think through critically how complex it is- not to mention becoming familiar with all the research being done.

What's more- RESEARCH like we see being done here, can help us see the extent of the harm done by not being willing to challenge our assumptions or learn more about the topic.

If a lot of people are being harmed by coercion that is described in this research, maybe we should care about it and not find ways to dismiss it as a trivial issue?

Maybe if research is finding a lot more people are genuinely harmed by these so called "fine" "compromise" situations many are talking about-- maybe it's not so harmless or ...fine?
posted by xarnop at 2:12 PM on November 30, 2016 [20 favorites]


To me, this is shockingly similar to a lot of date-rape apologia. Instead of talking about the experiences of survivors we're litigating nuances of sexual compromise in healthy relationships.

This is giving me serious pause


I think it's fair to cast a critical eye on the studies and discuss whether they're unfairly villainizing women. Especially when a lot of women are unfairly villainized for "emotionally manipulative" behaviors that are actually reasonable and self-protective. Especially when the headline of the thread is "The Understudied Female Predator" - which sort of puts the emphasis on women and what behaviors might make them a predator.

But along with "Are reasonable behaviors getting misclassified as predatory?", a better question to add might be "Are there things I consider reasonable that are actually harmful?"

I'm really glad these studies are done and published, and I'm glad they were posted here even if the discussion has been kind of weird.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2016 [21 favorites]


I have nothing to contribute to this discussion. I mean, I have experiences, but I feel like they'd get dismissed out of hand if I shared them. And that'd be pretty painful.
posted by ambrosen at 2:43 PM on November 30, 2016 [16 favorites]


The behaviors in question are classic warning signs of emotional abuse by men. So I don't think it's unfair to examine them from women.

I'm not a fan of the "predator" title, but that's not yet been a topic for discussion.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:44 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Another woman replied simply to post a picture of herself drinking from a mug with the words "Male Tears" written on it.

The whole "male tears" thing as a joke is awful, and the woman in that example is contemptible.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


AFABulous: "I think people are really getting confused between compromise and coercion in relationships.
"

Well those two examples are easy. How about how often can a married person ask their partner, who never initiates sex but enjoys it when it happens, for sex? Keeping in mind there are going to be times where the non initiator may have said no 2,3,10 times in a row. A friend of mine is in the situation where her spouse has hasn't said yes in 8 months and now is hesitant to ask because she doesn't want to be crossing over the line into pressuring.
posted by Mitheral at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rainbo Vagrant: But along with "Are reasonable behaviors getting misclassified as predatory?", a better question to add might be "Are there things I consider reasonable that are actually harmful?"

I've had to ask myself your second question a number of times, and there'll probably be a few more times I'll have to ask it before I shuffle off this mortal coil. It's a good question to keep asking.
posted by clawsoon at 3:18 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have nothing to contribute to this discussion. I mean, I have experiences, but I feel like they'd get dismissed out of hand if I shared them. And that'd be pretty painful.
posted by ambrosen at 5:43 PM on November 30 [3 favorites −]


Fuck those people. Just, good ol' fuck 'em. I understand not wanting to talk publicly, but feel free to memail me
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


never initiates sex but enjoys it when it happens,
hasn't said yes in 8 months and now is hesitant to ask

That's where active discussion is fairly necessary to avoid it turning coercive, I'd say.
"Hey, this appears to be the dynamic, I have some concerns, is this working for you? Should I be doing something different? Can I trust that you'll speak up if you aren't feeling it? If I leave initiating in your hands, will I likely be into it whenever you are?"
posted by CrystalDave at 3:20 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


These studies and some of this discussion are very interesting. As a woman, I've never felt sexually predated or victimized by any other women, whereas I have felt that way by quite a few men, so it would be easy to knee-jerk and dismiss the studies. But I don't want to do that. And I have had boyfriends in the past who have told me about sexual encounters (with women) they didn't feel good about afterwards but maybe didn't even know how to explain why so I've had these first-hand accounts, so I'm opening to listening to men on this front.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:22 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


CAN WE PLEASE stop with the "trying to define assault or coercion" debate because the studies linked herein LITERALLY say that there was emotional/psychological trauma present for X% of male participants who faced the "too broad" situations that included "begging and nagging*". So instead of trying to cram what happened to fit in whatever your definition is, maybe take into account you might be wrong, because there are people out here being traumatized???


*yes, these words are charged in terms of gender, because womens' reasonable actions are frequently cast as nagging because the world likes to hate women, but if people are facing emotional trauma then there's definitely a need to look further!!!
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:40 PM on November 30, 2016 [15 favorites]


It can be bad and damaging without it fitting into those two categories.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:46 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cool. You've said that, we got your point. Can we talk about something else now?
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


But along with "Are reasonable behaviors getting misclassified as predatory?", a better question to add might be "Are there things I consider reasonable that are actually harmful?"

I mean, we might as well do that bullshit thing of having conversations about how many beers does it take for sexy good times to become sexual assault. That's sort of where we're at with the "I have relationship dealbreakers, is talking about them coercive?" conversation.

The problem with abuse is that it's a power relationship, it's an attitude, not some objective checklist of behaviors that fall into neat columns of right vs. wrong. I've known people who negotiated some pretty hard BDSM practices. On the other hand, I've had the misfortune to know people who could weaponize just about anything emotional.

How many drinks makes a sexual assault? It depends whether you're a long-term couple on a date or a PUA looking to "score." Is talking about emotions abusive? It depends on whether you're confessing or using it as a tactical guilt-trip. (I had a grandparent who would filibuster any disagreement with 40 years of wrongs against her, sometimes including FDR.) Is talking about divorce/break-ups abusive? It depends on whether you're really talking about how to end a relationship or threatening it as a way to win an argument.

I'm sure that y'all are empathetic and enlightened people who would never throw down an emotionally charged ultimatum and demand sex. I've had that happen. It was coercion, it was sexual assault, and talking about how y'all negotiate relationship dealbreakers as empathetic and enlightened people doesn't change that reality.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:52 PM on November 30, 2016 [19 favorites]


I am really glad this issue is getting attention--it absolutely deserves it. I've had a number of male friends talk about having sex they felt coerced into, but didn't feel able to talk about it with nearly anyone. The expectation that men always want sex, are always down, and if they're not they're broken, or weak, or contemptible, is just so harmful. It means men get assaulted, it means women never learn that they can assault, it means even if men don't get assaulted they feel that there might be something wrong with them, and it means that women who want sex from male partners who don't want it feel like there is something wrong with them, or something wrong with their male partners. It's just fucked all around, but obviously most for those victimized by it.

I've been on a number of sides of this. When I was younger (I'm a cis queer woman), there were a few occasions in which I coerced male and female partners into sex they didn't want to have by emotional manipulation; never anything like threatening to leave or to kill myself, but by making the choice available to them, "have sex with me or listen to me bitch about it for way too long/comfort me while I cry about it/listen to me shame you about your sex drive". I didn't understand what I was doing at the time--I have learned and am learning and am appalled at some of the stuff I did before. I have also been assaulted by a woman; I would say that it was the most clear-cut, by older definitions, experience of assault I have been involved in. We'd been making out, she assumed carte blanche to progress way beyond that, and at no point asked me whether any of it was ok. I got up and left; I think I felt capable of doing that because this was at a sex party and there were people around and I had a safe place to go/a way to get home. A friend later told me that the woman I'd been with had no idea what went wrong. I think she honestly didn't realize she could be in a position to assault someone she was making out with (assumed consent). I've had other experiences with internal and external coercion, but I want to center people's (particularly male's) experiences with women who have coerced/assaulted for this thread, so I'm not going into that here.

In my (privileged, relatively good SES, with partners with similar traits) opinion, what would have been MOST helpful is growing up in a culture of enthusiastic consent. I grew up hearing "no means no", and with the typical idea that rape was always violently coercive. That doesn't really leave any room for understanding emotional coercion, or that men aren't always required to want sex, or that sex should be continually negotiated/consented to along the way. There's just so little nuance in the way most people are taught about consent, and it is so much more complicated than that.

I also wanted to address the point of coercion/compromise in a long term relationship. I think that coercion has occurred when one partner does not feel good about having given the other partner sex (though this is obviously a bit simplistic). So, if your thoughts are "I don't really want to do this right now, but I love you and I like making you happy so I will", that's fine. If instead they are more along the lines of "I don't want to do this but I feel that this is the safer option, because my partner will hurt me emotionally or physically or psychically otherwise", that's not so good.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 4:06 PM on November 30, 2016 [23 favorites]


Apologies for continuing the definitions debate! I came back to finish my comment after a long break.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2016


I think people are really getting confused between compromise and coercion in relationships.

Compromise: I don't really want Chinese take-out again, but sure, I'll pick it up on the way home and next time we'll get Mexican food.

Coercion: I'm going to leave you/you're a bad person/I'm going to kill myself if you don't pick up Chinese takeout on your way home.


And also in my experience:
Coercion: Do you want Chinese take-out?
- No, I'm not into it.
What about now?
-No, I'm not into it. I think it will make me feel uncomfortable.
But do you want Chinese take-out now? Because it will be really yummy!
-No. It just doesn't sound yummy to me.
Okay but I'm really into Chinese take-out and I'm telling you, you'll like it!
[Repeat times 100]
So.... have I convinced you?
-FINE! We can try Chinese take-out.
[Chinese take-out is indeed not your favorite. But you give in because you don't want to make waves. You are uncomfortable and sometimes in pain. But your sprit has been broken.]
Okay so now that we're super into Chinese take-out, what if I want to try super mega EXTRA Chinese take-out that may be slightly unsafe and definitely uncomfortable.
--
So that's how coercion can work. It's a weird gray area because there's sometimes "consent" but only because you've been so worn down. There's not true respect in the action or the consent.

I definitely think that type of sexual coercion has no gender or sexuality boundaries and is likely far less reported by men because most other people would see any sexual act as a "conquest" and "you go guy" even if they are uncomfortable.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:11 PM on November 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thanks, that goes a little way toward answering a question that has been rolling around in my mind since I read an account of childhood sexual assault at a fundamentalist bible school. It got me wondering whether the coercion that's used to make victims feel ashamed and guilty - with the goal of keeping the victims quiet - maybe does as much psychological damage as the assault itself.

For me, and I know for at least some of the men I know who were sexually assaulted by women and the act included penetrative sex, the trauma of it is compounded by "oh god am I now tied to this person forever by a pregnancy?". That was, and is, a factor in my own trauma (hi triggered by STD tests and pregnancy scares) and at least one guy I know has a 'hilarious' story about his girlfriend coercing him into unwanted sex and their unplanned child is the result.

The trauma of that - waiting for the all clear - goes on for so very long. Weeks and months, depending. With no control over results or what has happened. That tends to be a factor in developing PTSD.

And for what it is worth, begging and nagging for sex are absolutely gendered male in my mind - I know the latter is very much a gendered female word but in the context of unwanted sex it is much more strongly linked with men in my mind/experience. And are often linked with specific acts over 'just' sex. Reading over sex advice forums and columns there is often a strong response of 'you can't convince people to have sex/try anal/whatever' alongside the 'find out why they won't and see if there's something that can change' alongside the 'well just keep trying, just *do physical thing* and stop if they say no' and of course 'your relationship is doomed, break up and find someone willing to X'. The gamut of what people consider acceptable in terms of 'changing someone's mind about sex' is vast.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:09 PM on November 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


This has been a very disturbing read. The massive bulk of this thread has been splitting hairs in a way that reminds me of nothing so much than my conservative family splitting hairs to make the sexual crimes of men against women seem either excusable or within the bounds of normal behavior, up to and including "Well, in MY relationship X happens, therefore if X happens to someone else and they don't like it, it's totally fine because WE do it and I don't mind." & "Well, I know women who'd LOVE to be groped", my favorites of the 'Making sexual assault okay again.' canards.

Here is the time where I describe a thing I've only ever talked openly about to exactly two people in the world, and in neither case quite as openly as I will online.

The first time I had sex was an experience I now, being in a long-term relationship and recognizing what consent and emotional coercion is, would describe as something like coerced and/or maybe rape. I don't know the right words and I don't want to even try and find them because of exactly what you people are doing here. If I can be so bold as to describe my own experience without needing to perfectly conform to ya'lls definitions of what coercion is, here's an example. To be perfectly honest, I've actually never even tried to put what I feel into words because I'm literally terrified of talking about it, so I don't even have a clue.

I was young, I lacked experience with physical intimacy of any stripe, I had never been in anything approaching a relationship after middle school, I was in a new state, new social structure and expectations, and starting college. All of this was known by the other person involved. This is a common starting point for the person I'm talking about.
Without going into too much detail, in the space of about 2 weeks, I was pursued by a woman, I was placed into a position where I was made to feel as though I was the only emotional comfort available to her, this proceeded to a point where non-sexual physical comforting was suggested by her, leading to a point where I was in a position where I either had to initiate sex (I was asked) or by rejecting sex indicate that I similarly felt she was worthless both emotionally and physically. Not feeling like I could say no without deeply hurting her, we proceeded, and I regret every moment to this day.
Things proceeded along this eventual emotional pipeline until she suggested that we start dating right before Christmas break, at which point I felt so uncomfortable that I talked to a close friend who told me what she thought was happening (for this and so much else, she is my most trusted friend to this day), at which point I decided to break things off completely. There was one emotionally heart-wrenching lunch, and then a week later there was a different guy fulfilling my position. Talking to other guys (4 that I know of for sure who describe exactly what I experienced down to events that could only have happened once but seem to have happened 2-3 times by her tellings) and watching her over the next 4 years, I later realized that I was a mark for an emotional predator. I was vulnerable and she was aware of all of the reasons why, and targeted all of them.
I try and watch what she's doing via social media because I'm still not convinced I'm not crazy. As far as I can tell it's the same exact pattern. I also feel crazy because I can find ways to attribute her behavior to possible mental issues that aren't her fault, but I also know I would not be doing that if the genders were reversed because effects are effects, and I'm not the only man she hurt, I know that for sure. It still affects me. I still blame myself. I still fucking think about one night 5 years ago, and around a month after that night I met the woman I love to this day. But I still remember what happened right before just as well.

I fully recognize that elements of masculine culture play into this, it's largely why I felt refusing sex would have been an insult, since as a man I am expected to want any and all possible sex and that which I refuse must have been offered by someone utterly repellent in all ways because society. The fact that I was a virginal male at the age of 18 played into it, the fact that I was and am a sad nerd who is not the masculine icon that is what 'male sex' is in American society and thus at the time seemingly less likely to ever be a 'man' and have sex at all.

I don't talk about what happened. I wasn't raised to talk publically about personal pain, and I wasn't raised to believe that a man could be sexually victimized by a woman. I still doubt what I feel everytime I think about it, which is partially why I don't talk about it. The other part is amply demonstrated in this thread. In the safest place I know, I still feel about as uncomfortable as if I was posting this to Facebook under my own name.

Anyone doubting this is a real thing that hurts people, who wants to narrow down what is 'real' sexual assault from what is just normal uncomfortable sexual behaviour, who doesn't want to believe that many of their friends live in uncomfortable situations because of domestic abuses, those people need to go take a long look in the mirror and directly compare some of the statements made up-thread to what MRA assholes say about male-on-female sexual assault because this is getting dangerously close to a gender-flipped and more coherent version of exactly that.

I'm so fucking pissed that I feel nervous posting this to MeFi. This is my home and I don't want to feel scared being open here.
posted by neonrev at 10:04 PM on November 30, 2016 [38 favorites]


Hmm. I think as a woman who has suffered from sexual assaults in the most traditional sense, I feel skeptical simply because this made me go back into my past with this new definition of sexual assault and came up with multiple more instances of sexual assault in actual relationships I've had, using this new definition. Which feels weird. And gives me trepidation about how to enforce boundaries in future relationships.

I am all willing to revise my beliefs, however, since there are so many mefis who are in agreement on this.
posted by kinoeye at 11:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


For me, and I know for at least some of the men I know who were sexually assaulted by women and the act included penetrative sex, the trauma of it is compounded by "oh god am I now tied to this person forever by a pregnancy?".

This was the plot of a bad romance novel I read once. She ah...hopped aboard while he was sleeping, he wakes up to find out this is happening, is totally freaked out, then the guy's boss (the girl's brother-in-law) finds out that sex happened and he basically harasses him to MARRY the girl, who miscarries...and then they had a romance after that. I just do not get for the life of me why the author thought this was a great start to a relationship. I read another romance novel where a similar thing (minus the shotgun marriage and pregnancy) happened to a guy and his actual love interest walked in. The poor guy later tried to explain to the girl's guardian what happened, very awkwardly, and she agreed that while it sounded plausible, odds are her former ward wouldn't buy this story exactly(?) and maybe he should just give her some time. Whaaat?

I've actually thought about writing up a list of weird male rape scenes and how they were handled in books/film/TV. There's a lot of very weird variety, especially if you get into science fiction where you can be having sex with your girlfriend except she turns out to be your worst enemy and future babymomma (hi, Grimm!).
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:32 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the last ten years I've definitely shifted from thinking of certain behavior by men I had been taught to think of as vile and classless, to best described bluntly as assault or rape. Definitely do to feminist writing.

This has had led to some surprising moments when I re-visit some piece of culture where a man is the victim and interpret it in a completely different way.

This scene from ST:TNG was referenced somewhere on MeFi recently, in which a woman who wants to have sex with Riker gives him the choice between that and death. I'm sure I chuckled when I first saw it but this time it was more, crap, I just watched a rape scene played for laughs.

I tended to think Odysseus got to sleep around with beautiful nymphs while Penelope was stuck chaste and joyless for ten years. I think this is the common view, what man wouldn't want to sleep with a goddess? I know Suzanne Vega has a song about Calypso being abandoned. And I'd read it before but these days Book 5 of the Odyssey is pretty horrific and a lot more poignant. Odysseus here is a battered partner, really totally broken, lacking the confidence to leave even though that's all he wants to do. (Start reading at line 150 or so to jump to the meat of what I'm talking about, but read the whole thing to see that it's even worse--Calypso is lying and manipulative even as she "lets" Odysseus leave.)

This is a bit long winded but yes, the change in how I think about coercion against women also makes coercion against men more visible as well.
posted by mark k at 11:55 PM on November 30, 2016 [15 favorites]


I guess if we're sharing experiences, here's mine (apologies for the sockpuppet). I was about 22 or so. I'd broken up with my first girlfriend. I was pretty emotional, and trying to get a bit of self-confidence back. I was dressed in my skinny jeans and starting to look nice for the first time in a long time. She pursued me for a week or two, showing up at all the same pubs, and hitting on me, feeling me up when she could, etc. For the first couple of times I managed to awkwardly get out of the situation, but I didn't really know how to handle this. No-one had ever been this sexually aggressive toward me, and I guess I was so cut up over the breakup that I didn't entirely mind the attention. But I really wasn't ready for sex again, and I'd said no to her several times.

One night I'd had too much to drink and she invited herself into my apartment, fucked if I can remember how she managed that. She seemed to be on me before I had really oriented myself, and started going down on me. I asked her to stop. I swear I asked her to stop and she didn't stop. Maybe I didn't say it loudly enough? I honestly can't remember, I was so scared and drunk. I froze like an idiot, and my useless body came anyway. I hoped that she'd leave, but of course she didn't.

"Is that all?" she says.

I still remember that line so vividly, and I didn't know what else to do. I wanted to scream. I felt scared and guilty - because to her I must look like that selfish guy that doesn't care about her orgasm - and so I let her fuck me just to get her out of my fucking apartment. I felt gross and violated but - like an idiot - I met her for coffee the day after to get her out of my life. She had the gall to act hurt. I tried telling my friends, but mostly they just congratulated me for "getting lucky". No-one ever called it rape, not even me, because of this conviction that women don't rape men.

But it stuck with me for 15 years, a nasty memory that I never quite had a good explanation for, until last year I started thinking more deeply about my own gender identity. And once I stopped identifying as a man, suddenly all the excuses I (and others) had made for her behaviour... they all started to sound like rape apologia: I was dressed the wrong way, I'd been drinking, I came so I must have wanted it, I didn't fight her, I didn't say no loudly enough, I met her for coffee... etc. I would never dream of using any of these things to dismiss the sexual assault of a cis woman. Why was it okay for everyone to hairsplit or nitpick or gaslight my experiences because at the time I thought of myself as a man? I still don't really understand that, to be honest.
posted by ceci n'est pas une sockpuppet at 11:57 PM on November 30, 2016 [43 favorites]


This thread is really odd(ly defensive?) to read.

Like others, I've heard stories from men and others about uncomfortable sexual experiences and the way they describe it -- it's exactly as taut and fragile as the comments with their stories, and it breaks my heart here and it breaks my heart everywhere. That doubt is a hallmark of abuse, of coercion. Feeling like you're not sure you have the right to your hurt? Textbook.

The people sharing their stories here do have that right and we really don't need to start (or keep) going "well, not this", because that's really trivialising people who are in the room and it's an ugly, ugly thing to do.

So. For what it's worth, because it needs to be said, for the survivors here: I believe you, you did not deserve it, and I'm sorry.
posted by E. Whitehall at 12:39 AM on December 1, 2016 [31 favorites]


"This thread is really odd(ly defensive?) to read."
Indeed. It was almost a trope of the bad old days how a lot of early feminism threads would attract the same sets of dudes with weirdly specific and aggressive hobby horses that became increasingly hard to not see as reflecting past actions that maybe they weren't prepared to examine critically.

I'm really grateful for Illuminated Clocks' comment upthread, which I hope can go some way towards normalizing and encouraging these kinds of realizations.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:06 AM on December 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have been "rape raped", I have dealt with statutory rape, I have dealt with violent rape, I have dealt with coercion that amounts to "I want to kill myself for pushing unwanted sex on you, can you comfort me and let me keep doing it so I don't"?

I still remember with horror when a 34 year old "befriended" a 22 year old me, talking with me about how I have trauma issues and haven't had any friends and he and his girlfriend would be happy to be friends with me. It turned out they were looking for a third I guess, and I wasn't interested- then one day she drops him off at my house and he says he has no where to stay they broke up. In the morning he tells me that I've smiled at him and I've lead him on this whole time and it would be fair if I didn't have sex with him even though I didn't want to. He also clarified that since I was a sweet young thing, it needed to be anal. This went on for some time until he finally stands up and says, fine if you won't then I'm not talking to you anymore and I'm not going to be your friend. So I caved. I had nightmares about the time I woke up to him sticking his tongue in my ear for months-- I would dream I would wake up with scary people in my room sticking their fingers in my ear, or even being actually tortured with weird apparatus stuck in my ears. This is the kind of guy who also told me "It's better to be the sheep than the wolf". This wasn't some clueless person who didn't know they fumbled consent. This was an abusive jerk.

It was humiliating and painful. If these kinds of things are considered ok to do to someone whether it's a girl or a guy, this is a huge problem.

I certainly don't call that rape, but when I compare that situation to the pain I've had being raped they are the same feeling. And people really shouldn't feel comfortable making their partners feel that way during sex. That should be considered a problem whatever word you want to use for it.
If our only metric is "obtaining a yes through whatever means" we are condoning harming other humans in a way that I don't think compares to celibacy. Does celibacy cause mental illness?

At the same rates as having degrading and painful unwanted sex? Is that really fair trade if one person wants sex and the other doesn't to agree for the one who doesn't to just cave and call it even? Is it even?

It's worth thinking through whose really paying what cost. It seems this is a widespread problem people of both genders are doing to each other with real mental health damage attached.
posted by xarnop at 5:47 AM on December 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


I fully recognize that elements of masculine culture play into this, it's largely why I felt refusing sex would have been an insult, since as a man I am expected to want any and all possible sex and that which I refuse must have been offered by someone utterly repellent in all ways because society. The fact that I was a virginal male at the age of 18 played into it, the fact that I was and am a sad nerd who is not the masculine icon that is what 'male sex' is in American society and thus at the time seemingly less likely to ever be a 'man' and have sex at all.

Thank you for your post. It took a long time to realize that I even could say "no" without inviting a big old argument about my commitment to my partner and the relationship in question. Even today at 45, I read stuff on the blue about GGG, expectations in relationships, and how I'd be on the hook predict when I'll be anorgasmic and I seriously think that if anything were to happen to my partner, it might be time to renounce sex.

My relationship to how masculinity played out in my first relationship was pretty weird (I'm now openly bi and closeted genderweird), and I have to wonder how much of my current gender confusion can be attributed to the mixed messages, expectations, gender roles, heterosexism, and specific biphobia I experienced as an 18-year-old. So I also don't trust straight people to mean what they say when it comes to unpacking gender and heterosexism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:28 AM on December 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Blasdelb: It was almost a trope of the bad old days how a lot of early feminism threads would attract the same sets of dudes with weirdly specific and aggressive hobby horses that became increasingly hard to not see as reflecting past actions that maybe they weren't prepared to examine critically.

I've even done that in threads where I could imagine myself doing something being condemned in the threads, though I had never been in a position to actually do the thing. They weren't reflections of past actions, but they were definitely reflections of unexamined attitudes and assumptions that the discussion was poking and prodding in uncomfortable ways.
posted by clawsoon at 8:10 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty uncomfortable with some of the tone this discussion has taken. It's reminded me of when we've had threads about women being sexually assaulted by (mostly) men and some male poster comments something along the lines of, "What about MEN getting raped by WOMEN?! WHAT ABOUT THAT, HUH?!?!?" and he's (rightly) told, "Hey, that's not what we're talking about right now, but feel free to start your own discussion." And someone DID start their own discussion about men being sexually assaulted by women AND cited sources and we're still not listening, and people are dismissing, and hair-splitting about what is consent/coercion/force, enough so that male survivors are uncomfortable and scared to talk about their experiences? They deserve better from us.
posted by Aquifer at 8:22 AM on December 1, 2016 [16 favorites]


It's amazing to me how willing people are to have sex where consent is murky. Begging and nagging are a pretty clear indication that consent isn't being freely given. Of course that's harmful! It's being treated as a sex vending machine instead of a person. I don't think context of relationship vs one night stand makes any difference here, except that it may be worse to be treated that way by someone you live with and trust.

Consent is hard, and because it's hard it's worth erring on the side of Not Having Sex When You're Unsure. Men deserve to be believed and respected and trusted about this, just as much as women. It absolutely breaks my heart that anyone could come here and read this thread where something that was harmful to them is being dismissed. It is doubly heartbreaking that it's happening to men who have been robbed of the words to be able to describe what happened and so are at a disadvantage for being able to process it.

So, they see this thread and read the FPP and it resonates! Validation that what happened was real! And instead, they get to read this. They get to read a whole bunch of people dismissing what happened and belittling it. And that breaks my heart.

Men's consent matters.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


In some ways the /r/science thread on Reddit where I first saw the study posted went better than this one. However, this thread shows that people are learning, and that gives me hope that we'll eventually get to a point as a society where it is socially acceptable for a man to decline to have sex if he isn't feeling it at that time.

I think some of the disconnect comes from people conflating morality and legality. Some things are legal (and probably should be, given how far into the gray areas they are) but are not moral. Nobody wants to feel like their prior actions could be considered immoral, much less illegal! Certainly in earlier threads about women's experiences I recognized some problematic behavior I had as a kid. I also recognized some problematic things that were done to me that I felt bad about. Luckily for me they weren't nearly as persistently coercive as some of the things other people have experienced, but they still haven't been great for my mental health.

In some ways I was better off when I didn't ever think about it, TBH.
posted by wierdo at 10:36 AM on December 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think some of the disconnect comes from how deeply ingrained the idea that men always want sex is, and the associated idea that when it comes to sex, men are always the pursuer and women the pursued.

The comments are like watching cognitive dissonance made manifest.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


This seems like a relevant discussion to bring up an observation I've had that I can't explain; For the last 10-20 years or so I've constantly, and more all the time, read about women teachers in trouble for having sex with underage students, usually boys. This is something I really can't remember hearing much about before, but now it seems like I read that far more than men teachers having sex with students.

I've been really curious as to whether this is something that is happening a lot more, or being reported a lot more, and what the explanation for the shift is. I've also found it really odd that it's talked about so little.
posted by bongo_x at 9:34 PM on December 1, 2016


Bulgaroktonos: In seventh grade, there were two girls in one of my class who would regularly corner me in the library and act sexually interested and flirtatious with me; the bolder of the two often stuck her hands down my pants and grabbed me

I was in a very similar situation at exactly the same age. It was such a confusing situation to be in. I think the first time I talked about to anyone was a couple of months ago. Looking back, I can see how it screwed me up in ways that I didn't realise at the time. It made it very difficult to interpret flirting as honestly intentioned for quite a few years.

I think this is the first time I've ever seen anyone else talk about this happening. It makes me wonder if it's not much more common than I assumed.
posted by xchmp at 1:52 AM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I find myself needing to explain my statements about nagging and begging for sex as gendered behaviour - I wanted to comment on that specifically as I think not acknowledging the context of the research is tone deaf at best. There is absolutely nothig to be gained by debating the terms used in the study (without reading the study) to ask if the nagging was really nagging, when contextually it is linked with sexual assault. It was a poor choice to bring in as a point of disagreement.

The prevalence of the accidental sex and pregnancy as a romance plotline is absolutely a facet of rape culture. Also one that very much treats it as 'not rape'.

Cultural responses are absolutely integral to rape culture and contributing to them was not my intent.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2016


Count me as one of those who thinks the words "nagging and begging" does constitute confusing language, whatever the rationale for using them in the study. This is apparently because if this thread is anything to go by, I have a different understanding of what those words mean than a lot of people

For example, here is cited an article which is supposed to describe an example of "nagging and begging" rather than a clear-cut case of criminal sexual assault. Whereas to me, that same article reads as a description of a sexual that definitely *should be* considered criminal and if it's not, that's because the law is deficient. What happened was, a host in an AirBNB type setup had a female guest who began sexually harassing him the moment she arrived, quickly escalating to unwanted touching (physical assault), and followed by assaulting him innhis sleep whereupon he awoke to find her raping him (ie, sex against his will).

Whereas the assailant's manipulation and disarming tactics definitely included behaviours that can be described as nagging and begging, those words can also be used to describe a range of everyday behaviors that run from "making requests that are simply not liked" through "unpleasant modes of relational expression" all the way up to "verbal abuse". Since a primary tactic of abusers is to confuse the victim so that they're not sure if they can object to what is being done to them, and confusion about what vocabulary to use to describe abuse and how to get across that it's worse than an interaction that is unpleasant or simply not liked, I think it's fair to pick up on this use of language.

In addition to that, as a woman who's been in life-threatening situations and asked Powerful Man to stop doing (immediately life-threatening thing) and had my concerns dismissed with just such words as nagging and begging and accused of "bullying" on that basis when I was literally just trying to stay alive, I do think I have legitimate concerns about this use of language, and I don't agree that that's probably just because I'm an abuser myself who is trying to justify her actions, or because I'm being kneejerk defensively sexist. It isn't, however, my primary concern in response to TFA, because:

People can read a clear-cut description of a woman raping a man and go, "well, that's definitely a case of nagging and begging and whether or not it's criminal sexual assault is really ambiguous", so that the description of the emotional pressure looms larger to the reader than the description of the actual rape does - well, that only tells me that these kinds of definitions do matter because, as TFA is actually about, the less we're able to make sense of these experiences the more people are left at risk.

But then again it is one thing to be making sense of this stuff for the first time - and another thing to have to relearn it all over again from first principles because the predator is a woman and the victim is male. I'm continually shocked by what people will think is just fine simply because it's a woman doing it to a man when these same people demonstrably have no trouble recognizing abuse when the genders are reversed.
posted by tel3path at 3:34 AM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Those words are used once in the study as an example of verbal pressure to summarize results of a more detailed survey instrument. Now personally, I don't have any language to describe the abuse I've experienced that isn't also used to describe non-abusive relationships. That's primarily because emotional abuse can weaponize a wide range a behaviors, and secondly because humor has a track record of trivializing abuse by joking about it.

"Nagging or begging" is used to describe some of the verbal abuse involved. It is not used to define the verbal abuse involved. It's a symptom that needs to be examined in context. A red face can be a useful symptom of a fever. It's not definitive of a fever.

My objection is absolutely not that the people language-lawyering how we describe abuse are secretly, abusers. My objection is that taking that language out of the context of abuse and sexual assault to talk about healthy negotiation of needs and boundaries, is a derail that harms the ability of survivors to describe our experiences.

When we're talking about sexual assault, I need to be able to talk about the kinds of emotional abuse and manipulation that happened that night, using the impoverished language of English to do so.

Finally, believe it or not, I honestly don't give a damn about whether what happened was "criminal." My two issues (somewhat overlapping with this post) are:

1) There an epidemic (pandemic for women) of sexual assault by partners against bi* people.
2) There additional bias within the mental health system regarding bi* people that limits what survivors have access to.

(*) broadly defined.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:44 AM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The ambiguities of intimate partner violence meant that it took, oh, about three years before I was willing to concede that the relationship might have been abusive, and I might have been sexually abused, and I might have some trauma from that night. Frankly, I was shocked when I first described the bits and pieces all together and a friend said, "that's rape." (And again the second time I heard it, and the third time.)

And that's a major limitation of these studies. If you just ask about sexual assault/coercion, many survivors default to "no." If you describe sexual assault/coercion more people say "yes" who are, in fact, suffering from significant psychological harm.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:39 AM on December 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


And someone DID start their own discussion about men being sexually assaulted by women AND cited sources and we're still not listening, and people are dismissing, and hair-splitting about what is consent/coercion/force, enough so that male survivors are uncomfortable and scared to talk about their experiences? They deserve better from us.

Thank you and First Mate Kate and others for saying this. I was hopeful to check out the FPP and read some of the links and then got to the discussion and I feel awful. I'm a survivor and male and have talked about my experiences on MetaFilter before (but mostly on the Green in the context of offering support to other survivors) and this thread has made me feel very sad and hurt. I think I will check out of this now for self-care reasons.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:26 AM on December 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


this was a very challenging thread to read.

I too, am a survivor, and unconscious perpetrator of sexual assault experiences. Mine began as a child, and then resurfaced as an adult.

One partner, who I lived with, needed to come home and cry and be REALLY UPSET AND ANGRY before we could have sex. I was often so confused and upset, I was unwilling to speak - I believe powerfully in saying what you mean, and because it's hard to do when you're upset, all I could bring myself to say is, "I won't say anything out of anger." When I ran out of money, she very abruptly ran out of my life.

The second time was more recent. This woman and I met over OKC, and after making out on my porch (1st meetup - red flag!) and hanging out in a park doing acro-yoga, we ended up in her bedroom where as soon as I got naked, I cried. I both wanted the comfort but didn't feel safe and couldn't say and she asked, "is it okay if I keep going?" and I said "yes" feeling under internal emotional duress to feel comforted and have my sexuality acknowledged. It had the impact of sexual assault. Her not hearing me when I said, "I don't feel sexy!" was sexual assault too. Or her refusing to hear, "Can't we do something OUTSIDE of your house?" and denying me sex until I dropped that piece ... yeah, that too was sexual assault.

I've been wondering about the second person, why the experiences I had with her had SUCH AN IMPACT ... thanks MeFi for clearing that up. now I'm going to go about my life and try to be a better person than I was before that - to advocate for safety, to talk about consent openly, and most of all, to have compassion for myself enough to stand FIRM on my boundaries. and continue to talk about the gender neutrality of human emotional experience.

I also want to say that having been caught in this cycle, it's easy to become both perpetrator and victim. Own both pieces, and have care for yourself, compassion for yourself - understand that most people are both, and just caught up in this because for a long time, this was simply How Sexy Relationships Were Done because of gender roles and all that stupid bullshit.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 8:07 AM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


men are always the pursuer and women the pursued

And don't forget to throw in there the idea that women have sex "so much easier" because they can just open their legs and a man will throw himself in. There's a lot of that in MRA, PUA circles – a lot of hurt feelings that men have to try so hard and women don't have to do anything. When you get two people who have drunk the cultural kool-aid in a meetup together – she's in the mood and thinks a denial of her means she is the worst thing in our society – an unfuckable woman. And he's not in the mood and thinks rejecting an opportunity for sex means that he's the worst thing in our society – an unmasculine or even effeminate man. Well, that's one means to a very unhappy encounter. Mutual, joyful, consent. Always.
posted by amanda at 10:05 AM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


« Older Time spent with cats is never wasted   |   "Code reviews are for improving code quality and... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments