Expert chat: Dealing with sexual pressure

Sarah is from Step Forward, where she runs workshops on sexual health, relationships and consent for young people. Here she answers questions on dealing with sexual pressure.

Maisie: In a relationship how do you define the fundamentals between love and lust?

Sarah: Love and lust is tricky, especially as everyone experiences these in different ways. Love may be seen as more sensual, an emotional connection that's not necessarily sexual, whereas lust is more connected to sexual attraction to another person.

Steph: Here's a ted talk about lust which might be useful.

Claudia: Even if not straight away, do most people going into a relationship expect that there will be a sexual element to it? Essentially, is it okay to never want sex?

Sarah: Not necessarily, everyone feels different about the kind of closeness that they enjoy. Some people make the decision to be celibate but enjoy closeness in other ways. If you're not ready to, or don't want to have sex, that is definitely okay and the right partner will understand that. It may also be helpful to mention that different people define sex in different ways too. It could be sexual touching, oral or penetrative sex.

Tiana: A couple of months ago, I felt pressured in doing something I didn't want to do but felt unable to go back. Any tips to avoid that situation and how to build up your relationship after?

Sarah: One bit of advice I'd give is that the most important relationship you'll ever have is with yourself. Take time to listen to yourself and decide what you enjoy and feel comfortable with. Then if you feel more confident with that once you're in a situation where you feel pressured remember what you decided for yourself.

Claudia: I think the right person would respect your decision, if they don't then they aren't worth it. Even if they feel disappointed (which would be natural) I think they'd say something like "I understand" or "I respect your decision" or "I'll go with your pace".

Tiana: I tried to stop him but he didn't listen and now it feels like my whole world has become messed up.

Sarah: It's really hard when someone doesn't listen. Lots of people feel upset, guilty or humiliated and it makes it difficult to build up that trust with someone again. You've done really well to try talking about it with him. Perhaps you could talk to someone else you really trust, like a close friend?

Tiana: I did and I got told that because I didn't say no, it's okay. I'm scared to get into a relationship now because I'm scared of the pressure.

Sarah: I'm sorry to hear someone said that; they sound blaming. It's not okay and you're not at all to blame. The other person should have checked you were comfortable and gave verbal consent.

Claudia: You could print off some information about consent to help them understand it better, then they have no excuses because they know the laws.

Steph: There's an article on The Mix about consent. It also links to a Q & A service run by Brook.

Kathy: What's the best way to stop someone who may be slightly drunk and you think they're taking things too far too soon; even when you've asked them to "stop"?

Sarah: In this situation both people aren't fully consenting, one slightly drunk and the other wanting to stop. If you've asked them to stop and they still aren't, I would advise pushing them away or moving away to a safe place. Your safety is the priority. Head to a safe place and if you can talk to a person you trust about it for some support.

Kathy: Pushing away wouldn't be considered assault in this situation if it's gentle, right?

Sarah: Not when you're protecting your safety, the court wouldn't prosecute that!

Kathy: What if you panic, push a bit too hard and they get hurt?

Sarah: Again, if it was accidental the CPS are really unlikely to prosecute someone who was trying to protect themselves.

Claudia: To summarise; what are your top tips around sex, consent and pressure?

Sarah: I mentioned that your most important relationship is with yourself. We have a motto in my work "love yourself, look after each other". There are also some ways to keep yourself safe... Don't get too drunk or take drugs, stay in control and avoid sexual activity with anyone else who is drunk or using drugs. Never pressure another person to take part in sexual activity. If consent isn't clear, ask and accept that no means no! Finally, avoid having sex with anyone who is underage (under 16).

Steph: Our age of consent article explains the law here in more detail.

Next Steps

  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Updated on 28-Jul-2016