What did Oscar Wilde mean when he said,”Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”?

I heard about this quote on a podcast, and I instantly thought of Foucault’s History of Sexuality. Foucault thinks people are neither more sexually free nore less sexually free in modern society. In aristocracy, the form of control was either you’re ignored by the aristocrats or you’re being heavily punished. The aristocrats decides that only the virginity of wealthy people’s daughters matter, because the fortune pass along bloodline. So as long as you don’t have a sexual relationship with rich people’s daughter, your sexual life is uninteresting to other people. However if you did, you might face harsh punishment. Victorian age brings sex into public discourse. Bourgeoisies gained power, and churches decide the rules about sexuality. Religious confession is increasingly about sex, and institutional setup is also centered around sex. Then with the decline of aristocracy and religion and the rise of modernity, each of us has our own sense of individuality. How do you prove that we, as individuals, are “good” and/or “normal?” Well, doctors, psychiatrists, etc. become the people who set the standards. We are either normal or abnormal. So who gets to decide what kind of sex is acceptable/good (and under what condition), who are the sluts/pimps/perverts? Hence, it’s about power. And of course, the “everything in the world is about sex” part. I think it could be interpreted as

1) people make effort to get laid.

2) People invented many many ways to channel their sexual energies (Freud).

3) Institutional setup is centers around sex (or preventing sex)


1 thought on “Sex Is About Power

  1. Although I’d add that power is on a scale running from ‘control’ to ‘submission’

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