3 signs he is using sex to control you

Do you feel you can’t say no to intimacy with your partner? Do you have little say on what happens between the sheets? Does he (or she) coerce you to do things that make you uncomfortable? Then you could be in an abusive relationship with someone for whom sex is a weapon. Here are THREE ways in which abusive individuals use sex as a tool to establish and maintain control over their partner – and why it works.

“You’re lying there like a dead body”

My ex wanted sex up to four times a day, and a refusal could trigger the silent treatment, a prolonged guilt-trip, or a jealous meltdown that lasted all day or night. I had sex with him many, many times when I didn’t want to. The lowest point came when he spent several days straight getting high on cannabis, lolling around the house, refusing to go out because he was in the grip of paranoid delusion.

Our child was still just weeks old. With a colicky new baby to care for single-handedly, I was more sleep-deprived and exhausted than I had ever been in my life. So when my man began demanding sex yet again, I just wanted to cry. The last thing I wanted was to get naked. He cajoled me for two hours. He told me he wouldn’t let me sleep until I gave him what he wanted. I knew he meant it. So I put the baby in his crib, stripped, and lay down as expected.

“You’re lying there like a dead body,” he said, successfully ignoring the tears spilling from my eyes. He usually insisted I show sufficient enthusiasm during sex. He wasn’t wrong in comparing me to a corpse. I felt like I was dead.

Since making my escape from domestic abuse, I’ve often reflected on how I felt that day. I’ve never told anyone the story, because it made me feel ashamed. But, more than a year into my post-abuse recovery, I’ve finally got a handle on how and why sex is a weapon of control in abusive relationships.


Photo by danor shtruzman

1. You don’t get to choose when or how often you are intimate with your partner

If you refuse sex, he may accuse you of being ‘frigid’ or not loving him enough. He may take this as proof that you are being unfaithful, triggering an abusive episode fuelled by paranoid jealousy. He sees refusal to have sex as you rejecting him or defying him – both of which are like a metaphorical body-blow to his already fragile ego.

There is always a consequence when you refuse. He may berate, blackmail, threaten or hurt you. He may rape you, or wait until you fall asleep before beginning to have sex with you. Before long, you find yourself never saying no to him, figuring it is easier (and less painful) to go along with his wishes.

Your partner may withhold sex as punishment for perceived misdemeanors. You feel unloved and unwanted, your self-esteem plummets. He calls you a slut, and tells you that your libido is abnormally high. He may make ‘jokes’ to his friends that you are addicted to sex, or suggest that you see a therapist (both examples of gas-lighting) You experience guilt, shame, and lose the confidence to leave him in search of a healthier relationship.

2. You have little or no say in how you have sex

You long for closeness, and physical intimacy that is an expression of love. Yet being intimate with your partner is like starring in a porn movie, with him (or her) as the director. He calls the shots, you move into the required position. There is little joy and pleasure for you.

This is especially common amongst sociopathic/psychopathic and narcissistic abusers, who often also have a penchant for risk-taking. High-risk sexual behaviours could include sexual infidelity, extreme sex games, and other things that put you at risk.

He uses sex to belittle or degrade you. He may insult you, make fun of your body or tell you that you are the worst sexual partner he has ever had. He pushes you to do things that you are uncomfortable with, and then later reminds you how much you wanted it. You feel ashamed. He may threaten that if you try to leave, he’ll publicise intimate snaps or sexual footage of you.

3. Sex is about your partner’s needs, never your own

He may be a selfish lover, refusing to allow you to orgasm or acknowledge pleasure. Or, he makes any steamy session feel more like a feat of endurance, as he repeats moves rehearsed from BustyBabes.com and shows off his sexual prowess. He’s too caught up in how amazing he is to check whether it’s working for you or not. You feel like a piece of meat. That’s exactly what he wants.

Evil cupid

Original photo by Mykl Roventine

Why does he do this?

Perpetrators of domestic abuse are deeply insecure and weak. Nothing and nobody can fill the void in their soul, but they lack the self-awareness to acknowledge this. Instead, they focus their energy on controlling their significant other. They try to make themselves feel more powerful by degrading another. More than anything in the world, they need a weapon which they can effectively use to establish and retain control over you.

Many demand and withhold sex – often without apparent rhyme or reason – deliberately to destablise you. Through sexual control, he makes you dependent upon him for physical (and perhaps in your head, emotional) intimacy, which may be doled out for good behaviour or refused when he says you’ve stepped out of line. By shifting the goalposts on a whim, they make sure you never know what is the ‘right’ thing to do. Other than, of course, whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.

Abusers treat you as a sex object because that is how they see you. They have needs and you do not. You are there only to fulfil their needs. They are essentially masturbating, rather than nurturing a healthy sexual partnership. They will put you at physical and emotional risk, and use this later to shame and erode your confidence so you are less likely to hit the exit.

He threatens you with so-called revenge porn, hoping that the fear of humiliation will keep you tethered to him for as long as he wants you. This is a form of emotional blackmail. Some perpetrators actually go ahead with this violation, although it is now a criminal offence in many countries.

What can you do about it?

Love is joy

Original photo by Doll Joints

Few of us are really comfortable talking about sex – especially when it is used to hurt or control us. That’s one of the primary reasons that sexual offences such as rape are so hugely under-reported.

Women in particular are surrounded by cultural contradictions around sex. We consume magazines such as Cosmo, which talk empowerment at the same time as they cram us with advice on how to give the world’s best blow jobs. We criticise the bodies of women pop stars at the same time as aspiring to impossible images of physical perfection.

The debate around violence against women rarely moves beyond victim-blaming, and the 50 Shades series is amongst the bestselling franchises of our time. We are told women are empowered, sexually liberated, but the ‘ideal’ woman is expected to be perfect, virtuous, submissive, even chaste.

With all of its social taboos, sex is an ideal weapon for most perpetrators of domestic abuse. By understanding this, you can:

  • recognise the early signs of sexual control
  • realise that you are not to blame – your abuser is
  • refuse to be shamed into silence and acceptance.

Sexual control is not normal, and it is not okay. You don’t have to accept it. You do have to accept that you can’t change it, because you can’t change him. Find out more about escaping domestic abuse and open the door to a healthier, happier future.

Handful of stars

Photo by xJasonRogersx

What’s your viewpoint? Do sexual control and domestic abuse go hand in hand? Is it something that we need greater awareness of?

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

16 responses to “3 signs he is using sex to control you

  1. Sexual control was a big part of DV in my past relationships for all the reasons you list here. I think the often go hand in hand because sex is such a big part of a healthy relationship and an abuser’s ego is so easily fed by controlling sex in the relationship.


  2. Thanks for sharing this…much needed info…subject no one else talks about.
    Shed light on some things…I have struggled with…thought it was only because of my childhood abuse back ground…makes things clearer


    • Hi Nessa. I’m so sorry that you went through that. Any form of sexual abuse is hard to talk about, especially for people like me. I mean, I haven’t experienced sexual violence, for example – so there is a tendency to minimise what did happen to me, because there are so many people who have been through much worse.


  3. It’s funny, I was just lamenting the time I wasted in my 20s reading Cosmo. I am willing to bet that sexual control is part of every abusive relationship and in the haze of abuse, confusion over sex and people’s desires to please and be modern and open minded it is missed. You wrote a brave post, one that many people do not want to believe. If he wants sex 4 times a day, I must be hot, he must love me, not necessarily. The other myth is that men want it all the time, there are women who are denied sex from their abusers for years and told it is because they are not attractive. I hope you are well, excellent post as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi betternotbroken 😉 Maybe it’s an awareness thing, but for sure contrast between what media outlets such as Cosmo want us to think they are doing, and what they are actually doing seems really stark to me (and I’m sure for you too).

      You make a really valid point about how sex is too often linked to attractiveness / self-worth / and love – but abusers most certainly do not. Lots of sex or no sex, it is all just another tool they use to tear us down, to let us know that we have no choices. And because it is so intimate, it is deeply difficult for us even to acknowledge that it is going on. This was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written.

      Thank you for sharing your insights here – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve written a wonderfully insightful post! I do think that domestic abuse and sexual abuse go hand in hand. If there is one, the other usually happens too. It’s a subject that people talk little about because they might consider only rape to be sexual abuse. However, there are many subtle forms of sexual abuse as you have outlined in your post.


    • I agree, and I also believe this subject needs to be taught in schools. In my last relationship I said ‘never touch me sexually when I am asleep’ (sleep rape) this was because it triggers memories of when I was a child and sexually abused. Of course him being a narc he thought ‘Boundaries don’t matter to me, no bitch makes boundaries with me, I cross them anyway’ and he did cross this important boundary of mine…numerous times! I thought he was being disrespectful, I never saw it as sexual abuse!! We need to teach woman and we need to teach them well about sexual abuse and the different ways it can occur. God bless you all


      • Hi Fi, I’m so very sorry that you went through this. It sounds like your narc was doing what narcs do best: finding your deepest vulnerability and using it against you 😦 What a scumbag. I wholeheartedly agree that greater awareness / education on sexual abuse is needed.


    • Hi tellingheavysecrets

      It sure is hard to talk about it, for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is thinking that we know that other people experience far worse, and I would never compare myself to someone who has been raped. As you say though, there are many ways in which sex can be used as a weapon, and I hope this post helps other people who may be going through this. Thank you for your comment 🙂


  5. I wish I had known about this years ago. I was 20yo when my then boyfriend (who I ended up staying with for 12 years and having two children with) first complained that I wasn’t meeting his needs. At the time I was coping with nursing my sick horse, and he saw fit to complain that he wasn’t getting enough sex. Over the next 12 years this progressed to me being expected to have sex less than a fortnight after I had open heart surgery. Later still he complained that I wasn’t a ‘proper woman’ and that he wished I could show more enthusiasm. Often I would not consent at all, and he just did what he wanted to me. All those years I thought I was one of those woman who just didn’t like sex and wasn’t capable of having orgasms (which it turns out is very much not true!). All those years he never once asked whether I was enjoying myself or what I liked.
    This is not talked about. Girls do not find out that they have a right to say ‘no’ until it is too late. Boys grow up assuming that they have a right to their wife or girlfriend’s body. This needs to be part of high school sex education.


    • Hi jodiethalegend

      What you went through sounds absolutely horrific. I’m so sorry that you went through it all. Perps are stunningly self-centred, and sex is one of many ways in which we see this. You make a great point about the need to educate males and females on this – whatever awareness programmes we currently have, much more is needed.


  6. What a fantastic post! Oh how I remember going through what you wrote about {and then some}. And the deep shame it instills. But I no longer carry any shame whatsoever. He was/is a vile disgusting man. And sex was his biggest ‘control’ factor. He has such a serious lack of respect for women in general and it sickens me to know how he uses and abuses….and especially if the word ‘no’ is used. That to him set him off the high-dive into crazy! Thank you for writing about something so significant, and so important that goes along with all the other abuse from a Narcissistic Sociopath {in my case}.


    • Thank you Tela

      I’m sad that you went through this. Nobody should feel ashamed when this happens to them, but so many of us do. So glad to hear you’ve overcome that – and I know you’re going from strength to strength. By the way, I’m a great believer in karma: what goes around, comes around (and I’m sure it will for him and all the other abusive individuals) 😉


  7. It’s a major simptom and I really don’t see it highlighted as it should. In my case my ex husband wanted sex three or four times a week, when he liked it best (in the morning) even if it got me late to work. And the weirdest thing was that I had to be the iniciator, even if I didn’t feel like having sex. He always asked me to go up on him, without any kind of foreplay. And when I was almost on the verge of orgasm he redrawed himself from me, frustrating my orgasm.
    I cannot understand what kept me in that relationship for so long. I can’t forgive myself really for being so so stupid. How can one get to forgive ourselves?


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