When sex isn’t about pleasure

Most of the sex happening on the planet is for pleasure.  Yay for pleasure!

At its best, sex gives us emotional pleasure and bonding.  Even when that’s not present, there can be incredible physical pleasure.  Sex for pleasure is great.


But sometimes, sex isn’t about pleasure at all

Not even one-sided pleasure.  This is something most of us find horrific and hard to talk about, because sex and sexuality should be sacred, not weaponized.

The reality is, sometimes sex is used to hurt or punish.  Sometimes it’s used to gain control over another person.

There are many ways this violence can happen.  It might be an abuser soliciting someone for photos or videos which are then use to blackmail them.  It might a rapist who uses sex to express his hatred of a specific gender or sexual orientation.  It might be a hazing incident, like the one that stunned Canada this month.


Not my child

Thank goodness it’s not likely that your child will be the perpetrator or victim in one of these situations!  But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about.

Often we’re scandalized to learn that there were witnesses.  The crime did not happen in private.  Instead, there were bystanders who did nothing to help.

That’s absolutely worth talking about!  The kids in that Canadian locker room had the opportunity to demonstrate real courage and leadership, to protect the victim and stand up to the aggressors.  Let’s have that conversation with our kids.


Let’s talk about…


Let’s talk about social courage.  Courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid as you step out and take a risk.  It means your desire to take the chance is bigger than your fear.


Let’s acknowledge non-concordance and shame.  A sexual situation might bring on a genital response.  Allow that our bodies might respond, but it’s meaningless, nothing to be ashamed of.  What a bystander needs in this situation is to hold their head high and confront, not get lost in a shame spiral.


Let’s talk about leadership.  Adolescents are hungry for peer acceptance, which might pressure them to go with the flow.  However, they’re also hungry for status.  The best way to gain status is to be an upstander.  Instead of being a bystander, stand up for someone else.

Use your social courage to do something significant, to be an advocate.  These tense moments are opportunities.  Be a hero.


Let’s take the long view.  The person committing the crime will have many more years of life.  That’s time to grow and change, or time to hurt many more victims.


Our Responsibility

It’s all of our responsibility to intervene early, to the benefit of the current victim, the future victims, and the abuser.  Ideally, confronting and reporting a crime gets everyone the help and resources they need.

When sex isn’t about pleasure, it’s about bullying.  But it’s bullying with a twist.  There’s a shame and silence which creeps in, because we’re horrified.

Rather than turning away, we can skill build with our kids.  We can ensure that they have the ability to be assertive, to confront, to be upstanders not bystanders.  And that they know they should.

Maybe we can start by asking, “How did you stand up for someone else today?”  That’s much more interesting than “what did you do at school”.

Do you think that would create a shift towards courage and empathy?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


In support of you,



Previous Post
# This Is Not Consent
Next Post
When jokes are sexist, dirty, and otherwise nasty

Related Posts

No results found.

4 Comments. Leave new

  • I don’t even like to think of sexual assault as sex. It may use the same body parts but it is so drastically different that it doesn’t deserve to be labeled with the same word. Non consensual sex is rape and our children absolutely need to know the difference and be empowered to stand up for anyone who is being bullied or coerced, especially themselves. I applaud your courage to openly discuss this topic with the world. Much needed….thank you!

  • Excellent article. At what age do you explain what is in this piece and do you cover all these points at once?

    • Thanks, Liz! Our littlest ones can understand the idea of helping someone else when they need help, so we can add in that piece anytime. Non-concordance and the darker aspects of sexuality is something I’d save for middle school, because it’s protective to understand the dynamics. Before then though, I think it might just be scary, contributing to an anxious child. There are other ways to protect your elementary schooler which don’t involve explaining abusive sex. (Looking for some ideas? Jump on a call with me or go here: https://talkingaboutsex.com/sexual-abuse-parenting-prevention-bundle/)

  • I love that you are sharing subtle shifts. We talk about kindnesses and speaking out but I like Upstander! Will practice today~


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.