Control Fallacies in the Bedroom

Control. It is what gives us reassurance, safety, agency. But it can also dictate unhealthy behavior, reinforcing the irrational belief that we can control others or the situations around us. A control fallacy relates to how one views the locus of control in his/her/their life. Some people have an internal locus of control, which means that they attribute things that are happening to their own hard work or lack there of. Conversely, they also assume full responsibility for other’s feelings and behave in ways that preserve this belief. Other people have an external locus of control, attributing much of what they experience to fate or luck (and also seeing others as victims of such forces). This leads to a lack of taking responsibility and feelings of helplessness. We all live with and ascribe to both versions of these fallacies, but we tend to lean towards one over the other.

These fallacies often get played out in intimate sexual situations. For example, the person who fears losing control, so he rather pleasure his partner without fully receiving pleasure back. Or the partner who avoids vulnerability during sex and doesn’t advocate for what she really likes. Internal locus of control causes us to be mindful lovers, but can also take us down a rabbit hole of assuming too much responsibility over the other person’s pleasure. An external locus of control can lead us to be more experimental (since we are victims of fate either way) but also complacent. Before we know it, we avoid feeling vulnerable at all costs and feel helpless when it comes to our intimate lives.

Sex therapy and couple’s counseling can help unpack these fallacies and address how to cultivate a healthy balance of taking and ceding control. Intimacy is a delicate balance of feeling safe and also playful at the same time. Learning to embrace both of those concepts, which is tough, can go a long way in developing healthy sexual relationships.