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Can #MeToo Exist in A Marriage?

2017 saw the “Me Too” movement (also known as #MeToo) against sexual harassment and assault go viral worldwide. It inspired people all over the world to speak out regarding their own encounters, especially in the workplace and their day-to-day lives. While it is largely based on women, gender inequality and sexism, it does not discount that men also experience these unfortunate pains.



At the heart of #MeToo is the issue of consent—basically the permission to do something to or with a person. Sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it? If one person in the equation does not want to engage in any sort of physical intimacy, they are not giving their consent. Any attempts at forcing oneself onto someone else physically or through psychological intimidation is already harassment.

What about married couples then? Is marriage not binding in all forms, including being sexually active with one's partner at all times? When a man demands sex from his wife, is she not supposed to give in even if she doesn't feel like it because it's part of her duties as a wife?



Consent does not have to be permanent; just because there was an agreement or a previous encounter doesn't mean it can happen again and again. Both men and women can be sexually violent with their partners, but many studies show that women are the likelier victims. Wives are expected to submit to their husbands and any resistance is seen as unacceptable, which can lead to marital rape.

Globally, one in three women experience IPV: intimate partner violence. According to the World Health Organization, IPV is "...any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors." To make matters worse, in many countries, this occurs in combination with other acts of domestic violence such as physical abuse.

It's also a cultural issue. There are many places where the way of thinking is that once married, sexual consent by the wife is a given, which essentially nullifies the very idea of marital rape to begin with. In places where dowry is in place, for example, the wife's body and sexual submission is viewed by the husband and their social circles in general as part of what was paid for.

Homosexual married couples are not immune to situations wherein sexual consent comes into question. Especially for those who are already dealing with the pressures of society to fit in to certain molds or to not have "given in" to their preferences at all. Feelings are absolutely not a factor, just the concept of owning someone and doing as they please to them. This is also true for arranged marriages, which are often fueled by business matters or classism.



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While it's easy to pile the cultural aspect on second or third world countries, male sexual entitlement is also an issue in first-world Western countries where being sexually liberated is an open conversation and practice. Even in those environments, women can feel peer pressured by society in general to submit to their husbands as an act of obligation and even to prove their love.

Being married does not and should not take away anyone's right to change their mind or express that they don't feel like having sex. All told, #MeToo boils down to being comfortable and giving express consent even in marriage.





Rica Cruz, RPsy is a Psychologist, and Sex and Relationships Therapist with the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychology Services. She is also a faculty member of the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her expertise focuses on Filipino sexual behaviours with an emphasis on sexual pleasure and relationship satisfaction. She opines that sexual empowerment for Filipinos is sexier than sex. :)
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