Intimacy Is More Than Sex

Intimacy Is More Than Sex


When people hear the word ‘intimacy’, they often think of sex. ‘Intimacy’ and ‘sex’ are often used interchangeably but they don’t mean the same thing. This is more than just a semantics thing, and people don’t always see the nuance and difference between the two, and expect others to know what they are talking about when they use these terms.

I like learning the Latin root of words, and the word “intimacy” comes from the word intimus, which means innermost. Intimacy is often characterized by a closeness—physical, emotional, sexual.

When you step into an elevator with a stranger and you feel a certain awkwardness, that can be due to the intimacy of sharing a small physical space with another. When you break down crying to a friend about a breakup, there’s emotional intimacy in being able to be raw. Sex can be intimate but it’s not just about intercourse all sexual activity can be intimate, having an orgasm with a partner can be intimate or sharing a kiss.

Intimacy entails closeness- getting close to someone and allowing someone to get close to you, and there’s inherent vulnerability in that.

Imagine you’re sitting in a theater and you a have pretty good seat, maybe even in the orchestra section. Then you get invited to go backstage- you get to see what’s behind the scenes, the intricacies of the production, the actors when they’re not “on”. When you then return to your seat, you have a different perspective on what you see on stage because you saw the behind-the-scenes.

Intimacy means giving someone that “backstage” pass to who you are and getting to know you in ways that other may not. It can be meaningful and it can also be a frightening risk.

A relationship has various levels of intimacy to it, beyond just the sexual relationship. Friendship, shared jokes, what it means to know each other well—these are all forms of intimacy.

Sex fits into a larger context of intimacy and is a conversation beyond just talking about pleasure and functioning (though pleasure and functioning is very important). It’s about looking at what it means for two people to be close and allow the other in. What it means to share a living space, to know each other in ways that few others—if it all—do. To be seen. To share. To take risks. And to be able to stay connected through life stressors that change and challenge the various threads of relationship closeness.