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The Most Powerful Force in the World

couple in a city
The most powerful and consequential human force in the world is a woman's prerogative to say "yes" or "no" to a man's sexual interest in her.

Of all the human-driven forces in the world — business, industry, education, wealth, political regimes, the arts, militaries, entertainment, social movements — there is one clear power that’s greater than each of these and actually drives them all.

It is simultaneously simple, but complex; soft, but strong; reserved, but highly influential; subdued, but controlling.

This one unsuspecting thing — hardly recognized as anything important — drives humanity, forecasts and shapes its future and that of the world.

What is it?

The most powerful and consequential human force in the world is a woman’s prerogative to say “yes” or “no” to a man’s sexual interest in her.

Sex is a very powerful and divine thing, the first activity that God had Adam and Eve pursue right out of the gate. And no one needs to be taught to have an interest in or desire for it. It is our most natural drive. All must be taught how to control and protect it. All cultures must find a way to do this or very bad things happen as is demonstrated by too many cultures today, including ours.

Therefore, sex is not only a private act, but also a very public act.

Among many things, sex brings the people who make the new people together. This is what humanity does, and sex makes it happen. And that is very good.

And given this power, we must know this: Women are sex’s sole gatekeepers.

Universally, the man must approach the woman, and women alone give the red, yellow or green light to the world of sexuality. Margaret Mead, in her book Male and Female, colorfully explains,

Before marriage, it is the girl who decides whether she will or will not meet her lover under the palm-tree, or receive him with necessary precautions into her house, or in her bed… He may woo and plead, he sends gifts and pretty speeches by an intermediary, but the final choice remains in the hands of the girl.… A mood, a whim, a slight disinclination, and the boy is disappointed.

If you question this power, consider that men who take sex without the woman’s permission are seen the same in all cultures. In no culture are they idealized by either male or female, but deplored and punished by the culture. Women govern the sexual marketplace.

However, after the marriage is entered, the control over sexual access is democratized between the husband and wife. She no longer controls the market. They both learn to control it together, which is what much of marriage is. While his wife might get the occasional “headache,” both do indeed realize they have a responsibility toward the other’s desires and each has a proper expectation of (regular, but not absolute) sexual fulfillment from the other.

The Market Price of Sex

We don’t typically think about sexuality in terms of economics, but economics is simply the exchange of goods. Sex is a good, a resource that people seek, both male and female. Roy Baumeister of Florida State University has done some very interesting work on this curious topic. He explains,

1) Sex is a negotiated good.

2) It is a social universal that the sexuality of a woman is endowed with greater value than the male’s.

3) As female sexuality has greater value, women have more market influence.

4) Given this, women set the market price because they hold the upper hand value-wise: The man must negotiate with the woman.

On this second point, consider a man who announces to an auditorium of women that his sexuality is available to any who will have him. How many women do you think will take him up on his offer? Consider a woman doing the same thing to an audience of men. How many men would respond to such an offer? We would be surprised if any women responded as well as if any men didn’t. Male sexuality has a low market price, if any, while female sexuality commands a very high price. A woman can get a man to do nearly anything for it. Baumeister explains,

[M]en’s and women’s sexuality are valued differently and … these differences will organize the behavior of most individuals in society.

This last statement speaks forcefully to the power women have in the negotiation of sex. It controls the behavior of others. A man who must win the heart of a woman, not to mention her hand in marriage, before he gets access to her, is a man who acts dramatically different than a man who has to give no real effort or price for such access. And women tend to prefer the former gentleman than that latter cad. All cultures have various names for women who go for the second type, and such names are generally spoken by other women.

But it surprises no one that women have been lowering the price of sex to nearly rock-bottom prices of late. And as more women do this, like any other commodity, it limits the market power of those who insist on keeping their price high. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

What is this doing to women’s happiness as a whole? Well, there’s good research into this, and it’s finding that women, for the most part, are less happy than they were 35 years ago, curiously about the same time the sexual revolution slashed the market value of sex. Two leading scholars from the Wharton School explain,

Women have traditionally reported higher levels of happiness than men, but they are now reporting happiness levels that are similar or even lower than those of men. The relative decline in well-being holds across various datasets and holds whether one asks about happiness or life satisfaction. [We find] that the relative decline in women’s well-being is ubiquitous…

These findings and facts support the point made in chapter 7 of my book The Ring Makes All the Difference: that cohabitation — access to regular sex (not to mention regular meals and laundry service) with no real commitment — is the relationship on the guy’s terms, while marriage — demanding full and total commitment — is the relationship on the gal’s terms.

The married woman sets the price she wants from the guy, and she gets it. She’s happy, and it turns out that her guy’s happier as well. Research consistently shows he’s better behaved as a husband than a boyfriend because she called out and required greater commitment and excellence from him. Women and their absolute control over sex have a very powerful and positively influential control over men.

Women just need to realize their power, exercise it and get their fellow women to create a strong cartel that controls that price at a level that serves their best interests. That interest turns out to be everyone else’s best interest also.

That’s the power of a woman’s place to say “no” to a man.

Copyright 2013 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

About the Author

Glenn T. Stanton

Glenn T. Stanton is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family. He debates and lectures extensively on the issues of gender, sexuality, marriage and parenting at universities and churches around the country. Glenn is the author of four books and a contributor to nine others. He’s a huge Bob Dylan fan, loves quirky movies, and picked out and bought the first piece of clothing for himself when he was 28. Glenn and his wife, Jacqueline, have five children and live in Colorado Springs, Colo.


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