Would you ever imagine that what you learned in your family about power and control might come out as an aspect of your sexual relationship with a partner? Well it does.
Intimate sex involves negotiation. And if you learned in childhood that in close relationships, you have to guard yourself against exploitation and being bossed around, it makes you suspicious of future close relationships.
That’s why I consider authoritarian parenting a source of Developmental Sexual Trauma.
Of course, this dynamic does not come out in the early stages of relationships. During that lust stage, which is short lived, we are all driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that make having sex intensely pleasurable.
We don’t worry about much of anything. We just want to get to have sex with the object of our desire. It’s only later when we are in in committed relationships that deep-seated childhood issues about power and control come to the surface.
There is no research on the topic of sexuality and having had controlling parents, but recently research has been published showing that children who have controlling parents have difficulty maintaining close personal friendships during childhood.
The study of 1,523 children, conducted at Florida Atlantic University, found that having controlling parents correlated with the occurrence and timing of best friendships breaking up from the start to the end of elementary school.
I believe this research lends credence to my point. If it’s impossible to negotiate in your family, then having friendships with peers is daunting as well. Negotiating childhood friendships is practice for negotiating adult friendships, as well as sexual relationships.
I devote several pages of my book SexSmart to suggestions that can help readers think through some of these issues. Here are a few that will help you assess whether power and control issues might be affecting your sexuality:
Answer yes or no:
- I feel anxious whenever I have to see one or both of my parents.
- My family interactions left me feeling powerless and hopeless.
- I have a hard time with people in authority.
- I find myself worried about who has more or less power in every relationship.
- I believe there is a one-up/one-down dynamic in most relationships.
- I have a lot of trouble letting go and being vulnerable in sexual relationships.
- Just the idea of being naked and vulnerable scares me.
If you have a preponderance of “yes” answers to these suggestions and you are having trouble feeling safe and enjoying an intimate sexual relationship, you might want to explore this topic more fully.
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