Our world is “obsexed,” a bit out of control in this area, to say the least. Sex has been so repressed and demonized that it comes out in unhealthy expressions. In its most extreme and violent forms, the unhealthy expression of sexual and power dynamics show up as rape and sexual abuse, which are clearly more about power than sex. It is interesting that one of the most common verbal expressions of aggression in the English language, “Screw you!”—and its more colorful alternative—allude to sex. What’s more, the word “fuck” is believed to originate from an Indo-European root meaning “to strike.”
In a more subtle sense, we often use sex to work out power dynamics in our relationships. Because we have not been taught about honest and authentic communicating or how to handle conflict, we tend to work out the power dynamics in relationships covertly, and frequently through sex. Navigating the power dynamics in the bedroom can feel like walking through a minefield. Whoever initiates risks rejection, which often takes the form of a power play: “Sorry, Honey, I have a headache,” when inside we are really saying: “Screw you! Hell will freeze over before you get any tonight!”
Not initiating can also involve elements of power: we relinquish power due to fear of rejection, and perhaps even in subtle ways manipulate the other to begin the process, thus minimizing risk. As our sense of self becomes stronger, we learn to more easily ask for what we want without taking things personally.
Negotiating who’s giving or receiving, as well as the logistics of sex—When? Where? How often?—can be fraught with danger. Sometimes it feels like walking on egg shells. No wonder Oscar Wilde said “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
Even engaging in sex for self-validation is about power in the sense that we give our power away every time we look outside ourselves for acceptance or a sense of worth.
And tragically, for many people the missionary position still represents an attempt to ensure the domination of man over woman, who is relegated to being merely a passive incubator or instrument for the man’s pleasure.
Sex can be complex and complicated. Not a few unconsciously attempt to recreate relationships with their parents through sexual dynamics—hence Freud’s Oedipus and Electra complexes. Through fantasy and fetish others learn to work out power dynamics more intentionally, as witnessed by the best-selling success of “Fifty Shades of Gray” in spite of its dubious artistic merits.
Yes, sex is incredibly pleasurable and undoubtedly a powerful force, but it is more than that. Beyond the rush of endorphins and feelings of ecstasy, it is also a vehicle for deep connection, for transcendence, for momentary freedom. We have a deep longing to pop out of the prison of our minds even for a brief respite. When we open our hearts in love-making, it adds a whole other layer of emotional release and the sense of connectedness transcends the physical.
The more in touch we are with who we are and with our soulful power, and the more that we learn to be congruent and communicate our needs and desires and emotions in a way they can be received, the less we need to resort to covert power plays in the bedroom. When we are established in our own power and realize that another’s power does not take away from ours, we can allow sex to be a natural exchange of energy, of love—and of power.