The Stages of Narcissistic Sexual Abuse
Has sex become something your clients just do rather than enjoy? Do they feel pressured into having sex? Is it possible to be sexually abused in a marital relationship?
Sexual abuse can happen to both men and women in and out of a marital relationship. In a relationship with a narcissist, however, that abuse becomes magnified. For the narcissist, sexual abuse is used to control your behavior, elevate their feelings of superiority, reenact their fantasies (not yours), and paralyze you. Not all narcissists use sexual abuse as a means of domination. But if you are in a relationship with one, knowing even the subtle forms of sexual abuse can be freeing.
- The Early Stage. A narcissist begins the abuse by grooming you. They do a mildly abusive act to see if you acquiesce. For instance, they might fondle you in front of your mother or demand sexting while you are at work. These unwanted or embarrassing sexual acts are designed to catch you off-guard and create a feeling of trepidation. It is also a subtle message to others that you belong to them. Not in a comforting way, but one that leaves you feeling like a possession. Be warned, sometimes narcissists share your sexting photos with friends further adding humiliation. When you confront the narcissist, they minimize, deny, or blame you.
- Verbal Assaults. In the beginning, the verbal comments are amazingly flattering. You are the person of their dreams. You meet all of their sexual needs. But as soon as you begin to disagree with a sexual preference, you are accused of being manipulative and controlling. You are openly criticized for your sexual desires or lack thereof. Then the comments turn vulgar. Sexual insults or debasing comments about your body become more common. You begin to feel not good enough, being called both a whore and a prude. Narcissists do not see partners as individuals with feelings and opinions. Rather they are pieces of meat. This is apparent in the general way they talk about the opposite sex.
- Jealousy Rages. The narcissist demands that you tell them everything about your previous sexual partners and encounters. Then they use the information to call you a slut or use your encounters as rationalization for their own indiscretions. When you become jealous, they claim you are being irrational and domineering. Some narcissists want you to cover up in public while others want you to wear provocative clothing beyond your comfort level. No matter what the outfit, you are accused of being attracted to others, flirting, flaunting your body, and cheating. The narcissist will use these accusations as justification for further sexual abuse. “You deserve this,” or “You asked for this,” are typical narcissistic responses. They can also be jealous of children or pets, basically anything that takes your attention away from them.
- Coercion Tactics. To persuade you into having sex, the narcissist uses harassment, guilt, shame, blame, or rage. For them, this is not sexual abuse. Yet it is; any coerced sexual act is abusive. For example, they insist on sex after an argument to prove your commitment. Or they will play the victim card and compel you to have sex so they feel safe, secure, or validated. They nag and insult you, become angry and disruptive, refusing to allow you to leave or sleep until you concede. When you do finally give in, you disconnect emotionally and hurry up just to get it over. It is not satisfying for you but for them.
- Threatening Infidelity. The narcissist threatens infidelity if you don’t comply with their escalating sexual desires, change your appearance, or gain weight. They might dangle another female in front of you to bully you into doing sexual acts that you are uncomfortable performing. To isolate you from friends, they might openly talk or joke about being attracted to your friend. When verbal threats fail, the narcissist will be unfaithful to prove their point.
- The Pushy Stage. It’s never enough. No frequency or style of sex is ever enough. Just when you believe that you have reached your boundaries, the narcissist pushes you further and further. When you object, you are ridiculed for your stance and all of the tactics in the early stage are condensed into one rant until you concede. Just to prove their dominance, they use your opposition as an excuse for pushing you even more.
- Inciting Fear. You begin submitting to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that the narcissist will hit you, leave you, humiliate you, punish you, betray you, or withhold money. To reinforce this fear, the narcissist will do these acts, blame you for “making me do it,” and then demand you have sex to prove your loyalty. The pressure to have sex is unrelenting and unforgiving regardless of your physical condition and sexual desires.
- Selfish Appeals. A classic example of selfish sex is unprotected sex. Because intercourse is all about how the narcissist feels, they refuse to use condoms and insist you take full responsibility for birth control or STD/STI protection. It is not uncommon for a narcissist to lie about having STD/STIs, refuse to be checked, and then blame you when you contract it. Your concerns over unprotected sex are belittled and minimized. It is all about them.
- Sexual Withdraw. Some narcissists completely withdraw all sex from the relationship. Any requests you make for sex are met with ridicule, rants about your performance, and excessive excuses for abstinence. You are to blame for their lack of desire, it is never their fault. They will also oscillate between excessive sex and complete withdraw to maintain control and manipulate you into doing whatever they ask.
- For the narcissist, your body is theirs and their body is theirs. Therefore they feel entitled to give ultimatums about your body. You have to lose weight or exercise more or groom yourself in a certain way to keep them satisfied. You could be in the hospital sick and if the narcissist wants to have sex, you are required to meet their needs. You are forced into pregnancy or an abortion because it is what they want, not what you want. You are not allowed to breast feed your baby because they don’t like how your breasts look.
- Destroying Principles. Prior to meeting the narcissist, you had standards of what was acceptable sexually. For instance, participating in pornography, prostitution, having multiple partners at one time, or sex with animals was completely out of the question. But now, the narcissist’s argument for bending your principles seems compelling. You begin to believe the lie that if you will submit to the act just one time, then they will be satisfied and not require more of you. So they persuade you into have sex with someone else while they watch or have you watch them having sex with someone else. They might record you having sex without your knowledge and then beg you to watch it with them. But it is not enough. If you withhold sex out of disgust over bending your principles, they become angry, belligerent and sometimes violent.
- The Violent Stage. Once the narcissist reaches the violent stage, sex can no longer return to an expression of mutual love or commitment. They are not able to be excited by such menial emotions or simple intimate acts. It is now about intimidation, control, domination, power, torture, and terror. Not every narcissist escalates to this level; many just remain in the pushy stage fully content. But for those who do advance, these acts are often criminal. It is the act that is criminal not the nature of your relationship. You can be married and a victim of sexual crime.
- The FBI defines rape as “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is a good time to take a break and reflect. You might have made excuses for the narcissist’s actions in the past but rape is rape no matter what the nature of your relationship is. Take a deep breath and have a good cry before reading on.
- Degrading Acts. Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. The narcissist would not view these acts as degrading but you might. You might even be okay with some of these acts or not. Without getting into too many specifics, here are a couple of examples: urinating on you, having sex while on the toilet, or sex in public places. Degrading acts are done to humiliate you and cause you to feel trapped in the relationship. The narcissist will say, “Who would want you but me after you have done this.”
- Sadistic Sex. There are two forms of sadistic sexual acts: mild (also known as S&M) and severe which can lead to death. Mild examples include: master-slave role playing, immobilizing you through drugs or alcohol, administering pain (whipping) during sex, confining you to a cage, typing you up, blindfolding you, or clamping your sexual organs. It is important to remember that any sexual act which is not consensual is considered rape. The severe examples include: physical beatings, psychological torture, burning, cutting, stabbing, vampirism, and murder before, during or after sex. A narcissistic sadist will not stop their behavior even when it is identified as such.
- The Exit Stage. You can choose to exit the relationship at any of the above stages, it is all sexual abuse. Understandably, some of these abusive acts you might not want to share with others as a reason for your departure. It can cause you unnecessary embarrassment, increase your humiliation, and prolong the healing process. You are not obligated to explain to anyone why you leave. But it is likely that you will need some professional help in order to heal. Sexual abuse leaves scars that frequently are not fully seen until you are in a healthy sexual relationship.
- Post- Be warned, even after you have broken off the relationship with the narcissist, they do one of two extremes. Either you still belong to them (even after divorce) or they act as if you never existed. Since you are still theirs, they are entitled to continue to demand sex even if you are in a relationship with someone else. Or, they will wipe all memories or pictures of you out of their life pretending the relationship never happened. This is a narcissist phenomenon which can oscillate between the two extremes.
In the beginning, it is common for you to be in a state of shock and have intense fear about leaving. Just reading the information here may increase your anxiety or cause a panic attack. This is normal. You are coming out of the fog of abuse and it is a sign of health for you to react that way. Alternating mood swings of anger and depression are also typical as you begin to see your partner for the person they are rather than the image they have created. Just because a narcissist has an unrealistic image of themselves does not mean that you have to believe it.
Christine Hammond is the award winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.
Hammond, C. (2015). The Stages of Narcissistic Sexual Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 28, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2015/06/the-stages-of-narcissistic-sexual-abuse/