A new study shows that many U.S. women say they were forced or coerced into sexual activity as young teens
According to a new study, the first sexual experience for many women in the United States occurred under less than ideal circumstances. One in 16 women surveyed say they were forced or coerced into intercourse or sexual activity as teenagers — with some women enduring lasting health repercussions as a result.
A total of 13,310 women between the ages of 18 and 44 years were included in the study. Almost seven percent of those surveyed said their first sexual intercourse experience was involuntary, occurred at age 15 on average, and that the male involved was typically several years older.
The survey focused on a question that was asked during in-person interviews: if women’s first vaginal intercourse experience with a man “was voluntary or not voluntary, that is, did you choose to have sex of your own free will or not?” It’s disheartening that for so many women, their first sexual experience was not of their own free will.
Disturbingly, almost half the women who had forced first sexual experiences say they were held down during intercourse, while many others say they were verbally pressured to have sex against their will.
According to WomensHealth.gov, sexual coercion is the unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. Coercion can make you think you owe sex to someone. Unfortunately, many women experience sexual coercion in high school, college, and beyond.
Some examples of sexual coercion:
- Wearing you down by asking for sex again and again or making you feel bad, guilty, or obligated
- Making you feel like it’s too late to say no
- Telling you that not having sex will hurt your relationship
- Making threats against you if you don’t follow through on sex
“Any sexual encounter with penetration that occurs against somebody’s will is rape. If somebody is verbally pressured into having sex, it’s just as much rape,” said lead author Dr. Laura Hawks, an internist and Harvard Medical School researcher.
According to RAINN, young people are at the highest risk for sexual violence — 82% of all juvenile victims or sexual assault are female. Teen girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
Hawks believes boys need to be taught the proper communication skills to prevent them from pursuing sex “with someone who is an unwilling participant” because that responsibility should not fall on the victims’ shoulders. Hawks also feels strongly about the national dialogue surrounding sexual violence. “The ‘Me, Too’ movement is a promising sign that we’re more willing as a society,” she says.