“Abusers may try to humiliate their partner when they express their desires,” says Stamoulis. They may do this by “calling someone a derogatory name for trying to get sexual needs met, like ‘slut’ or a gay slur,” she adds.
Anything goes when it comes to fantasy, and pretty much all fantasies are common and normal. So, as long as you’re not doing anything to hurt anyone, your partner has no right to judge you for your fantasies - or for asking to make them a reality.
Your relationship should provide a safe space to open up about your sexual preferences, not pose the threat of judgment. How can you get what you want if you’re scared to say what that is?
Read: Culture and Consent: The Things We Have to Unlearn to Get It Right
Pushing Your Boundaries Regarding Safer Sex
One area where you should never be pressured to compromise is your health. When someone tries to push you into unsafe sex, that shows a lack of concern for your health, and it can certainly be manipulative or abusive.
My ex, for example, repeatedly refused to get tested for STIs. But when I asked him to use a condom, he complained that it reduced the sensation. He once replied, “too late” when I told him to get one.
He made me feel like I was unreasonable for trying to convince him to have safer sex. This is another abusive behavior: deflecting the blame when your partner confronts you. If you express your hurt to your partner and then you end up apologizing, that’s a sign you’re being gaslighted.
Sometimes, pushing boundaries around safer sex is more covert. Stealthing - removing a condom during sex without a partner knowing - is a common form of sexual abuse, says Stamoulis. Consent to sex with a condom does not constitute consent to sex without one, so taking one off without telling your partner is sexual abuse, as is any behavior that violates your boundaries regarding sexual health.
“An abuser often works to lower their partner’s self-esteem so they become easier to control,” Stamoulis explains. “If you believe you’re worthless or no one else will want you, you are less likely to adhere to your boundaries and more likely to submit to your partner.”
In the bedroom, this may mean criticizing your body or telling you how to improve your looks. Your partner should only have nice things to say about your body - they’re attracted to you, after all. If they make you feel anything less than good about yourself, that’s a red flag.
They might also critique your sexual technique or compare you to a past partner. It’s fine for them to give you feedback in bed, but it should be constructive, not belittling, says Stamoulis.
Pressuring You Into Sex
We often think of ”pressuring” as a lesser offense than physically forcing someone into sex. But verbal coercion is a form of assault as well.
If someone talks you into sex by begging you after you say “no,” threatening to withdraw their affections if you don’t do it, or guilting you for not having sex with them, that is abusive. Even if you said “yes,” you have not truly consented if you felt there were no other options.
While all these behaviors are important to identify, whether or not an act qualifies as abuse is not the most important thing. You should have higher standards in your sex life than “not abusive.” More important criteria are whether you’re being respected and valued in your relationship and sex life.
The bottom line? “Ask yourself if your needs are getting met,” says Stamoulis. “If not, think about why not. If only one party is being sexually fulfilled, something is not right.”