Sexual coercion can happen to anyone and be perpetrated by anyone. The following are scenarios that illustrate the possible interactions that may “count” as sexual coercion.**
One day after class, Drew approached Alex and said the two should go have a drink together. Alex was flattered to be asked out and did not feel comfortable turning Drew down. “How about coffee instead?” suggested Alex; Drew agreed. After a few cups and a muffin later, Drew asked Alex to come to Drew’s house for a drink. Alex smiled and said, “I can’t; I have to study – but thanks!” Alex turned to walk home, thinking Drew would leave as well. However, Drew caught up with Alex, who, upon reaching the apartment door, again tried to say goodbye. Drew pushed past a surprised Alex and went inside, asking where Alex’s room was. Alex was uncomfortable with this but did not know how to ask Drew to leave without being rude. Alex went inside and sat down on the couch. Drew then sat down next to Alex and pulled Alex close for a kiss. Alex was startled and not sure how to react but eventually pulled away from Drew. “What are you thinking about?” Drew asked. Alex said, “It’s probably time for me to start studying.” “Let me stay just a little longer,” Drew said, kissing Alex again despite Alex’s protests. Alex felt very helpless and did not know how to change the situation. Drew kept going, touching Alex in ways that made Alex feel uncomfortable. After Drew left, Alex thought, “I can’t believe I let things go that far, but I guess it’s my fault. I should have turned Drew down more clearly, I guess.”
Avery and Jess have been going out for a couple of months now. Avery tells Jess the relationship is over if Jess does not have sex with Avery tonight. “I’m sick of waiting. You’ve been with other people, so what’s the big deal?” asks Avery. Jess is afraid of losing Avery and agrees to have sex, despite having been committed to waiting until they knew each other better.
Backing Down “Counts”
Parker and Cameron were having sex, with both enjoying the interactions to that point. Parker was kissing the back of Cameron’s neck while Cameron was lying face down on the bed. Parker began to push against Cameron’s buttocks, which was a sign between the two of them that Parker was ready for more. Cameron shifted and said, “I’m not up for that right now, but we can do other things.” Parker started in on Cameron, trying everything to wear Cameron down – sweet compliments, offering favors, even laying on a bit of guilt. Cameron felt exhausted just listening to Parker, to the point of being done with any sort of sexual activity, but Cameron knew Parker…failure was not an option. Cameron looked at Parker for a minute, then said, “Fine, but just know that I’m only doing this for you – got me?” Cameron let Parker finish and jumped up to take a shower, frustrated with how things ended up between the two of them.
It was midnight and Robin was just dropping off to sleep when there was a tap on Robin’s shoulder. Reilly, Robin’s partner, tried to come closer and whisper sweet nothings in Robin’s ear, but exhaustion had set in. “Not tonight,” Robin declared, with all the standard excuses ready. They’d been fighting and Robin’s feelings were still hurt. “Not tonight? Why not? Why don’t you ever want to have sex with me? You should be glad I’m not out there cheating. I watch porn but that’s not enough, I want you,” Reilly said. Robin’s consistent refusals were each met with another attack of this sort, and Robin’s attempts to ignore Reilly and go to sleep weren’t working. Sleep deprivation causes people to do just about anything, so Robin gave in. This started a pattern, with Reilly waking Robin up anywhere from two to four times in one night for sex. Robin felt bad and would sometimes cry in the shower for long periods of time, hating that surrendering to Reilly seemed like the only way to get through a night. Eventually, after a few months, Robin began to think about ending it all – the relationship, their living together, even Robin’s life.
Storm and Marlo were into each other, hanging out so much that their friends were wondering whether the two of them would end up getting together. Finally, after a night of tailgating and football, Marlo and Storm decided to spend the night at Storm’s place. Everything was going well, but when it came time to put on the condom, Marlo started complaining about not being able to feel anything and wanting sex to be “natural” between them. Storm was insistent – STIs were not on the menu. Marlo agreed, and the two started having intercourse. At one point, Marlo pulled out and paused, then re-engaged with Storm. The moment felt odd, causing Storm to return to reality and ask Marlo what that was about. Marlo said, “It wasn’t good for me; it just had to come off.” When Storm realized what Marlo meant, she was stunned. “Do you mean the condom?” Storm said. “Yeah, it was too much. No worries, though. I’m clean,” Marlo said. Storm stared at Marlo, who just pulled Storm close like nothing had happened and started kissing and caressing Storm. Storm went along with Marlo since the two were having fun and things felt good.
Going Along “Counts”
Dakotah was always looking for something new to try in bed, to “spice things up” with Jules since they’d been together for years. The problem was that every time Dakotah decided on a new activity, Jules wasn’t ever looped in on whether the activity was something Jules wanted to try as well. Often, Dakotah’s ideas came out of nowhere, and Jules was caught off guard in the moment. Jules loved Dakotah and often felt guilty saying no, so Dakotah was typically “the boss” in the bedroom, even when Jules didn’t want to engage in the activity.
The only way Gentry could spend time with friends and family was to make sure Hayden was happy and that included having sex when and where and how Hayden wanted. For the most part, Gentry was okay with this, being a bit submissive and open to much of what Hayden liked. One day, Hayden decided an empty classroom was sexy, pulling Gentry by the hand into the room. Gentry was worried about the consequences if the two were discovered but wanted to go out on a run with Lenny later that afternoon. Gentry knew Hayden wouldn’t agree, and might even take Gentry’s phone away again, if they didn’t have sex in the classroom, so Gentry had to do what Hayden wanted, despite Gentry’s discomfort.
Salem sent Hollis a few sexy photos while they were dating with the expectation that Hollis would keep them private. When Salem broke up with Hollis, the decision made Hollis sad and angry and frustrated, because Hollis was really into Salem. Hollis started sending Salem texts, threatening to send the photos to Salem’s friends and family if Salem didn’t agree to get back together with Hollis.
**These scenarios are not drawn from actual complaints of sexual coercion reported at UMKC as those cases are held in the strictest confidence, although it is likely that these scenarios may reflect incidents occurring to our students and employees in real life. The scenarios draw upon the extensive research literature on sexual coercion. The names chosen for the scenarios are gender neutral to reflect the fact that sexual coercion occurs in all gender configurations and to folx of all sexual orientations. The scenarios are concise and do not capture the complexities that may emerge during the formal complaint process, which is designed to provide a fair and thorough review of each complaint and thus includes independent fact finding, a formal resolution, and an appeal process. For more information on the process used by UMKC to address complaints of sexual coercion, visit Resources & Information (link).