#SubtleSexPressure by Jaime Mah

Updated: Sep 1

**TW: The following contains language regarding sexual violence and sexual assault directed towards women and people who experience misogyny.


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April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), and I want to talk about #SubtleSexPressure. Yup.


As an angry feminist ally in the fight against sexual violence, I feel the topic of being subtly, or not-so-subtly, sexually pressured into an action you wouldn’t otherwise do in a relationship is often mentioned with embarrassment or trepidation amongst my women/women-aligned friends and people who experience misogyny (I mention women-aligned friends and not men-aligned friends because of the power differential, which should be a different article on its own, and not because I believe that sexual assault towards men-aligned folks from women-aligned folks is not real. It is, and should be an article on its own).


I feel it tends to be swept aside as both a private and circumstantial experience that should be unpacked solely alone. I understand that this may very well be a mechanism employed by many to move on and forwards with their lives after the event, but I also understand that there are some, such as I, that tend to spiral in an internal stream of guilt and self-blame, wanting to reach out but so afraid of judgment or the burdening of a friend.


But now, as a 24-year-old, I just feel empowered having shared my struggles with similarly-pained individuals, and I’m glad that the social narrative of reaching out has changed over the years I spent growing up from a teenager to a young woman, with it now being more acceptable, more supportive, and less repressive to show your vulnerabilities.


The progress against the patriarchy, which, again, negatively impacts all binaries (not just women or women-identifying folks), is life-long but it doesn’t have to be fought alone.

Reaching out to a supportive network is really underrated but so, so crucial to putting some things into perspective, and gaining better insight into some others.


As long as we live in a community and are a part of social movements that can dismantle stigma, we are all responsible for preventing sexual violence by calling out the disrespect against women/women-aligned folks in daily conversations. It’s hard to believe that people orbiting our social circles could possibly be rooted in femmephobia, or the belief in gender inequality;


yet, how many of us know friends who have been assaulted, but never a friend who is a rapist or a sexual violator? Why is it so hard to believe survivors, and so hard to call for accountability?

As a refresher, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) defines Sexual Assault as: “to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim”, and the different forms of Sexual Assault are defined as follows, which are adapted from both RAINN and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:


  1. Attempted rape or attempted sexual assault

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Fondling or unwanted sexual touching and contact

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Forcing a victim to perfom sexual acts, such as oral sex or pemetrating the perpetrator’s body

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Exposing private areas ie. genitals or naked body to others without prior consent

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Spying on the victim engaging in private acts without their knowledge or permission

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse

  1. Nonconsensual image sharing

subtext: even if they apologize after, even if they said they were reading *your* vibe and thought wrong, even if they claim they were under the influence of something and that they’re “not really like that”, even if it’s your partner/spouse


The UN Women also estimates that 60-80% of Pacific Islander women and girls experience physical or sexual violence by a partner or other in their lifetimes.

This is reinforced by the ethno-cultural superiority of ‘othering’ and ‘exotic’-fying women by colonizers past, which has only exacerbated gender-based violence.


Sexual trafficking is a whole other ballgame, too, whereby women and women-aligned folks are in danger of losing their lives yet they are almost always addressed as if they deserve their abuse due to sex work prejudice (of which neither sexual trafficking nor sex work are the same), with intersecting language, gender, and age discrimination to boot (did I mention racism and colorism too? Life’s a doozy). It’s flooring how little sympathy society can have for people who have had to go through such terrible ordeals.


It’s a whole new year, and I’m no longer accepting silence against such human rights injustices any longer


because that is ultimately what sexual violence is: a violation done unto a human being due to conflict. And that’s sickening.

This reality of prevalent rape culture is not so different from the society I came from and the boys I have in poor choice dated in the past before moving to Columbus, Ohio. I can still feel the same cold, old, fearful dread of retaliation through threats of revenge porn, or slandering my name online yet again and writing cruel, fictitious descriptions of such a warped toxic, and FORCED relationship that I am still waking up screaming from nightmares about 5 years later and even with already attempting to get a restraining order (bet you didn’t tell your friends that).


My abuser’s circle of friends will never understand how their neutrality has shaped my anxiety, distrust, and disassociation from other friendships and social circles. I withdrew so, much, because of the lies being spread about me, and that is an experience and particular cruelty of dating men, at least in my experience. Their other, usually male, friends are complicit in the further slandering of me on various social media--and telling me about it-- amongst other hurtful actions.


I can’t help but feel with an uncomfortable, almost certainty, that other women/femme-aligned friends in heterosexual relationships might possibly have experienced similar nuanced terror.


I don’t know if the world is ready for conversations surrounding #SubtleSexPressure, but maybe that’s a hashtag that should be created precisely because enough is enough

and I’m tired of the narrative of pitting women against each other for the fault of the patriarchy and all its continuous actions that should be called out for once and for all.


We need to continuously learn, un-learn, and re-learn together, to make any significant change, and we can’t do that if abuse in all forms of violence isn’t talked about. So here I am, talking about it, and hopefully, it makes a difference by providing meaningful support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.


Subtle sex pressure by jaime mah

Multilingual Chinese Malaysian fascinated with the arts, sciences, and mischief, Jaime Mah is an INTJ feminist and writer with a coffee-stained heart, based in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. For more of her content, follow her on Instagram (@jaimygdala).


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