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Ask Ava, Episode 146: "What if my partner lets me use their car, but expects me to pay them back with sex?"

January 12, 2023 Safe+Sound Somerset Season 1 Episode 146
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 146: "What if my partner lets me use their car, but expects me to pay them back with sex?"
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 146: "What if my partner lets me use their car, but expects me to pay them back with sex?"

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On today’s episode of Ask Ava, we’re answering a question from local teens about when partners expect you to pay them back, specifically with sex.

My name is Jessica Skultety. I am an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.

So, today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What if my partner lets me use their car, but expects me to pay them back with sex?

And today we’re joined again by Safe+Sound Somerset volunteer Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland. Hi Ella, thanks for being here today!

Ella: Hi everyone! So, for this question, this is an example of financial and sexual abuse, plus a warning sign of an abusive relationship. So if your partner is trying to manipulate and control you - unfortunately, this happens with a lot of teens and adults, and it is never the survivor’s fault. If you do not want to participate in having sex, your partner should not hold that against you, no matter what. Your partner should be letting you use their car to be kind and support you – not because they expect something from you in return.

Jessica: Yeah. Another way to describe this question is called transactional sex, which is like there’s an exchange of some kind, like think, think when you’re at the store and you make a transaction, right? There’s an exchange of money for what you’re buying. Um, you might also hear the words “quid pro quo” harassment, which in Latin means “this for that.” 

Basically, what this all means is that you’re exchanging one thing for another. And quid pro quo is a term that people use to talk about harassment in the workplace, and it’s illegal! At work, this might look like sexual activities in exchange for favors, promotions, or to avoid someone taking something away from you.

E: Right. And this definitely could be concerning because this person is talking about “expecting” something, and it sounds like they are feeling pressured.

J: Mhm.

E: So even if your partner is “just joking,” expecting, guilting, or forcing you to have sex in exchange for something else, it’s just never okay. If you say “yes” because you’re scared, or because your partner is threatening or pressuring you, it’s not full, free consent.

J: Right! If you are only allowed to use the car if you also have sex with them, your partner isn’t prioritizing you or your boundaries. They are prioritizing themselves instead of supporting and respecting your boundaries. Plus, they are taking advantage of your need for a car.
Actually, in a recent national study on economic abuse by the organization Futures Without Violence, 34% of teens reported that they felt pressured to pay their partner back with physical or sexual contact. This is honestly really disturbing to me as someone who works in the domestic and sexual violence field.

E: Yeah, that’s definitely a really scary statistic for me, too. Sex does not have to be an expected part of a relationship. There are times where people want to wait, or they feel like they aren’t ready or they could even just not be in the mood. And just because you are in a relationship does not mean you have to have sex. Same thing goes with the car - just because someone is doing something nice for you, you are not obligated to do something for them anything in return.

J:Totally. And also, your partner also has the right to not let you use their car. They are allowed to set that boundary, too, because it’s also harmful for someone to demand that the other person allow access to something like a car at all times. 

But, your partner should never use this access to the car to manipulate you, or pressure or threaten you. Also check out our recent episode on gift-giving, episode 143! In that episode, we’re talking more there about when partners expect a gift or something else back, after they’ve given you a gift. Thanks again for being here, Ella!

E:  Of course, thank you for having me!

To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning. 

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