Restriction on satisfaction of the sex drive so as to promote socially desirable behavior. If men and women are both subject to the (usually but not always internalized) rule that they can only mate with persons of high social status, this puts pressure on both sexes to raise themselves socially, since otherwise they will find no eligible sex partners (the stick of sexual frustration versus the carrot of sexual satisfaction if they do raise themselves socially).

Sublimation has been misinterpreted as meaning that, by limiting sex, sexual "energy" can be channeled into socially desirable activities other than sex, similar to how electrical energy not used for running motors can be used instead for generating heat or light. However, there is no such thing as sexual "energy". There is only sexual desire, and sexual desire can only be satisfied by sexual activity.