Sex Is Not a Human Right: Unpacking Sexual Coercion
In line with ethnoreligious expectations in society, women are constantly expected to put men first even at their own expense. We’re expected to dedicate our time and even our bodies to the service of men because culture, religion and society are deeply steeped in patriarchy, and patriarchy expects and demands it.
Men’s needs and wants are treated as absolute. Want to eat? Woman cooks. Want to have sex? A woman must be available even if and when she does not want to and this entitlement actively harms women.
Through outright violence or coercion, men dehumanise women in their quest for sex and this behaviour is often justified by shallow assertions that sex is a need and that it is unfair for women to withhold it from them.
One Twitter user says, “Neither wives nor husbands have the right to withhold sex from one another. Sex is not a weapon to use for manipulation. Instead, it is a gift given to one another for protection, pleasure, and procreation (children). Husbands & wives, give freely and gladly.”
This view is held sacred by religion and culture, but the expectation is usually levelled on women and not men.
According to This Day Live, over 40 per cent of married women globally are victims of marital rape, and the laws to protect women against this are severely lacking. This may be attributed to the fact that many people do not even believe marital rape is a thing because they believe that married men are entitled to sex from their wives and as such, cannot take it by force, since it is their right.
A Twitter user says, “Sex is a life necessity. Many het men don't have the social skills to put it together to hook up. So if there are non-exploitative, consensual ways for sexual health care to be provided, that should be explored as a means of social harm reduction of male violence.”
Another user says “Also disabled people, obese people, and anyone who isn't outgoing. Sex and human contact can be VERY important to mental health, but plenty of people don't have access to it because they're considered undesirable. Their mental health shouldn't be ignored because they're not hot.”
These tweets suggest that people who fall within these categories are entitled to the services of sex workers since they cannot meet women unaided.
Sex workers are already a deeply exploited demographic, so to posit them as a solution for men’s sexlessness and to present sex for men as sexual health care, especially at the expense of sex workers is extremely violent and shows that those who suggest this “solution” view them as objects and not human beings.
In Nigeria, research by the Makerere Medical School on the prevalence of violence against female sex workers in Abuja, Nigeria, shows that multiple forms of violence are meted out to sex workers at an alarming rate. The study showed that not only did sex workers face sexual violence (41.9 per cent), but they also faced physical violence (35.7 per cent), economic violence (37.7 per cent) and psychological violence (31.9 per cent).
According to research conducted in Burkina Faso on the effects of traumatic events on sex workers' mental health and suicide intentions, nearly two-thirds of quantitative respondents (61.7 per cent) reported experiencing lifetime physical violence, 77.4 per cent of whom reported experiencing violence after initiating sex work. Further, 40.9 per cent of participants reported forced non-consensual sex, most of which occurred after they had started sex work (73.0 per cent)
Saying that sex should be explored as a means of social harm reduction of male violence is not only ridiculous, it is abhorrent. Women are not objects for male pleasure and sexual violence occurs at concerning rates with sex workers; they are not mere tools for male satisfaction. The sexlessness of men is not a societal problem, instead what is a problem is the socialisation of men to see their needs and wants as absolute even when they come at the expense of others.
Sexual coercion is when a person is threatened, pressured, tricked, or forced into performing sexual acts in a nonphysical way. Even where there is no overt use of force, men may use coercive tactics to manipulate you into thinking you owe them sex. It might be from someone who has power over you and it is often so subtle that you don’t even realise you’ve been manipulated.
The term “Blue balls”— often used to refer to the pain or heaviness men experience, caused by a delayed orgasm—is not a medical emergency. This term is often bandied about to persuade women into sex. Even if it was a medical emergency, it is no woman’s responsibility to fix it against her will.
Document Women put put a survey, asking women if they’ve ever been coerced (threatened, begged, forced) into performing sexual acts and in the one hour the poll was up for, the majority of responders voted yes.
Most women have experienced coercion. Persistent requests for sex, begging, manipulation and uses of force have put many women in situations where they performed sexual acts against their will at the insistence of men. Women should not be collateral damage in the fulfilment of men’s whims and want.
No one can withhold sex from you, it is not a right or a necessity and sexlessness is not a justification for violence against women; this is prime incel rhetoric that harms women.