Sex and Power

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Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde is often quoted as having said: Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.


I feel there is some truth to this statement because sex has a strong presence across many aspects of our lives. Research states that the average person has sex 5,778 times in their lifetime, 3% of people have sex every day, and 20% of people have sex a few times a week. This correlates to an average of 2,808 hours of our lives being sexually active. 


Research by Ohio State University showed that the average person thinks about sex 19 times each day. 


When sexual activity is coupled with the amount of time people spend thinking about sex, it appears as though sex in itself does have a lot of power over us. 


So how do sex and power affect you? To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: you have the power.


Sexual Power Plays

Throughout history, sex has been demonized. 


According to the book Sex in History the years between 400AD and 1000AD religious morality took hold of sexuality. Much of sexual morality originated in the Hebrew law of the Old Testament and has affected our global culture for over 1,500 years. Lust and sex became associated with sin, while celibacy was promoted for those wishing to be pure. 


Masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex were all deemed sinful. Consensual sex within a marriage was tolerated for reproductive purposes only and contraception was frowned upon by religions because of its possible associations with pleasure. 


These religious-inspired rules affected sexual evolution, and feelings of fear and danger became associated with sex. I feel it’s this repression of sexual mores that may lead to unhealthy sexual expressions. In its most aggressive and violent forms, sexual power dynamics may show up as rape and sexual abuse, which are often more about power than sex. 


Self-validation through sex can also be about power. Looking beyond ourselves for a sense of self-worth may be defeating to personal confidence. 


Undoubtedly, human evolution and feelings around sex have been affected by the history of sexuality. Looking at our past, it’s evident that sex and its power can be complex and often complicated. 

Sex + Power in Relationships

According to research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, power over peers is associated with heightened sexual motivation. In some cases, power as motivation can improve sex lives of those in a relationship. Other times, power may be detrimental to a relationship.


For a person who feels powerful, they may be able to be sexually assertive and take the lead in initiating sex more often. Research shows sexually assertive individuals are more comfortable communicating their sexual needs and desires, and because of this, may experience increased sexual satisfaction


This research also showed increased power in a relationship is associated with better sexual self-esteem. People with high sexual self-esteem are more confident in their sexual abilities and have more positive sexual experiences. For those reasons, powerful people may seem sexier than others who are unsure of themselves. 


When there is a mismatched level of power in a relationship, one partner may feel dominated. A portion of people in unequal power relationships may feel forced to be sexually passive. Some may even wonder if the missionary sexual position could represent an archetypical domination of man over woman. 


Studies on the effect of power in sexual relationships shows gender-based power roles appear to be the most common. 


Establish Your Own Sexual Power

Determine if your need for power is related to external validation about yourself. Most often, desiring external validation is due to some type of fear or uncertainty. Seek help to determine your motivations and learn how to better control feelings. 


It’s important to believe in yourself and to believe that you are worthy. Commit to building your sense of self-worth. This may lead to feeling more sexually powerful. 


Be loving and caring to yourself. Allow yourself to explore your body and pleasure, which can help increase sexual confidence. Learn how to be in touch with what you enjoy, and what you don’t like, in order to better communicate your sexual preferences. 


As you grow more confident with your own sexuality, you will feel yourself become more sexually powerful. Sex can be a natural exchange of energy. Sexual exchanges can be healthy. But research shows owning your sexual power is important to having healthy power plays in the bedroom. It can be your choice to be powerful or powerless according to your sexual desires. But getting to know your desires is the first step on this journey to establish your own sexual power. 


Do you doubt your own sexual power? Would you like to be more sexually confident? Please send me your questions and comments. I’m always here to help you. 

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Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.