Sheila sat on her bed and cried out in frustration. What was she going to do? The fear she’d been carrying around inside for the past six months finally was realized. He’s made it clear that if she wanted to get her promotion, she’d have to “cooperate” with him. Sheila had no delusions about what that cooperation would entail. Either she slept with him or her promotion was nowhere.
She told him it was sexual harassment and illegal. Prove it, he’s said. It was just her word against his. He could write up her reviews any way he wanted. If she cooperated, he’d make sure her next review was stellar, which was just what he expected out of her performance. The way he’d looked her up and down made it clear it wasn’t her work performance he was referring to.
The whole confrontation, in the privacy of his office, of course, left Sheila feeling lightheaded and shaky. Now she sat on her bed and cried and tried to think of what to do. She could report his actions to another supervisor. She’d even threatened him with that. He said he’d deny it and might even say she propositioned him.
Everyone knew she was a single mom trying to raise two young kids while her deadbeat ex-husband kept ducking out of his child-support payments. Everyone knew, he said, her money was tight. Why, there was no telling what desperate measures she might resort to in order to ensure she got the promotion. The way he’d said it made her skin crawl. Even though she knew it wasn’t true, he’d made it sound so convincing.
She could look for another job. But this was her first good paying job in two years. Yes, money was tight, but at least there was money. The kids were settled at school and daycare. The benefits at this job were far and away better than any she’d had before. Why, she even had vision care. She didn’t want to look for another job. She wanted to keep this one.
She could give in and give him what he wanted. Thought he never touched her, not once, while he made his proposal, he kept looking at her and telling her how much he wanted her. After all, he said, she hadn’t had a man for, what, at least four years? Didn’t she miss the warmth of companionship he could give her? It was really for her benefit, too, and not just the job. He made it clear to Sheila that he would be generous in both his physical affection and his acts of appreciation.
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, and their objective usually is their own sexual gratification. They have no concern for the best interests of the other person. They tend to be driven by their own fantasies and their own need for sexual control as they manipulate and take advantage of the fearful or confused. Power, prestige, and sexual prowess are their weapons. Their victims are many.
Sexual manipulators tend to be highly competitive individuals. They view most situations as “win or lose.” They can be highly driven, focused, and ruthless competitors in other aspects of their lives. To such personalities, winning is not just important. Winning is everything. Even if the competition in question is sexual in nature. Manipulators are accustomed to having things their way.
With the 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 innocuous comments may then be followed by increasingly specific, sexual references. 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 easily 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 intended target. The more off-guard they can make their target, and the more confused their target becomes, the better the atmosphere for the sexual manipulation. Exploiting naivete, inexperience, uncertainty, and confusion is their game.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 36 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.