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How Do I Know if I'm Really Giving My Consent?
How Do I Know if I Really Want to Have Sex?

Jane Gilmore is on the podcast discussing sexual grooming and how you can know if your sexual experiences are truly consensual.

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How Do I Know if I'm Really Giving My Consent?

This episode is Part 3 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 Sex? How To Know
Part 3: How Do I Know if I Really Want to Have Sex? (this episode)
Part 4: Is It My Fault That My Husband is Angry?
Part 5: Why You ACTUALLY Feel Crazy In Your Relationship

If you’ve felt lonely, confused, or sad after a sexual encounter with your husband, you may have vaguely wondered – did I really want to have sex with my husband?

Jane Gilmore is covering grooming, manipulative tactics of abusers, and how you can know if your sexual encounters are actually mutual, safe experiences.

3 Questions You Can Ask Yourself

Jane offers three questions that you can ask about the broader relationship if your trust has been violated – but these questions can also pertain to sexual encounters with your husband. Rather than asking yourself:

  • What does he want?
  • What does he need?
  • Why is he doing this?
  • How can I fix everything and make him happier?

You can ask yourself:

  • How do I feel?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I need?

Tune in to Your Intuition

When your focus is on your own safety needs and emotional well being you may find it easier to identify manipulation. Grooming that feels good and that previously would have gone under the radar is easier to detect and you’ll be more equipped to steer yourself away from situations that would be harmful to you.

Instead, you’ll be able to set boundaries that you only engage in sexual activity that is safe, honest, and mutual:

“I’m there because I want to be, not because I have to be or cause I’m being manipulated or forced into it.”

– Jane Gilmore, author and consent educator

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

At BTR.ORG we know the pain of realizing that your husband has been manipulating and coercing you into sex. It’s devastating.

Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are available to you as a safe space to process your trauma and begin your journey to healing. Attend a session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Jane Gilmore is back on today’s episode. I started talking with her two weeks ago, so if you haven’t heard the very beginning of our conversation, go back two weeks so that you can listen to the whole thing.

We ended last week talking about grooming again. I want to talk about an aspect of grooming that once they’re done with the grooming, once they get what they want, they sort of abandon the grooming for a minute because they’re exhausted and they got what they wanted. I want to talk about one other aspect that I have noticed and it is that the grooming is so good before sex that they’re very good at getting what women really genuinely feel like is “consent.”

They feel like they are actively wanting to share touch and then after, he is upset. So for example, a lot of women think of consent as He’s kind of mad, or I’m feeling uncomfortable before and then somehow I ended up having sex and then he’s sort of happy after, cause he got what he wanted. That might be a kind of a feeling. He’s never gonna be that happy. He’s just going to be like, Great, that’s done, moving on.

Can you WANT sex if you don’t know that he’s abusive?

There is another aspect of it where women genuinely feel like they actively want it, not knowing that they’ve been groomed, not knowing that they’ve been lied to. And then once he gets what he wants, then he’s just like, Oh, I don’t have to act like that anymore. I don’t have to act nice, I don’t have to act great. I can just be mean to her and put her down or whatever because now I’m not trying to get consent. They’re not acting the same way.

And that can feel really confusing for women because it’s like everything was so good and it was delightful and then we had sex. And then after we had sex, you just started acting weird. Have you ever heard of the reverse? Can you talk about that?

Jane (02:27):
Women who’ve just had that experience where they’re feeling that intimacy and want to maintain that closeness are like, But what happened? We were feeling so close. Again, going back to that: actions and words.

The Ebola Analogy

Anne (02:39):
But let’s pretend like someone has a very, very, very communicable disease. Let’s say Ebola. And they’re like, “I am actively going to try to get treatment for this.” And you’re like, “Great.” You would not have sex with them, right? You would be like, “Okay, good for you. Once you don’t have Ebola anymore, you no longer have a contractible disease, then I will have sex with you.”

I want women to realize that. If they say to you, “Okay, yes. I will improve. I’m going to go to therapy and I’m going to get better and I’m going to change.” Then be like, “Great, you’ve got Ebola and good luck to you. Have fun during in treatment. Good luck with the doctor’s appointments and stuff. Look me up when you don’t have it anymore.”

Jane (03:35):
Right. If you’re sitting there going, “Well, I’ve got Ebola and I promise I’m gonna go to the hospital, I promise I’ll go to the hospital, but let’s just have a quickie before I go”, no one’s going to do that.

Anne (03:45):
No, no one’s going to do that. So if they say to you, “Okay, yeah, I will get better. I will get better and in the meantime let’s continue having sex”, be like, “No, you have a contagious communicable disease. I don’t know why you have it.” You don’t even have to blame him. You don’t even have to call him an abuser. You don’t need to do any of that. But you can say to yourself, This is not wise. If they’re not currently healthy enough to have sex right now today, then I should not have sex with them today.

“Take enough time to know if it’s grooming or not”

Jane (04:17):
“You go off to the hospital, you see the doctor, you take all the antibiotics, whatever you need, and when the doctor says you’re healthy, come back and tell me about it and then we’ll talk.”

Anne (04:26):
Right. “And when you come back, I’m gonna look you in the eyeballs to see if you’ve got any signs of Ebola.” Hopefully you educate yourself and look for those signs. And then also take enough time to know if it’s grooming or not.

Jane (04:38):
Yeah. “And also, are you happy for me to talk to your doctor, the doctor that apparently cured you of Ebola <laugh>?” And if he says, “Yes, absolutely, here’s the doctor’s number. You have a chat to them, see what they say.” And the doctor also says, “Yes, I’ve checked him for Ebola and yes he was sick and we spent all this time treating him and now he’s okay.” But if he’s saying, “No, no, no, you can’t talk to my doctor. No, no, no, I don’t want you to call the hospital. No, you don’t need any evidence of that. Let’s just have sex…”

Should you talk to & believe the “doctor”?

Anne (05:08):
All the way across the world, I’m going to respectfully disagree with you. And I’ll tell you why – this happens a lot in the pornography addiction recovery community. So he’ll go to a CSAT therapist who’s a sexual addiction recovery therapist and he’ll groom the therapist and then the therapist will be like, “Wow, he is doing great.” <laugh>.

So if she talks to him and says to his therapist, “Hey, is he doing well? Is he healthy enough now to have sex with?”, it is 99% possible that therapist will say, “Oh yeah, he’s doing so well. He’s healthy now, he’s doing great.” And he is not. So I don’t agree in this case that you should talk to their “doctor”. I think that that’s actually a bad idea.

Trust your instincts. Always.

Jane (05:51):
Yeah. I agree with you on that. But say in that analogy, if it’s a porn thing, right? And he says, “Okay, I’m definitely cured, but no, you can’t have the password to my computer.”, and “Oh look, my browser history is scrubbed every time and I’m gonna go off and lock myself in a room for an hour and you’re not allowed to come in. But I went to the therapist and therapist said I’m fine”, then trust your instincts. Because clearly something’s not.

“Just get really, really quiet with yourself.”

Anne (06:15):
Even in that case. Even if he gave you the password, even if he gave you all that stuff, you have to trust your instincts because he could give you the password and he could have two phones and he’s got a secret phone somewhere that you don’t know about. Right? So trying to follow up with a third party always makes me nervous. There’s women who even require their husbands to do like a polygraph for example. And they think, Oh great, okay, he had a polygraph so now, now he’s safe, or something. And I’m like, “No <laugh>, no, no, you don’t need to check his phone.

You don’t need to do a polygraph, you don’t need to do all that. Just get really, really quiet with yourself and ask your sacred internal warning system, Do I feel emotionally safe, psychologically safe? Do I feel any fear inside at all?” And it’s my opinion that that is a more accurate read than asking their therapist or something. Also, here’s one other thing (sorry I’m ranting Jane, I apologize), but if you have to ask someone’s therapist if you have to get a polygraph to be like, Is this person safe to have sex with? Is that not the biggest giant red flag you’ve ever seen? That is really alarming.

The nature of abusive relationships? You stop trusting yourself.

Jane (07:32):
Absolutely. And I think one of the reasons that that women will often go to those extraordinary lengths, “Let me check your browser, let me talk to your therapist, take this polygraph”, is because the nature of abusive relationship is that you do stop trusting yourself. Trusting your instincts, as you said, is one of the safest things that you can do. So if you can just have that moment of just by yourself, and really, really thinking, How do I feel? I don’t trust him.

If that feeling is there, you’re probably not going to be able to fix the relationship. If that feeling keeps going, if every time you stop and have that really quiet moment, Do I trust myself with him? Do I feel safe with him? Do I believe him?, and the answer is always no, then how is that going to get better? Why would you stay with somebody knowing that you can’t trust them? Cause you’ll never be able to trust them.

Anne (08:25):
In that moment I want you to think, listeners, This man has Ebola.

Jane (08:30):

“I don’t need to worry about tomorrow… I just need to worry about right now.”

Anne (08:32):
Maybe that analogy will stick. I don’t know. But maybe he can get better. Maybe he can’t, I don’t know. But he is not currently safe right now and that’s all I ever need to worry about. I don’t need to worry about tomorrow or the next day. I just need to worry about right now. He’s not healthy enough to interact. Not even emotionally or psychologically, right? It’s just not a safe situation right now.

Jane (09:01):
I think the thing that that can sometimes happen with that emotional manipulation that’s worth thinking about is the way they manipulate you. You lose sight of what you want. So if you’re talking about consent of both people actively want to share touch, the manipulation takes you away from yourself and all the focus goes on them. What does he want? What does he need? Why is he doing this? How can I make him better? And you lose touch with what you want:

How do I feel? What do I want? What do I need?

How do I feel? What do I want? What do I need?, because all your focus is on him. And if you forget about that, if you forget about your needs that you need to be loved and respected and cared about as well and you’ve lost sight of that, that’s also a sign.

Even if he’s never physically violent, he doesn’t even shout at you, it’s not overt, but you’ve lost sight of what you need because all you’re thinking about is what he needs. That’s a moment, again, where you need to go off and have that quiet moment. How do I feel? What do I want? I want to not be so exhausted all the time by wondering if I can trust him. Because it’s exhausting, right?

The desire to NOT divorce may trump the desire for safety

Anne (10:12):
Another thing came to mind with that. A lot of women, when they really get quiet, what they really want, and it’s a genuine desire and it’s genuinely true: they don’t want to get divorced.

And so if they get really quiet, they’re like, I don’t want my marriage to end. I don’t want my family to fall apart. I don’t want divorce and a custody battle and all of this stuff. So if their focus is on, I don’t want chaos to ensue that would maybe happen in a divorce, it most likely would happen because abusers are very difficult to divorce. And so their focus is on that. That’s what they want rather than they want to actively share touch. Or they feel uncomfortable or they feel something else.

And so this sort of bigger, broader thing that they want, which is an intact marriage, might block them from realizing the little mini things that they want. And they’re not little and they’re not mini. So I don’t mean to say that, but they don’t really want to have sex with them, but they genuinely want to remain married. So they feel like, If I don’t have sex then I’m really not going to have what I want, which is marriage. Can you speak to that for a minute?

“I want a marriage – but why?”

Jane (12:24):
I really understand that: I want my marriage, my family to stay together. And I don’t want to be a single mother. I don’t want to have to go through all of that. Yeah, I really, really understand that. But even those quiet moments when you think about what you want, I want a marriage, but why? I want a marriage to be a partnership, I want to share my life with somebody. Yeah, I want to share parenting and living and working; I want to share all those things with somebody.

If the person you’re with is not somebody you can share with, is not somebody you can feel like you have that equal sharing of your lives and your thoughts and your feelings with, and you know in that quiet moment that you can’t trust him and you’ve really never been able to trust him, then why do you think it’s going to change?

“If he can’t be in a good marriage with you, then what you want is not something that’s ever going happen with him.”

If that’s what you want, that really good marriage, being married doesn’t give you that. Being in a good marriage gives you that. And if he can’t be in a good marriage with you, then what you want is not something that’s ever going happen with him. You might technically have the marriage, but you’re always going to have that never really having what you want. So I think people get confused between, I want a good marriage, a happy marriage, and just the wedding. The marriage certificate is not enough to make you happy.

“All of the things that he might have that you feel like you cannot get by yourself, YOU CAN”

Anne (13:47):
And I also would say, “What for?” They say, “I want the marriage”, and if you ask, “What for?”, it might be real genuine concerns of financial abuse, for example. You’re thinking, There’s no way I’d be able to take care of my kids.

Or there could be some very real legitimate concerns that you think, ‘What for?!’ Are you kidding me? If I didn’t have him, I don’t even know where I would live. I don’t know how I would function.
So if you think, What for?, really take a look at what the answer is. If the answer is finances, then how can you improve your own personal financial situation? That’s something that you have to depend on him for maybe today, but tomorrow you don’t.

And so to start taking a look at the reasons why will also help you recognize that they feel dependent on him and he wants you to feel that way, but they are not. If he’s an attorney and he makes a good living, you also can go to law school. You also can be an attorney. You also can make a good living. All of the things that he might have that you feel like you cannot get by yourself, you can.

“Women are always so much stronger than they think they are”

Jane (15:02):
Absolutely. Women are always so much stronger than they think they are. It feels impossible if you’re in that kind of marriage where you feel like you’re financially dependent. No, I could never look after myself or my kids without him. It’s amazing what you can do. And they’re real fears. It’s a tough world out there.

And I would never dismiss it as, “Oh no, you’ll be fine, you’ll get a job, you’ll be fine.” It’s, it’s not that easy. So I really understand that maybe sometimes you might even make that decision of, Well not now, it’s just not safe for me to leave right now because I actually can’t at the moment keep myself and my kids safe.

But you’re right, if you’re in that marriage where you’re thinking, Well this is not good for me, he’s not caring for me, this is not sharing a life together, then maybe instead of just picking up your bag and running out the door, then what you need to start doing is thinking about, Well what can I do to make sure that if this doesn’t get better, if he doesn’t keep those promises that he keeps making, that I can be safe, that I can give myself that choice.

“In what ways can it be replaced that are genuinely secure for you?”

Anne (16:03):
Well, and also, Why am I staying and how can I replace those things with something else? If you’re like, Why am I staying? And you think, Because of the finance stuff, what could you do to replace that? Not with another guy. No, no, no, no. By dating someone else? No.

Are there are some career options or is there a grant? Think about the reason you’re staying and see: is there an alternative that is not a man that can actually meet this need? It’s a legitimate need. You need to have a roof over your head. In what ways can it be replaced and in what ways can it be replaced that are actually genuinely secure for you?

Don’t replace financial stability with another marriage – BUILD financial stability with your own competency

Jane (16:46):
And your point about it not being another man: it is really, really difficult to go from an abusive relationship to a healthy relationship because you’re, as you say, groomed to expecting a particular kind of response, and two, it’s not that you can never be in a really good healthy relationship again, you can obviously, but you need a break.

You need a bit of time to re-calibrate and be around people who you’re actually good with and get used to having those kind of signals, and then you can meet somebody. But it’s really, really difficult to be in an abusive, manipulative, controlling relationship to a really healthy one because you’re so conditioned to those responses. So a guy who’s actually genuinely a good guy, the responses feel off and a bit weird.

Anne (17:29):
The other reason I say that is because if you think, I need financial stability and so I need to replace it because this unhealthy man is providing that right now and I need to have it replaced elsewhere and then you replace it with another man, you are also transactional in that moment. So rather than having a human replace that need, which would put you in a transactionship rather than a relationship, how can you provide that need for yourself?

An abusive man will think: “great, she’s vulnerable, she cannot meet her own needs”

Anne (18:00):
As long as you can meet all of your basic needs: emotional, psychological, financial, physical, then you’re not going to be so vulnerable to transactions, because an abusive guy likes that. He’s like, Great, she’s vulnerable, she cannot meet her own needs. This is a transaction just waiting to happen. So that’s why I say, “Not another man.” I’m not saying that you’re going to be using people per se, but in a way, if you want a relationship because you need financial stability, why not just get financial stability?

Jane (18:34):
Yeah. Right. And maybe if you need help, going back to friends and family is a different thing, but yeah, bouncing from one man to another, that’s not giving you that stability at all.

“I’m there because I want to be, not because I have to be or because I’m being manipulated or forced into it”

Anne (18:45):
No, and it’s absolutely fine to get help. You are going to need help, right? But that’s a different situation to say, “I need help while I get on my feet. I need childcare help or something while I finished this certification so that I can be a radiologist tech.”
That’s different than, “I have financial needs and the 100% way I’m going to meet these is through another person”, rather than “I’m going to create some independence so that I don’t have to have transactionships anymore so that I can have a relationship because all of my basic needs are met and I don’t have anything to trade.”

Jane (19:24):
Exactly. “I’m there because I want to be, not because I have to be or because I’m being manipulated or forced into it.”

Anne (19:31):
We are going to pause. So make sure that you tune in as Jane and I continue our conversation next week.

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