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Module 3: Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, and Sexual Safety

The following video raises some interesting issues concerning coercion: 

Thanks to Devin Graham of DevinSuperTramp!  Watch the full videos on You Tube: “Boyfriend pushes Girlfriend off cliff - Insane Rope Swing” & “After the Push - Boyfriend Pushes Girlfriend off Cliff”.

This video is a great jumping off point (pun intended) to talk about coercion and a great discussion tool. If it didn’t occur to you at the time, re-watch the video and think as you watch about how many times this conversation takes place among students at a place other than a cliff, like a bedroom. 


Without getting into that initially, just discuss the situation taking place in the video with your class. Did the girl secretly want the boy to push her off the cliff? Was the boy justified in doing so? What would have happened if the girl had gotten hurt or died? Was the boy being violent? Did he commit an assault? Could he have gone to jail? Using this video as a discussion tool to talk about coercion will prompt some interesting viewpoints in a context that may reveal some surprising attitudes. It would also be interesting to discuss the video in a coed setting.

But, let’s get back to the boys:

About 43% of you, between now and the age of 22, will experience an unwanted sexual advance where someone, typically but not always a female, will try and get you to do something sexually that you don’t want to do.

  • Coercion can be physical, which is when someone makes you do something by threat or use of physical force, which is illegal. This was the second least common method of coercion by females against males, but it does happen.

  • Coercion can be through drugs or alcohol where you are passed out or so drunk you don’t know what you are doing, which is also illegal. This is the most common method for male on male coercion and the least common method for female on male coercion (there is a medical explanation for this difference if you think about it).

    • For your own protection, do not tolerate or be around men who coerce women. S/HE did a survey of people who treat predators and found overwhelmingly that they could give no assurance that a man who rapes a passed out woman would not rape a passed out man.

    • This is because rapists have no sexual preference. They have preferred victims. Their preferred victim is a little boy because that’s who they are good at luring, but if a grown woman comes along that they can dominate, they’ll do that too. Predators convicted of raping women rape men in prison.

    • Having sex with a passed-out woman is like having sex with a corpse. That’s what Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgeway did. It’s highly deviant. Giving someone like that access to you when you are asleep is pure insanity. Call the police on someone like that.

  • Coercion can be through a power relationship, like you are under 18 and the other person is over 18. This is called statutory rape and it is illegal.

  • Coercion can be mental. This was the most common method of female on male coercion.

    • When mental coercion takes the form of blackmail or extortion, such as “I have a dirty picture of you or embarrassing information about you and I’m going to tell everyone if you don’t do what I say”, that is illegal.

    • When mental coercion takes the form of begging, pleading, pouting, or withdrawing benefits (I’m going to break up with you if you don’t do this), that is not illegal, but it is undignified.

From the statistics, half of guys coerced ended up having sex against their will, 10% said sex was attempted, and 40% said the coercion resulted in fondling or kissing. So the majority of guys give in to this kind of coercion. It is not a requirement of being a man to give in! You have the right to say “no”, and people will respect you more for saying “no” than for giving in.

If a girl coerces you physically, you have the right to use the force necessary to protect your body, but only that force that is necessary. Typically, this would consist of pushing away with mild pressure coupled with a very serious and commanding “don’t do that. ”If the girl is physically stronger, statistically most boys simply tolerate some level of bodily violation. That is not necessarily fair but it is the world we live in, and so the best thing is to avoid those situations altogether. There is no research to guide us on what physical techniques are successful in this situation.

If a boy coerces you physically, as a practical matter you have more freedom to defend yourself, and that would include grabbing the offender by the testicles and squeezing until the attack stops.

If someone coerces you mentally, you have every right to say “no”. If it is illegal coercion, e.g., they are trying to blackmail or extort sex from you, your only good choice is to negotiate your way out of the immediate situation and then promptly tell your parents or a teacher or the police what happened. Not fun, but the consequences of any other course of action are worse.

How do you avoid even the implication that you are the one being coercive?

  • Ask her what she wants. Pay attention to and respect her response. It’s really that simple.

  • Don’t imitate pornographic movies. There is a study on the people who make these movies. The makers freely admit they make these movies to appeal to men who are mad at women and want to see them degraded. These aren’t instructional videos. They are fake. They are designed to appeal to men’s anger toward women, so they are borderline if not outright violent. Imitating them will lead to serious trouble.

  • Don’t jam your tongue down her throat. Don’t jam anything anywhere. In many states, any penetration (including digital) without consent is rape. Rape is a felony that can send you to prison for a long time, which will seem even longer because other convicts hate rapists (they have moms, wives, girlfriends and daughters).

  • Groveling, whining, and pouting is coercive but not illegal. It’s just undignified.

  • Don’t be the aggressor. If you are the rare guy who’s like “we need to wait”, girls find that very attractive. Be that guy.

  • Do you know the age of consent in Virginia? The bright line age is under 18. There are exceptions for persons of the same age. If you are 18 or over, you cannot engage in sexual activity with someone under 18.

  • If you are too drunk to consent and she is too drunk to consent, who gets blamed for rape? Technically, you raped each other, but the world does not work that way, fair or unfair. You get blamed for rape and your intoxication does not constitute a defense to the accusation.

  • How drunk is too drunk to consent? There’s no bright-line. It’s not like DUI where anything above .08 is legally drunk. It’s a squishy, difficult to define line. She could be awake but intoxicated and even give consent and still be deemed too drunk to consent. This is why mixing intoxication with sexual activity is a bad idea, particularly with someone you just met or don’t know very well.

Pregnancy/false rape allegations.

  • Half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned.

  • We all know the thinking, if it can be called that: if anything goes wrong we’ll just get an abortion. No matter how you feel about it ethically, abortion is currently legal. And again, no matter how you feel about it ethically, no one “just gets” an abortion. It’s not a simple thing. It’s an operation with many emotions tied up in it, many of which do not manifest themselves until you are much older, and then they come rushing back very painfully. The best thing to do is not put yourself in a position where you have to worry about whether or not to have an abortion, irrespective of how you feel about it politically.

  • One study found that fear of pregnancy is the motivating force behind roughly 50% of false rape allegations.

  • Other common motivators for false allegations: the boy was using the girl who liked him and ultimately said something very nasty to end the relationship; the girl was cheating on her spouse/boyfriend; the girl is afraid the boy will tell others; the boy rejected a girl’s advances. These situations, other than the last one (which is also the least common), are largely avoidable.

  • Engaging in random hook ups increases your risk of a false allegation exponentially (not to mention disease).

Here are the statistics for sexually transmitted infections (STIs):

  • 1 in 4 teenagers will get an STI this year.

  • For grown women out there today, 1 in 4 have genital herpes.

  • 1.9 million Americans have been infected with HIV. Of those, over 600,000 died.

  • One reason the STI rate among young people is so completely out of control is because many so-called adults have been running around spreading the lie that there is such a thing as safe sex.

  • There is safer sex, but not safe sex. The only safe sex is no sex.

  • It is true that if used perfectly every time condoms have a failure rate of about 2%. The problem with this perfect world is that we are dealing with young people in the throes of passion, often intoxicated and uneducated, inexperienced, in the dark, in a hurry, and using a condom that has spent many hopeful years lodged inside a wallet. Is that a formula for perfect use? For a more detailed review of condom failure rates, CLICK HERE

  • We should be sympathetic to people who get STIs, because most were lied to by someone they trusted.

  • That said, you do not want to get an STI. Herpes and HIV are particularly awful. HIV is no longer a certain death sentence, but the treatment for HIV is no picnic. Herpes is not fatal but has no effective treatment and the outbreaks can be very painful.

  • We need to be honest with our students that sexual activity has real risks with real, serious, and often life-altering consequences.  If they are armed with accurate information delivered in an honest way, they generally will make better choices.

At the conclusion of this module, invite the students to stand and work on what to do if someone grabs you from behind.  Please cover both being choked and being put in a headlock. Remind the students: if someone puts both their hands on you, that is scary, but you just won the fight. Nothing is protecting that person’s face, groin, or other vulnerable areas. 


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