This episode is Part 4 of Anne’s interview with Jane Gilmore.
Part 1: When You Say Yes to Sex But Feel Dead Inside
Part 2: Is My Husband Manipulating Me Into Having Sex? How To Know (this episode)
Part 3: How Do I Know if I Really Want to Have Sex?
Part 4: Is It My Fault That My Husband is Angry?
Part 5: Why You ACTUALLY Feel Crazy In Your Relationship
Have you asked yourself, “Is my husband manipulating me into sex, or did I actually want to do that?”
Identifying abuse on any level can be very difficult – but identifying sexual coercion in an intimate relationship can feel impossible.
Jane Gilmore is back on the BTR.ORG podcast sharing her expertise on consent – tune into the podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Am I a Victim of Sexual Coercion?
If your husband has used manipulation to coerce you into sex, you may feel confused, embarrassed, and have trouble knowing for certain what actually happened. Here are some questions you can ask yourself that Jane outlined throughout her interview with Anne that may help you gain clarity:
- Did your husband do something that you are afraid to tell others?
- Did something happen that you are ashamed to tell others?
- Did you experience fear prior to the sexual experience or feel you needed to walk on eggshells around him so that he didn’t snap?
- Did you find yourself wondering, ‘Is this normal?’ ‘Do other husbands do this to their wives?’
- Did he claim that he was going to be in physical pain if you didn’t have sex with him?
- Did he say the right things prior to the experience, but you felt unsettled and unsafe during the sexual experience?
Did I WANT to do That?
He’s got to be somebody that you want to have sex with and that’s on him. It’s not on you to take responsibility for what he does.
– Jane Gilmore, author and consent educator
You may be experiencing sexual coercion if you “want” to have sex with him because:
- A sexual addiction recovery program leader/sponsor/manual/member has told you that it’s your responsibility to provide your husband with sex.
- A religious leader/program has overtly told you or intimated that you should be having more sex with your husband.
- You’re afraid that if you don’t have sex with him, he will seek it elsewhere (even if he’s never said it out loud).
- You understand sex as a way to manage his abusiveness – if you have sex, he’ll be kinder.
In these situations, you’re having sex with your husband in order to protect yourself – and that’s not the kind of desire that is equivalent to real consent.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. Jane Gilmore is back on today’s episode. If you didn’t listen to last week, listen to that first so you get an introduction to who she is and then join us here. We were talking about grooming and we are going to just continue that conversation.
Now, grooming in and of itself is abuse. So he was abusive the entire time, but just sometimes it felt good and sometimes it felt terrible.
Jane Gilmore (01:49):
And it’s also about that feeling of always walking on eggshells. He could turn at any minute, so even if he’s being sweet, you’re still a little wary. You’re still always guarding, you’re still always checking because he can turn on a dime and you never know when that’s going to happen. So that’s also part of the abuse: keeping you hyper-vigilant and walking on eggshells all the time.
And again, if you’re looking for those signs, Is this abusive? I’m not sure, if you’re scared, if you never know how he’s going to react, if you’re always thinking, Well, if I say this or if I do this or if I wear this, is he going to snap?, then you’re pretty sure that’s a sign that the relationship is abusive. Because in a good healthier relationship, being afraid of somebody should not be part of it.
“Fear should not be on the table”
Fear should not be on the table.
Jane Gilmore (02:41):
It really shouldn’t.
For my audience, if they’re thinking, Well, I’m not afraid of my husband, let me submit that you might be afraid of them using porn again. For example, you might be afraid of finding out that they’re sexting a woman that you didn’t know about. You might be afraid of finding out that he’s having an affair. So even if you think, I’m not afraid of him punching me, for example, or maybe, I’m not afraid of him screaming in my face, are you afraid of something? And consider that being afraid that your husband might be using porn, or being afraid that your husband might be lying about something is fear.
In my really healthy relationships with my sister, for example, or my parents or just my healthy relationships, I never ever, ever, ever think, I’m afraid of her lying to me again.
Being afraid is a sign that you’re being abused
Jane Gilmore (03:43):
And it’s also being afraid of contempt of somebody putting you down and shaming you and making you feel terrible about yourself: If I say something, is he going to tell me I’m stupid or worthless or that because of what I said that that makes me a bad person? Being afraid of the contempt is also a sign of abuse.
And the contempt can be very subtle. It does not have to be the flat out like, “I think you’re stupid.” It can just be like, “Really? I’m not sure that’s true.”
What is it that you’re afraid of that makes you unable to be yourself with your husband?
Jane Gilmore (04:16):
Yeah, and I think that thing you said about your sister and your friends, that’s also a really good guideline. If you’ve got a really good relationship with a friend or a family member that you feel really comfortable and safe with, and then compare that to how you feel with your boyfriend or husband, if you don’t have that same feeling of comfort and safety and being able to be yourself and not having to walk on eggshells all the time, well, why not? What’s going on? What is it that you’re afraid of that makes you unable to relax and be yourself and be happy and comfortable around them?
All men are NOT abusive
And I don’t want women thinking, well it’s because my sister’s a girl or my mom or my friend or whatever. That confusion of like, Well, all men are like this, apparently they’re not. No, not all men are abusive. It’s just because he’s a man and I don’t understand men. Maybe that is not what’s happening. There are healthy men out there that you would never be afraid that they are going to lie to you again because they didn’t ever lie to you in the first place.
So that fear of, Is this going to happen again? Am I going to find out again that he’s been using porn? Am I going to find out again that he has a secret credit card or that he’s gambling, or some secret thing that you didn’t know and then he grooms you and says, “Well, I’m not gonna do it again.” There’s a fear there that it’s going to happen because it happened one time.
But with my healthy friends, it’s never happened one time. They’ve never lied to me about some really serious thing that affects me greatly. Not even once.
Are you ashamed to tell other people?
Jane Gilmore (05:46):
Absolutely. People can make mistakes, right? You can have a bad day, you can have a squabble, something can go wrong. But there’s a huge difference between that and keeping those kind of secrets that can feel shameful.
Another really good one, if you’re looking for, I’m not sure is this abusive or not: are you ashamed to tell people? If you’re ashamed to tell people: “Oh, I found out he was cheating on me.” “He said this thing to me.” or “He did this thing and I don’t want to tell my close friends”, that’s one of those moments that you have to think, Well, hang on. Why? Because if it’s that you know that your friend is going to be horrified, “Why is he doing this to you?” “Why is he making you feel like this?” What’s going on that you are ashamed to tell people about it? That’s one of the key moments.
I remember saying this to a friend of mine just recently: “If he does something to you that you are afraid to tell me or you are ashamed to tell me, even if you don’t want to tell me, you need to know that that’s a sign something is really wrong.”
BTR is here to help you process your trauma without shame
Well, and I think also when women do go for help there are things that they are ashamed to say. So rather than say [the shameful things that have happened], they say things like, “Well, he gets very upset when I…”, blah, blah blah. And then the person listening might be like, “Oh, that happens to me too. Those are regular communication problems.”
And so then they don’t know that they have omitted a key thing that would help them understand what was happening to them. So they’re not aware that they’ve omitted this thing. And so then if they listen to their, friend’s advice, they might think, Oh, maybe it IS just a communication issue. And then they’ll work on communication rather than realizing, No, this is not a communication issue. This is an abuse issue. And one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to figure out that it’s an abuse issue is cause I haven’t shared all of the really shameful things that have occurred, which is part of why we created BTR.
Is this normal?
We have a daily group so that women can get on and just start talking with other women who are saying that same thing and they could just say it out loud and think, Is this normal? It’s a safe place to say it where they might not necessarily be talking to a friend or family that they don’t really want to share it with right this very second because they don’t want to hurt their husband’s reputation or something like that. They can share it maybe in a safe place and then start reaching out to people like their friends or family members. Cause you’re going to need support from people that you know in real life.
“I believe you and it’s not your fault”
Jane Gilmore (08:27):
Absolutely. And that feeling of shame is so corrosive. It does so much harm inside you to be holding those secrets and knowing that you feel shame about it trying to hold onto the idea that it’s not your fault and you didn’t do anything wrong. But when you feel ashamed of something that’s happening in your marriage or in your relationship, and you don’t tell people because of it, again, it’s part the abuse because it makes you feel like it’s your fault like you are doing something wrong and you’re not.
But that feeling of shame is hard to overcome. And then the longer it goes on, and the more you hide from your friends and your family, the harder it gets to say, after a year or two years or even 10 years, “Well, actually he’s been doing this to me for 10 years and I didn’t tell you.”
So having somewhere you can go where you can finally say that out loud and have someone say, “That’s okay, I believe you and it’s not your fault”, is one of the most important moments I find in women who are finally able to recognize, Yes, this is abuse and yes, I need to think seriously about whether or not I stay with this man.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
Here’s a five star rating we received for Trauma Mama on Amazon. She says, “Partners of sex addicts are the victims of sex addicts and are being treated as perpetrators and the destruction is massive. I sent copies of Trauma Mama Husband Drama to some of my family members in hopes that they someday come to understand the destruction, manipulation, and abuse by my ex-husband, a sex addict. They still blame me for his behavior and don’t understand my extreme reactions to finding out about his behavior. My husband was with over 25 women, including my best friend, our children’s friends, mothers, wives of clients, multiple prostitutes that I know about. I could go on and on the money he spent on them, the gaslighting, my doctors told me they had never seen someone so gaslit. I’m not proud of this. And then when I found out I spent two years obsessively trying to understand with little to no support. It honestly took me eight years to get out of the fog. I now see his addiction as abuse and manipulation. This book shows the deep down destruction to partners of sex addicts in an easy way. I’m hoping to learn how to demand and deserve respect and find some kind of happiness.”
Thank you so much for sharing.
The Porn Addiction Recovery Industrial Complex coercing women into sex
Back to the interview.
When it comes to consent with sex. I talk a lot about how the pornography addiction recovery community is basically coercing women to have sex with men and also the religious community. I’m actually religious myself, so I’m not anti-religion or anything like that. I’ll talk about the two different things and then I’d love to hear your response on both.
But I just want to, kind of, give you a broad overview. The Pornography Addiction Recovery Industrial Complex – they’ll say things like, “Well, he has these sexual needs and so if he doesn’t have these needs met somewhere, he’s maybe going to act out somewhere else.” So it is sort of threatening like you are obligated to give him sex because he has to have sex apparently. And so if you don’t give it to him, where is he going to get it from? Right? There’s that sort of idea.
And then there’s, sort of, the religious overtones that you need to submit, that he is the head of your household. That in order for him to be faithful and to obey the commandments and to not break the law of chastity, you need to have sex with him because otherwise it’s going to be too hard for him to obey the law of chastity. He will not be able to do it. If he’s not able to have sex with you, then it’s kind of going to be your fault that he breaks the commandments by having sex with someone else, masturbating, using pornography, whatever else he’s doing because you were not available to him and this is your duty. Have you heard of these two things before?
The systemic, widespread coercion of women and girls
Jane Gilmore (12:44):
I have heard of that kind of thing. It happens in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different circumstances. So say if I’m in schools, I’ll hear teenage girls talking to me about, “Well, he really needs it.” I don’t know if you have it in the US, but here, when I was a teenager, they used to call it the blue balls thing.
Yeah, “His balls are going to fall off. This is a medical issue.” “I have a medical issue and if you don’t help me with it, my balls are gonna fall off.”
Jane Gilmore (13:13):
Yes, exactly. “You have to do this for me because otherwise I’m going to be in pain.” But if you go back to that definition of consent that we’re talking about at the beginning of two people actively want to share touch, then that just doesn’t work.
Also, both those things that you’re talking about there is making the woman responsible for how the man behaves. Nobody can ever be responsible for how someone else behaves. If you’re talking about adults, he’s an adult. He is responsible for his behavior and his choices. If you’re going to talk about it and share it and decide what you both want together, that’s one thing. But you can’t control his behavior. You can’t be responsible for his behavior. So if he needs sex, then he’s got to be somebody that you want to have sex with, and that’s on him. It’s not on you to take responsibility for what he does.
“There’s no man on the planet that is going to drop dead from lack of sex”
And that’s also just a lie. There’s no man on the planet that is going to drop dead from lack of sex. It is just not a thing.
Jane Gilmore (14:21):
It’s just not. It’s also based on that idea that men need sex and women are the gatekeepers of sex and men need it, and that’s just not true. Women like sex too. Women enjoy sex too. And with good sex, and I mean consensual in that it’s shared and both people want it, both people enjoy it. And if you are not enjoying it, and you’re not able to say why and you’re not able to talk about what you want and he doesn’t want to hear what you want or what you need to enjoy it as well, then that’s a sign that there’s something wrong.
There’s that ability to share, and it’s not easy to talk about sex, and I’m certainly not going to say, “Well, everybody can just sit up and say, ‘Well, I want this and then I want this, and then point A…'”, that’s not an easy conversation. But if he’s just not even interested in hearing about what you want so that you enjoy it too, then you’ve got to think, Well, what’s going on here? Because this is not sharing a relationship. This is, again, going back to that transactional thing of he’s getting something and manipulating you into giving it.
“You do NOT need to WANT to do that”
I have a concern about this because I think that with all of these discussions about consent and all of the discussions about making sure that she’s cared for, if an abuser listens to these conversations, they are very good at adopting this type of language and then weaponizing it. So for example, they’ll say, “Oh, it really matters to me that that your needs are met too.” They’re able to parrot back this information. So I worry that women will be like, “Oh, well he’s saying this and so check, check, check. I’m safe.”
So one of the things I want to talk about is being really aware of how you feel on the inside. Even if he’s saying all the right things, do you actively want to be sharing touch with him? Do you want to? Even if he’s saying all the right things, that does not mean that you need to want to do that.
“It’s okay if he says all the right things and you still don’t feel comfortable”
It’s okay if he says all the right things and you still don’t want to do it. It’s okay if he says all the right things and you still don’t feel comfortable. So be really in tune with, I call it, your sacred internal warning system.
The other thing to think about is to watch his actions if he is saying all the right things, but his actions are not. For example, he’s saying, “Yes, it really matters that what you want is important too.”, while he’s really physically pressuring you to have sex and you’re not really wanting to. You’re not into it, but he’s saying all the right things while he’s still plowing forward. So it does make me nervous sometimes to talk about, like, “This is what he would say if he were a healthy person”, because they can always pick up on that healthy language and use it. And you need to know that words are not the most important thing here.
“It’s just a sales pitch, it’s a manipulation”
Jane Gilmore (17:17):
Absolutely. And you’re so right. It’s about, What does he do if the actions don’t match the words? It’s like an apology, right? If somebody says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again”, and then they do it again, they didn’t mean the apology. The apology was just a way to make you stop talking about it. If they’re saying, “I care about what you want, you have to want this, this has got to be consensual”, but then they actually don’t care about consent, then it’s just a sales pitch. It’s a manipulation. It’s not actually genuinely caring about what you want and then responding to it.
Even something like, “I really care what you want. I really care. I’m interested, why don’t you tell me?” And then she tells him and then he says, “Well, is it my turn now? Can I now tell you what I want?” And then the manipulation happens. Then he does his sales pitch for that transaction and he is trying to make that sale. Think about like, If he really heard and understood what I said, this isn’t some kind of negotiation where you say, “Okay, this is what I want.” And then he says, “Well this is what I want”, and then somebody wins. But if he is abusive and if he is transactional, that is what he is going to think in his mind. He will think, Well, she won because she said she had a headache and so we’re not having sex, rather than thinking, Oh, we are deciding this together.
What about nonverbal communication?
Jane Gilmore (18:45):
Yes, exactly. Yeah. And this again is one of the things that we teach a lot: consent is not just about what you say, consent can be nonverbal. So one of the things that we talk about in those classes (and again while I do them in schools, I also do them with adults): notice somebody’s body language. Notice their expression, notice how they’re reacting. If somebody’s withdrawing from you or turning their face away or their body’s all stiffened up, what does that mean? And if you are the one doing that and they’re not interested, they’re not caring, they’re not even noticing, then consent is not there in their actions. Actions and words have to match because that’s also part of abuse: saying one thing and doing another. So it creates what they call cognitive dissonance where you don’t really understand what’s going on. He’s saying all the right things, but something else is happening. Now I don’t understand because he said this thing, but then he did this thing and is that my fault? Or What’s going on? Why did that happen? That happened because he was manipulating you.
Okay, we’re gonna pause the conversation. Jane’s gonna join me again next week, so make sure to stay tuned.