Sex, Power & Control

July 8, 2016

in Uncategorized

Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” ~ Attributed to Oscar Wilde

It’s doubtful Wilde said that as the word “sex” only meant gender when he was alive. But whoever said it, we certainly see the truth in it in our world today.

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When I say “sex is often about power and control” you may think of men using their power to take sex. This is certainly one way it happens, but it’s not the only way. It’s often said “the low drive spouse controls sex”, and we certainly see plenty of that, from both wives and husbands. On the other side, many men and women seek sex more to shore up their self-image than because they have a real physical or emotional desire to be sexual. The teenage boy who says “You would if you loved me” is probably horny, but he may be looking for more than just a bit of physical pleasure. This is even more likely to be true for a husband who is honestly unsure of his wife’s feelings for him.

For much of history limiting sex was one of the few ways women had to exert control over a man. But to use that power, a woman had to be willing to forgo any sexual pleasure for herself. It’s difficult to say no when you want it so bad you can’t think of anything else, and it’s difficult to seduce someone you don’t like if you care about your own desires and pleasure. I wonder if this has contributed to women distancing themselves from their own sexuality and teaching other women to do the same. Is there a fear that wanting or needing sex makes you vulnerable or takes away a form of power and control you need? Do girls learn this so early in life it interferes with proper sexual development?

How much a part do you think power and control play in your sex life with your hubby? Are you doing it? Is he doing it? Is either of you doing things that contribute to the other using sex for power or control?

Sex can be used for intimacy and connection or as a way to show your control and get non-sexual things. Only one of these is loving and healthy.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and both sex and my marriage are better without these games!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Peters July 8, 2016 at 5:55 am

For a humorous look at how this can work, one can read the Greek play Lysistrata. Lysistrata and her friends from Athens and Sparta tired of their men fighting each other in war all agree to withhold sex until the men stop having war with one another.

It’s quite hilarious how it all plays out.
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IntimacySeeker July 8, 2016 at 10:05 am

“Is there a fear that wanting or needing sex makes you vulnerable or takes away a form of power and control you need?” I fear that intimacy and connection make me vulnerable to deep emotional pain. Being emotionally close to my husband gives him the power to hurt me and that is very scary. That’s why sex is scary. ‘Tis also why the wall goes up when he engages in risky behavior. The closer we are emotionally, the more deeply I will hurt when some freak accident claims his life.


Paul Byerly July 8, 2016 at 11:19 am

@IntimacySeeker – I get that. I’ve struggled with it myself in various ways. The thing is we are limiting the joy and pleasure we can experaince in an attempt to limit the pain and suffering we mgith experaince. Not a good trade off if you look at it in a cold, rational way.
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Sarah July 8, 2016 at 12:52 pm

But as teens and young women, we love without reservation until men teach us to do otherwise. We are victimized in some way. Often in ways men wouldn’t even recognize as being painful or understand what the problem is. We learn our lesson. Men are not safe. The Victorians used to teach their girls, “Love him, but not too much.”

I am not suggesting gatekeeping and refusal, but I think women’s hearts are like targets. After years of men shooting arrows into them and our pulling them out, the holes remain.

I cannot ever love my husband with the wild, open, carefree abandon of my youth again that made sex a free and easy joy. I can love him differently, but it will be more guarded and careful. Our sex life will reflect that.

He has taught me that he can hurt me like no one else can over a matter of years. I have learned the lesson he repeatedly taught me. For him to expect me to be able to trust and love and have sex like nothing ever happened isn’t even possible. I have forgiven, but the wounds remain.

My guard is up. I don’t know how I would begin to let it down. I don’t even want to. If I do and he hurts me deeply again, it may end our marriage. To me, it’s far better to be satisfied with good enough instead of wishing I could feel what I did at 26, be decimated emotionally again and leave him.


Doug July 9, 2016 at 9:33 am

Please take this in the intended way. It I not meant to be accusatory, but that is such a narrow, selfish view that I have to comment.
Do you really think that women are the only ones who get hurt by the opposite sex. Do you really think that women are the only ones who shield their hearts from further pain. Your attitude seems to say that is your belief. I hate these comments that I feel I should speak to, because I am loathe to speak out against my wife’s failures, but they do exist and they have had every bit as much to do with our marriage as mine have, so the only honest thing to do is keep silent, or speak of them. I won’t provideo details, but just say that rather than face them, I lived in denial an hurt for over 20 years, and my marriage was a sham and neither of us were happy.
I have confessed my failures, which were pretty bad, and made a decision to forgive hers, without her ever admitting to them or apologizing (tho we both knew what they were). My choice to do that has changed the landscape of our marriage to where it no longer matters what happened in the past. We are closer than we have been since the day we married, because then we could not imagine how messed up we both were, and now we do and love each other anyways. It is a really liberating feeling to know that you have been seen at your very worst, and accepted despite that.

You may not think that you can live without that insulation. Around your heart, it the truth is you aren’t really liVing with it there.


Paul Byerly July 9, 2016 at 10:28 am

@Sarah @Doug – It comes in so many flavours. I know plenty of women who can’t love because of what their mother did when they were growing up. For others, it was their father. Same for men.
The truth is those closest to us are most able to hurt us. This is why trust is so important, and why damage done by others in our past can be so horrible.
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Doug July 9, 2016 at 10:49 am

I disagree that anyone “can’t” love. It certainly takes more effort for some than others, and the feeling of vulnerability is higher in some than others, but it can be overcome. Yes, you might end up wounded again, maybe in the same way, maybe another. I know full well those wounds remain, and that can make it really terrifying to expose your heart again. I also know what it is like to live for 20 years, never feeling anything but anger and hurt. I know very well that you don’t just take it out on the one who hurt you. I lashed out at the world at every perceived injustice.

Yes, I was a pretty extreme case, and I wish I could just say I was all better now, but I know that isn’t the case. While I can’t say that, I absolutely CAN own my feelings and do what I choose with them. What I choose is to not ever take that hurt out on another person, especially my wife. I’m not perfect at it, but I am commited to it.


Paul Byerly July 10, 2016 at 8:58 am

Doug – Bu they can’t love, or trust. They can learn to do those things, but it takes effort and risk.
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libl July 9, 2016 at 11:16 am

Doug and Sarah both have valid points. I feared men in general from a young age. I didn’t want to go to friends’ houses when their dads were home. If they were home, I immediately became uncomfortable and wanted to leave. I couldn’t look men in the eyes until I forced myself to at age 16. I am not sure where this fear came from, what the root is, but every little infraction a man would do would reconfirmed my fear, whether it was muttering a swear word under his breath after hitting his thumb with a hammer, or abusing his wife or children. From innocent slip up to pure evil, it all confirmed that men were to be feared….and the only way to avoid becoming a victim was to submit, give them what they want, be sweet, and stay out of their way and under their radar.

It is a prison to live in that kind of fear….and one with reminders of its validity every time you turn on the news. Women are victims, men hurt them.

That’s not to say men don’t get hurt and women aren’t perps, but the scales are tipped very far.

The problem is that women become entrapped in fear and unforgiveness. Husbands are humans and many of their sins have nothing to do with us as wives. We also expect our husbands to give us only what God can. We have this “complete me” mentality that no man can measure up to. And I bet men are feeling hopeless.

This is where sex isn’t earned. It is given at the wedding and breathed the rest of the marriage. And we women have to know our breath comes from the Lord, not from our husbands doing CPR on us. That is exhausting for him and eventually stops working for you. When we know our worth in the Lord, we are better equipped to handle the emotional rollercoaster of married sexuality. Giving of yourself at the hard times can be a healing balm, like the repentant porn using spouse. It hurts like the very depths of pain for a spouse to be unfaithful and transfer their sexuality elsewhere, stealing from you, but it can be a merciful, Grace filled healing balm to offer him the invitation to direct it totally back to you.

Sin in the marriage bed, whether porn, affairs, or selfishness ought to be addressed. Not just hurt and festered until sex can’t happen. Better to address it and deal with a few days of no sex to get to the issues than to rot in hurt and lost sex.


Paul Byerly July 10, 2016 at 9:05 am

@libl – I agree. The problem is when we refuse to deal with things out of our fear. It’s like not pulling a splinter because pulling it hurts more than leaving it. Then it gets infected. And the infection could lead to blood poisoning and even death!
The sooner we deal with things the better. We tell ourselves we need a few days to work up to it, but all too often days become weeks, weeks months, and months years.

As to your fear, I wonder if it was cultural – something you learned from your mother and/or other women around you. Perhaps you learned it at a very young age. I sometimes hear people having very inappropriate conversations around young kids thinking they are not paying attention or are too young to understand the context. A five-year-old may not understand the context, but they can certainly feel the fear of another, and they can understand where the fear is directed.
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K July 10, 2016 at 3:16 pm

For many (maybe most), it’s what you describe. Some people control sex as a means of self-preservation. This happens for various reasons and can be done by both sexes.

“Is there a fear that wanting or needing sex makes you vulnerable or takes away a form of power and control you need? Do girls learn this so early in life it interferes with proper sexual development?”
This was never my experience. It’s not what I was taught directly or what I observed in my household. I did see this portrayed in society, especially in media, but I guess I thought they were the ones who had it wrong. The more I learn, the more grateful I am for what I was taught about sex.


Paul Byerly July 11, 2016 at 11:42 am

@K Our parents can make or break our sex lives long before we have any idea what sex really is. You were greatly blessed.
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Lauren July 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Well I am with ‘K’ on this one! Can we just understand one thing if you fail to comprehend anything. Both genders have feelings, period!

However if like me you grew up in Europe I have found the strangest thing.
Men use sex as something to prove their masculinity
Women gate keep to control their man’s behaviour

Of course this is a general rule I have observed! Allow me to bust those myths and explain why they are dumb !
If your wife wants to have sex with you, particularly passionately, she thinks your a man! My God she can see it! You don’t have use sex as a weapon to make her submissive.

Women stop gate keeping please, if you engage sexually with your man he will be more convienced that you guys are on the same page. Unless he would like to have sex repeatly without any love, which no man can stand for too long. I do believe some men don’t understand how much they involuntarly give away/ reveal during sex. With both examples as you can see if you play this game it backfires BADLY!


Paul Byerly July 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

@Lauren – Yes, both “strategies” are destructive to the marriage, the other person, and to the one doing them. And yet they continue.
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