real life

'My partner constantly guilted me into sex. I didn’t see it for what it was.'

Warning: This post deals with coercive control and may be triggering for some people. 

I was young, isolated and at home with a baby. My partner was often home late from work and out on the weekends ‘with the boys’. 

Needless to say, I was exhausted. 

I felt like a single mum on most days. 

There was little to no affection or appreciation from my partner towards me, so unsurprisingly I wasn’t feeling particularly interested in having sex with him. 

However, he expected it; throwing tantrums at times when I would say no, punching the bed and making accusations: 

“No wonder I’m never home, THIS is why I stay out so late.” 

“You wonder why I watch so much porn.”

This pattern of blaming and guilting me into sex had started earlier on, in our teens, where he would use non physical tactics to get what he wanted: 

“If you loved me, you would do it.” 

“Other girls are doing it, don’t be so boring.” 

The insinuated threat of him cheating on me, giving me the silent treatment for days, or the situation escalating into a full blown argument is what made this behaviour ‘effective’. 

I would ‘give in’ to sex out of fear and guilt.

Watch: Women And Violence: The Hidden Numbers


Video via

It’s a scenario a lot of women are all too familiar with. 

Unfortunately, it’s also one we often don’t recognise for what it is: sexual coercion. I know I didn’t. 

I didn’t realise what was happening as I had been conditioned to believe men were OWED sex in a relationship - no matter how bad the relationship was, or whether I was having my own needs met both in and out of the bedroom.

Personally, this guilt and shame had deep roots for me, having started from around eight years old after a traumatic incident. 

Although my family took immediate steps to protect me and I received counselling, the feeling that I was responsible for causing upset in my family never left – they just grew as I did. 

I viewed myself as a purely sexual object, and I was desperate for male attention. Even at 10 years old I remember wanting large breasts and my period, so I could finally ‘become a woman’. 

Whilst I had unresolved trauma fuelling this, societal pressures and the overarching culture of gender conditioning only added to the belief that my role was to please men. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In Year 8, a boy I liked ‘dumped’ me because I wouldn’t perform a sexual act on him. 

And again in Year 9, another boy I had a crush on told his mates he would only be my boyfriend if I had sex with him... 

At the same time, I was watching movies and reading magazines that reinforced the idea that my worth lay in attracting a man. Even the never-ending line of questioning from family members around if I was dating or not - you know the ones - added to this. 

Whether it be consciously or subconsciously, many men have utilised this conditioning to get their way. 

Whilst it’s important to acknowledge that men also suffer from these toxic pressures, the fact remains that this behaviour is unacceptable.

Using guilt, pressure, belittling and intimidation is abusive, and falls under the marker of coercive control. 

Listen to Mamamia's daily news podcast, The Quicky, speak to people who have been through coercive control and an expert who is trying to get the laws changed here in Australia.


Coercive control behaviours can manifest in many ways, however, each one has the same goal; to make you feel guilty and distrust your own viewpoint, so that the abuser gains complete control. 

Down the track, this often leads to the outright physical abuse we identify with domestic violence. 

But, the shadows of domestic violence creep in long before you see the bruises. 

If your partner is behaving in a way that consistently makes you feel guilty for saying no or disagreeing, that is a red flag.

If you no longer feel safe communicating with your partner about how you feel, that is a red flag.

If you can feel deep down in your gut that something is wrong, you are right. You are worthy of feeling safe. 

You are worthy of being heard. 

You are worthy of respect. 

You are worthy, period. 

A proud survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault and resulting mental health challenges, Vanessa Haldane is leading the conversation on why rediscovering one’s self worth is the key to leading a happy and fulfilling life. You can find more from Vanessa Haldane on the Journey To Worthy website, on Instagram, or listen to her full story on her podcast.


If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.


Feature image: Getty