You might have thought you could change him, that those strange requests in the bedroom that made you feel bad would one day let up when he really began to know who you are.
But men who are turned on by sexually coercive acts are not going to change. Ever. No matter how afraid they are of losing you as a partner, or what they might say to explain the ‘misunderstanding’ (a.k.a. criminal act) that occurs during sex.
Last week, former radio host of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to overcome resistance. In the storm of opinion pieces and personal anecdotes from survivors and social commentators that followed, one column in the Toronto Globe and Mail by doctoral psychology student at York University Debra W. Soh identified a terrifying truth about the behaviour of men like Jian Ghomeshi.
They will not change, no matter what they say.
Soh says many women will stay in a relationship with a sexually coercive partner (who uses force or pressure to instigate non-consensual sexual acts) with the hope he might change his mind. Soh adds that if a man likes something sexually, or has an atypical or unusual sexual interest (called paraphilia), this will be his “primary sexual interest over the course of his life”.
Certainly, some paraphilias like BDSM, which involves the consensual role-playing of sadistic acts, can be harmless. Key word: Consensual.
Project Consent looks at how dancing is not an invitation for sex. Post continues below.
But when you are made to feel humiliated, degraded, forced or physically hurt during sex, this counts as sexual coercion and no matter who your partner is, or the nature of your relationship, you cannot change this behaviour in him. Your resistance or abhorrence during sex should always be a turn off for your partner – not a trigger of heightened pleasure and insistence.
Even if you know this, it is can be difficult to take action.
Soh looks to social norms that might prevent women from speaking up – for example, a man’s persistence is so often seen as ‘romantic interest’ in today’s society, as opposed to downright disrespect.
Not to mention the chances of being labelled ‘frigid’ or ‘conservative’ if you call someone out for being a forceful, selfish, abusive or dangerous bedroom partner.
Soh says the ‘bad boy’ attitude that society so admires can easily conceal sexually coercive behaviour. Those men who enjoy bending the rules, happily exploit others and show complete disregard for the needs of those around him can often be inconsiderate in the bedroom, as well as real life.
When these traits manifest into physical or sexual violence, there is no pathway to salvage the relationship or no way to change his preferences. Even if he stops sexually coercive behaviour at home, he will likely look elsewhere to fulfil his sexual needs.
"From a scientific perspective, there is no evidence to suggest that a man’s sexual preferences can be changed, even if he is deathly afraid of losing his partner. (At best, they can be managed with therapy and sex-drive-reducing medication.)" Soh wrote in the Globe and Mail article.
Education should be our answer to the verdict of the Ghomeshi trial. Knowledge is the only way forward in destroying those social norms preventing women from speaking up and putting them at risk.
If you see traits of sexually coercive behaviour at the start of a relationship, it's important to know the facts – that this behaviour is criminal, and that men like this cannot be changed. By talking loudly and clearly about the difference between consent and non-consent, we can make known that bold (very bold!) line between mutual pleasure and a criminal act.