Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My close friend for six months ( we’ve known each other for three years) is now my new sex partner. He always roughs me up when we finally have sex.
I always have to fight him off or try to push him away, but most times he overpowers me and finishes even when I say no.
He calls it rough sex but I'm not so sure. It hurts, and I get bruises, but he says that it's normal.
The worse was tonight when I consented to try anal sex with him (after very rough vaginal sex for almost an hour, which I am getting used to by now). The problem is he forced himself inside. I screamed out in pain and begged him to stop or slow down, but it only made him go harder and faster. He clearly thinks that I was enjoying it (???).
After this, he gave me some water to drink and came to lie down with me but told me that he needed more sex. I told him I couldn't anymore. He flipped me over and started forcing into my vagina, and then I started crying, and he stopped.
He didn't understand what the matter was and I didn't tell him as yet why I was upset.
I'm unsure how to handle this. How do I talk to him about it? Please help!
Related: Ask Erin: Can A Woman Rape A Woman?
I have an enormous amount of empathy for you. I remember, as a young woman, feeling that I did not have agency over my body. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or that I even had a right to do so.
I want this to be very clear: This is rape.
At best, this guy is showing you a complete lack of respect. But really, let’s not mince words. He is raping you. Get the hell away from this guy. You called him a sex partner, but he is not acting as a partner. He is acting like a rapist. I know I keep emphasizing this, but it’s because I want you to know that in no way is what he’s doing okay.
Let’s talk about consent. In your email, you wrote: I always have to fight him off or try to push him away, but most times he overpowers me and finishes even when I say no. It does not matter if you gave your consent initially. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and fighting someone off and saying no is a vehement withdrawal of consent.
Consent requires voluntary, affirmative agreement among all parties involved, and can be withdrawn or altered at any time during a sexual encounter.
I didn’t learn about consent during Sex Ed in middle school. I believe that’s changing now, and it should. It should be the single most important lesson taught when we talk to young people about sex. I have a few resources that I like to direct people to which explain consent really well.
- Project Consent
- Navigating Consent
- Learning Good Consent
- Asking For It - The Ethics & Erotics of Sexual Consent
When you break things off with him, you should email him this information, which leads me to my next point.
Please end things with him immediately.
He has treated you horribly. And I realize he may not even know that, which is why he needs to be directed to those consent resources. If you’re nervous about this, I think this is a case where it is totally acceptable to email or text him. You don’t owe this person a face to face conversation. If you are unsure of what to say, say something like: I am unable to continue having sex and hanging out. It has become overwhelmingly clear that you do not understand consent as you have repeatedly violated my boundaries and my body when I have physically pushed you away and told you no. I hope that you take the time to educate yourself so that you don’t do the same thing with your future sex partners.
I do not think that is too harsh. By saying something along those lines (and truthfully, I believe this will be easier for you to do written than spoken), you are setting that boundary. And that boundary is, you are no longer allowed any access to my body.
Sex should be pleasurable for everyone involved.
There is nothing about the sex that you’ve described that is consensual, let alone pleasurable. And you deserve to have sex that is both of those things — consensual and pleasurable. Ask yourself what you’re holding onto here.
Imagine if your friend/sister/daughter told you they were in this situation. I am sure you would tell them to get out. Show yourself the same care.
Beyond getting out, I want to make sure that you get the support you need to process all of this.
Lastly, I want to make sure that you know something very important…
What he has done is not your fault.
It doesn’t matter that you wanted to have sex with him. It doesn’t matter that you wanted to stop after things got started. It doesn’t matter that you stayed. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t known how to handle this.
The bottom line is he violated your boundaries again and again. He forced himself on you after you said no. That is not consensual sex. That is rape.
And you are not to blame.
*If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help. You can chat live now online or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE, through the Sexual Assault Hotline. It is free and confidential. If anyone needs region-specific resources, RAINN has a page where you can find centers near you, or you can email me.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Smithsonite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo