Not all relationships are formed on an equal footing. One person will often exercise power and authority over the other, and the person in that position may attempt to use their advantage in areas not rightly theirs to control.
Abuses of position are possible from either party in unequal relationships: Sometimes the subordinate person may attempt to balance the disparity by initiating a sexual component into the relationship.
A person who would attempt to use a superior position to obtain sexual favors from a subordinate could be described as a sexual manipulator. People like this are sexually aggressive; usually their objective is their own sexual gratification. They have no concern for the best interests of the other person, and tend to be driven by their own fantasies and need for sexual control as they manipulate and take advantage of a fearful or confused partner. Power, prestige, and sexual prowess are their weapons. Their victims are many.
The most amoral sexual predators do not concern themselves with legality. In order to be sexually sated, they will rape or molest their object of desire. The number of violent sexual predators is thankfully low. But there are a greater number of sexual manipulators, who stop short of bodily coercion. Instead of physical force, they use wit, charm, and verbal adeptness to manipulate intended victims. They choose targets carefully, sure of their ability to control events and manipulate those individuals to get what they desire.
Sexual manipulators tend to be highly competitive, viewing most situations as win-or-lose. They can be highly driven, focused, and ruthless competitors in other aspects of their lives—characteristics often applauded in the business world and elsewhere. To such personalities, winning is not just important; it is everything, even when the competition is sexual in nature. Manipulators are accustomed to having things their way.
For a sexual manipulator, pursuit can be lengthy. Each encounter that produces a small concession on the part of the person under their control fuels their desire and escalates their behavior. They may begin pursuit with overly personal comments about attire or appearance. These seemingly innocuous comments may be followed by increasingly specific, sexual references. These may begin with sexual jokes or comments used to gauge the other person's reactions. As the manipulator’s behavior gradually becomes more sexually overt, the sensibility of the target may be calloused. Each excuse for misbehavior deadens the shock of the next act.
Through all of this behavior, the typical manipulator is smart and eloquent enough to deflect any initial resistance or objection to their overtures. Often, they will create explanations and excuses for their conduct, projecting the blame for any misunderstanding onto their target. The more off-guard they can make the target, and the more confused their target becomes, the better the atmosphere for the sexual manipulation. Exploiting naiveté, inexperience, uncertainty, and confusion is their game. Such responses can actually excite the sexual manipulator. Since most of us are not completely comfortable dealing with the sexual advances of others, sexual manipulators have a built-in advantage which they use to achieve their selfish goals.
Sexual manipulators sometimes exist where you least expect them. If you observe any of these patterns in one of your relationships, it’s important to create immediate distance between yourself and the manipulative individual.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 28 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.