In Spartacus (1960), Stanley Kubrick depicts how power can be used for sexual oppression. When Crassus (Laurence Olivier) arrives at the gladiator school, he demands to watch arena fights that will result in deaths. The royal women he brings with him choose the combatants. They giggle and whisper to each other as they objectify the men, wanting them to appear in scant outfits. One chooses "the big black one," the Ethiopian, who fights Spartacus, and they get a vicarious thrill watching the men thrust at each other with swords and tridents. Later in the movie, in a bath scene notoriously risqué for its time, Crassus tells Antoninus (Tony Curtis) that he enjoys "oysters and snails," implying that he likes sex with women and men. After his bath, Crassus, while looking out at the majestic power of Rome, asks Antoninus, if nations cannot resist the empire, how can a boy? The implication, of course, is that if he wants to abuse Antoninus, he will. Crassus likewise later tries to possess Jean Simmons’ Varinia.

Gracchus (Charles Laughton), Crassus’ enemy, is also a privileged patrician who exploits female slaves. (However, in the end he shows some redeeming traits when he makes sure that the pregnant Varinia will escape Crassus' servitude.)

By contrast, the hero of the film refuses to exploit even what limited power he has in order to degrade someone sexually. At the gladiator school, women are habitually assigned for sexual gratification to the trainees. But, in defiance, Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) does not give into lust, respecting Varinia and refusing to subjugate her the way he has been enslaved. He will only become intimate with her when they are no longer slaves and can freely and voluntarily commit to each other as equals. By not abusing the sexual power given to him while under Roman domination, he can later enjoy unfettered passion in his marriage with Varinia. Spartacus is crucified at the end, but he lives long enough to see his son in the arms of Varinia. His wife and child are free and will continue the fight because of his sacrifice.

Director Stanley Kubrick later explores the connection between sex and power further in Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.