Barry McCarthy, Ph.D.

Barry W McCarthy Ph.D.

What's Your Sexual Style?


Confronting the Poisonous Male-Female Power Struggle

Stop fighting over sex.

Posted Feb 03, 2015

The traditional male-female power struggle is whether you will have intercourse and how frequently. Typically, it is the man who presses intercourse with the woman stuck in the role of saying "no" and avoiding sexual touch. Like most power struggles, the issue is not being the "loser." If they don't have intercourse, he is the loser, and if they do, she loses. This is no way to be intimate and erotic friends.

"Intercourse or nothing" is a poisonous power struggle. The real loser is the couple as an intimate sexual team. Breaking this pattern requires three strategies:

1. Recognize that this is destructive, and confront the poison and get it out of the system.

2. Replace this with an affirmative approach to sensual, playful, and erotic touch. Sharing pleasure is the core of healthy couple sexuality based on the female-male equity model.

3. Accept that touching and sexuality can have different motivations, roles, meanings, and outcomes. You are not clones of each other. A core agreement is that sex is not at the expense of the partner or relationship.

Getting the intercourse-or-nothing power struggle out of the relationship requires more than good intentions; it requires a specific strategy. This involves valuing sensual, playful, and erotic touch as valuable for itself not just leading to intercourse. Affirming the positive role of sharing pleasure and reinforcing intimate connection motivates and empowers the couple. Sexuality is best understood as a team sport, not an individual intercourse performance.

Valuing broad-based sexuality, not "sex equals intercourse," is crucial. Acknowledging that it is normal and healthy for sexuality to have different roles and meanings for each partner is important. Sometimes sex is a tension-reducer for one partner, while for the other, it is a way to emotionally connect. Sexuality can be intimate or lustful, a way to facilitate sleep or to affirm the relationship, a special erotic scenario or a familiar sexual routine, or a way to celebrate a victory or to soothe a defeat. Sometimes the sex is earth shaking and sometimes a bust, but you feel accepted by your mate. Sometimes you need a hug and sometimes you need an orgasm. When you are an intimate sexual team, you are confident that your sexual feelings and needs can be met. You trust that sex is not at the expense of the partner or relationship. This frees you from fears of coercion or punishment, allowing you to enjoy couple sexuality whether it involves sensual/playful touch or erotic/intercourse touch. With the poison out of the system, you have the freedom to be an intimate sexual team.

Image: Used with Permission