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Home Forums Looking for support? ‘Is it abuse?’ Did I consent?


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    This is quite a ramble of a post, sorry about that.

    I identify as demi-bisexual. It’s been a year since my ex-boyfriend of 5 years broke up with me. I think he coerced me to engage in sex with him multiple times. The first year together was fine, but then my libido decreased significantly for unknown reasons, which caused issues in the relationship.

    I would feel guilty for not pleasuring him and he would get frustrated with me. He would pester me about it and it would become emotionally draining and exhausting to put up with. It made my diagnosed depression and anxiety worse. It became easier to get it over with. I keep hearing that consent is ‘enthusiastically saying yes’ to sex, but it didn’t feel like that for me. He wouldn’t do anything when I said no, other than be frustrated. I would say okay and sort of ‘switch off’ and just go through the motions of sex. He would stop when I had panic attacks. I would hide my tears but told him afterwards and he would realise I had been crying during the sex and say he felt bad about it. A couple of times he would ask me “I’m not raping you through, right?”, to which I said no. I felt something was wrong with me and that maybe I was asexual as I would go through a phase of being sex repulsed.

    Throughout the relationship, he didn’t like that I was bisexual. He said that I could be a lesbian. After 2 years he felt better about me being bisexual though.

    Sometimes I would say yes to the sex because I felt I deserved it. Deserved the hurt it caused me. It made me feel dirty and gross. Wanted to shed my skin. I felt I did not deserve sexual pleasure and would hate when my body felt sexual pleasure, so much I wanted to harm my genitals although I never did.

    I don’t know if I was coerced to do sexual acts or if I was/am mentally ill.

    I am on a waiting list to see a local service that offers counselling to past survivors of sexual assault. I just don’t know if it was assault or not. I don’t want to be seen as the bitter ex. For that reason, I won’t report it to the police. I just want to feel okay again and move on with my life.

    Part of me is worried that he will make another girl feel this way and I feel awful for that. But I don’t want to be looked down upon as a bitter ex or an attention seeker. I also don’t want to risk losing future career opportunities which could happen in my sector if branded as a lier.

    Consent just really confuses me no matter how much I read about it.



    Thank you so much for your post. You’ve done the right thing in talking about how you feel. I’m very sorry you had this experience, it sounds like it was very difficult for you and a year on it is still on your mind and having an impact on you.

    You talked about coercion – being pestered into sex, and finding it easier to get it over with than keep saying no. Persuading a person using a tactic such as a negative mood change if you don’t do what I want, could be understood to be coercion. It sounds like when you had sex it brought up a lot of emotions which was expressed as panic attacks or crying. It sounds like your body felt attacked. It is never OK to make someone have sex when they don’t want it.

    You’ve done the right thing to put yourself on a waiting list for counselling, you are deserving of speaking to a specialist therapist who will understand how you feel and help you explore the situation. In the mean time you might find this free e-graphic novel helpful as it is about a young person who has experienced sexual abuse. It is called ‘The courage to be me’. The author also runs a pre recorded online retreat for people who have had harmful sexual experiences which you can find it on the same page as the e-book. There is also a therapy directory which is for all people who are gender or sexuality diverse http://www.pinktherapy.com/en-gb/home.aspx which you can find private therapists on and you can look for someone who has experience of working with someone who has had sexually harmful experiences. With a therapist you could also talk through your concern about not being believed as this sounds unfair and upsetting.

    I understand that consent can feel confusing. You might have seen this little video which uses tea as a metaphor for sexual consent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8 It has quite a good way of making some of the situations related to sex that sometimes people say are unclear a lot clearer. But basically sex is about doing what you both want.

    Galop has produced this resource to explain consent more https://galop.org.uk/resource/consent-for-young-people/ which you might also find useful.

    You have done the right thing to talk about this. Keep going.

    The Helpline Team


    I keep coming back to your post and then not knowing what to write. It really resonates with me, as I am asking myself whether I consented to the vast majority of the sex I had in my relationship or, in fact, the vast majority of sex I’ve ever had with cis men.

    For many years I thought I was bisexual but have recently learnt about compulsory heterosexuality and, looking back, I can now see that I was never interested in men, I just went along with relationships that happened to me because that’s what I’d assumed I was meant to do. I also thought my discomfort when men showed an interest in me and also surrounding sex with men was due to the fact that I had experienced sexual abuse as a young teenager. When I discovered I also liked women, I assumed this made me bisexual, as I’d had relationships with men, so I must like both?

    I’ve just left my husband, who I now understand was abusive towards me, subjecting me to coercive control, financial abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse, but I didn’t class any of this as sexual abuse, as we were married and married people often have sex when they don’t want to, right? Only I wasn’t allowed to initiate anything, as it made him feel bad if he wasn’t up for it, so only he was allowed to initiate anything and it was never at a time I was up for it, but I generally just went along with it, even though I got no pleasure out of it and sometimes it hurt, as it was positions that are not comfortable for me, but I generally did not say anything. I generally felt used after, especially as he did not like any position that meant looking at me in the face. I did say no a few times when he was really drunk, as I didn’t want a drunk person that didn’t even seem like my husband anymore touching me at all, let alone that way. He would then call me ‘cold’ or ‘frigid’ and I’d feel like I had to have sex with him the next time he initiated things when he was not drunk.

    We had a child and we stopped having sex entirely, as I no longer even slept in his bed most of the time, but instead he was controlling over things like hugs… one day, he asked me how many hugs I’d given him one and I said none, as I hadn’t really seen him, and he told me I wasn’t trying very hard. I said he could just ask if he wanted a hug and I’d give him one. I don’t know how I was meant to guess when he needed a hug as well as guess how many hugs he needed in a day to be happy?

    In any case, I am also conflicted about the potential lack of consent for the majority of the sex we had… I don’t know if that counts as sexual abuse, or if it is part of coercive control or psychological abuse?

    Thank you for the information above. I have been reading it!

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