Is non-consensual pornography use within a relationship a form a sexual coercion? What do both sides say about this issue? We unpack some important aspects of this topic!

Karen, a victim of betrayal trauma and a therapist, states,

“I discovered that my husband had been unfaithful and it was a slow, leaky discovery. In reality, there was sexual addiction, acting out, affairs, and exchanging of photographs. I did not have the awareness to know the extent of the emotional abuse that was occurring.”

Pornography Is Sexually Coercive

Many women do not realize that they are even being abused in these ways that are more covert and less obvious. This is how and why the abuse continues to thrive.

Karen continues,

“Once I found out more information I was in absolute shock. There is some level of shame in being a victim. It is a really difficult thing to identify yourself as a victim. It was a slow awakening for me. I realized that I had been in freeze mode for many years; it is paralysis. You can be in a situation where you are emotionally and psychologically abused and you really do not identify it. It is so insidious. I did end up recognizing his behavior as being cyclic and set boundaries to disengage and keep myself safe.”

But often times the implementation of boundaries can escalate abusive behaviors. In Karen’s case, this was true,

“He continued to escalate further and further when he was not getting way. He used my boundaries to justify himself. In addiction, addicts will twist and justify the behavior but the driving force is addiction.”

Sexual Coercion Must Not Be Accepted In Any Form

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, states,

“Abusers will use your boundaries against you. They will blame you for his choices and his actions.  On top of that, the societal scripts seem to justify getting needs met and it often is not put in the context of abuse. So it remains unrecognized.”

Karen agrees,

“Viewing sex as a need that must be met feeds into the entitlement that men have. Feminism is not about becoming like men and imitating what they do; it is about being able to become who we are as women. We want a sex-positive culture, which means we want to acknowledge that we have desires and it is ok to honor those. It does not mean that we imitate toxic masculinity.”

Sexual Coercion Can Be Subtle But Damaging

Anne adds,

“It also does not mean that we pattern our sexuality after pornography. That is the most unhealthy. The sex-positive movement is being used in a way that is abusive and unhealthy. It is a form of spiritual bypass.  Not accepting pornography does not make me sex-negative. It makes me healthy. This is a false dichotomy.”

Karen shares her thoughts on this issue of the many treatment programs that deal with problematic sexual behavior,

“Pornography is exploitative and abusive. Abusiveness is a major component of sex addiction. People who use substances are abusing a substance. People who use pornography are using and abusing other people. The addiction treatment industry itself it is not addressing it. There is so much stigma around addiction that they fail to understand and treat the abusive component to the addiction. They want to stop the behavior but do not want to acknowledge the harm it causes to women and children. This only enables the addict to further abuse.”

Women’s Boundaries Should Be Respected And Not Coerced

It is an issue that Anne has seen over and over again,

“It is an obvious and misogynistic form of victim-blaming. Women are not kept safe, they are not even being treated with respect by trained professionals.”

So, is pornography sexual coercion? Karen says yes,

“Any form of porn in your relationship after you have asked for it not to be is a form of sexual coercion. Women absolutely have the right to say what type of sexual experiences they want within their relationship. Women have the right to say they are not comfortable with their partner using pornography. Women have the right to say that they are not comfortable having sex with a man who uses pornography. Then, if their partner agrees to but does not respect their wishes and boundaries, they are not getting consent and they are essentially sexually coercing their partners.”

Sexual Coercion Should Not Be A Part Of Healthy Relationships

Anne adds, “Women always have the right to set the boundaries that they want and need to set. We are forgetting that in the name of the sex-positive movement and that needs to change.”

The societal ties that enable abuse and pornography are undeniable. Karen explains,

“It comes down to a system of privilege and patriarchy. It is not a matter of an individual man, it is a matter of an entire systemic issue that is at the heart of this issue. What is beneath the problem of pornography is this entitlement. Women are still being treated like second class citizens, not only in treatment programs by professionals but in our culture as a whole.”

Pornography Is Coercive Within A Relationship

Anne states,

“Women begin offering more sex or different sex at the coercion of their partners. Women want to be loved and we are taught in this society that we should be objects. To survive in the patriarchy, we must perform as objects. The better an object we can be, the better we perform as objects, the better the chances of survival we have. This system is exploitative because it uses who we are as women: we provide security, we build nests, and we want to make a safe, comfortable place for others to perpetuate the unhealthy oppression of ourselves.”

If you are struggling with issues related to the trauma of betrayal, check out Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group to help you explore community and connection with those who get it. As always, our Individual Sessions are also helpful in recovery and empowerment. If you have found the content helpful, please consider making a monthly donation. Each donation helps a women find safety and feel peace.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

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