Sex. Intimacy. Love.

Light topic for today, eh?

No, it’s not a new name for the website (though I’d probably get more hits…wonder if is available?). Rather, it’s a challenge for the weekend – which, of course, I hope is filled with all three – for you to pay attention to the difference.

Too many times they get confusing. They get blurred into each other, or mistaken for each other. I happen to believe they are very separate, very different things.

Think of a sexual act – let’s keep things PG, and call it a kiss. Is a kiss intimate?

Hopefully your answer is “it depends.” Because it really does. Kissing your grandmother is not the same as the first time you kiss that person you’ve been staring across the dinner table all evening, trying to keep your mind on what he’s saying and not on that sweet shape of his lips. Yet physically, ergodynamically, it’s the same action. The only difference lies in what we assign to it – was this affection? Ritual (“Come and give your gramma a kiss goodbye!”)? Or something more?

For the sake of argument, I’m going to define the terms thusly:

Sex is anything that increases the likelihood of somebody having an orgasm.

Intimacy is some kind of action or event that causes mutual vulnerability.

Love (to steal a page from Heinlein) is when the happiness of another is essential to your own.

And you’ll note that, in those definitions, any of them can exist without any of the others.

Intention is Everything

One of my least favorite movies is The Age of Innocence with Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. Not because it’s a bad movie – it’s amazing. But the story is so dark and nightmarish, and not in a horror kind of way.

There is one scene in it though, where the two protagonists – madly, wildly in love, but unable to show it – are riding in a coach. The man, in a daring show of affection, unbuttons the glove on her near hand to expose a bit of the skin of the wrist. He bends down, and lovingly, carefully, kisses that one spot on her hand.

Hottest movie kiss ever. Because that was his one chance to show her, physically, how he felt about her. He poured all of his intent into that kiss on the wrist…and it became an amazingly intimate moment.

Here’s another example, from my life. For me, it was when my elbow touched the elbow of the girl next to me in Algebra II. Our elbows touched…and she didn’t move. I was touching her skin with my skin – just the elbows, mind you, but they were the hottest elbows in the room, in the world at that moment, and all of the nerves in my body migrated to be in that little square inch of space.

Sexually arousing? Hell yes. (and all of you RHIP fans can start chanting “elbow sex” now).

Love? That’s the easiest example of all. It’s a story that isn’t often told in the romance literature, but it happens time and again. It’s when you love someone, but you are miserable because they are miserable…and they are miserable because they’re with you. So one of you does the brave thing, and cuts the cords that bind you, and you let each other go to be happy. No more sex, and no more intimacy…but the love lasts, probably forever. In fact, when they (and, hopefully, you) end up happy, the love is stronger than before, I think.

Where It Gets Confusing

Unfortunately, though, I think there are too many times when people conflate things. It’s when people say things like

  • What do you mean I don’t care? We just had sex yesterday!” No, sorry. Sex does not equal intimacy.
  • I saw the way you were looking at her! I can’t believe you’d do that!” Sexual desire doesn’t equal intimacy either – unless both parties are vulnerable to it, in which case it might.
  • “Love you too.” That’s maybe the worst one – when someone parrots this back as a response to either a sincere or a rote “I love you.” Sayin’ it doesn’t make it so – and often that little ritual is less a statement than a question, caused by the niggling doubt that it may not be true.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that sex can’t be an intimate expression of love. And intimacy can’t be a result of loving sex. Or that love can’t be kindled by sexual intimacy. They all can be. They all should be.

As I said: this weekend.

But…as you go through the activities of your days and nights, how about paying attention to what is what, which is which, and what you may want more of, less of, or what you’re doing just right.

I hope you’ll find that you have more of all three in your life than you thought. It’s possible, though, that you’ll find that things that you thought were one thing are actually another…or something else entirely.

Either way, it’s information. It’s self-awareness.

What you do with it is, as always, up to you.

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