Subject subjected - Sexualised coercion, agency and the reorganisation and reformulation of life strategies


  • Rikke Spjæt Salkvist
  • Bodil Pedersen Department of Psychology and Eduicational Studies, University of Roskilde


sexual coercion, agency, subjectivity


When not acting in ways that are recognised as physical

self-defence, women are often – in psychology and in

other dominant discourses – generalised as inherently

passive during subjection to sexualised coercion (rape

and attempted rape). Likewise, in the aftermaths, their

(in)actions are frequently pathologised as ‘maladaptive

coping strategies’.

We present theoretically and empirically based arguments

for an agency-oriented approach to women’s

perspectives on sexualised coercion. Agency is understood

as intentional, situated and strategic. Sexualised

coercion is not generalised as a single “traumatic”

event, but conceptualised as life events. Meanings of

coercion are embedded in social activities connected

to discourses on ‘rape’ and ‘trauma’. Thus personal

meanings of subjection are understood as developed in

and through participation in trajectories across diverse


Adopted in our study, this approach points to the

great diversity of personal meanings of sexualised coercion.

Moreover, it reveals intimate connections between

situated, personal and dominant discursive meanings of

coercion, and women’s strategies of (in)actions during

and in the aftermaths of the events.

Our analysis of participants’ perspectives also indicates

an imperative need for reinterpreting concepts

such as ‘victim’ and ‘passivity’. In a reinterpretation

women, although subjected to sexualised coercion,

emerge as subjects both during subjection and in the

aftermaths. Furthermore their seemingly pathological

behaviour may be re-conceptualised as personally sense-making

strategies of action in reflected attempts

at (re)formulating and (re)organising their life



How to Cite

Salkvist, R. S., & Pedersen, B. (2008). Subject subjected - Sexualised coercion, agency and the reorganisation and reformulation of life strategies. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 10(2), 70–89. Retrieved from