What do these have in common? How do they differ from each other? In some ways they are linked, and in other ways they are not. For many folks they are inextricably linked. So let’s take each on its own and consider how they are and are not necessarily always linked. For our purposes today, I will begin and end with topic number one: Sex. Shall I begin with a definition? Too basic? I think not. We all think we know what sex is. I’m referring to the verb. Yes, it is both a verb and a noun. What sex am I? Male, female or other. Not gender, mind you. I mean biologically speaking, what is your sex? Most people can answer this question without hesitation. Sure, there are variations on the clear anatomical and genetics which are typically used to define an individual’s sex. Again, I am not implying that the rules apply across the board. If you do not fit into one of the three primary categories. (See: Intersex for more information on the third category) Gender variations not withstanding, we can narrow this down to the top two. For clarity I will say that statistically, most humans (and other mammals) are biologically either male or female. Now we will move on to the verb. Sex as an action verb, or to put it colloquially, “To have sex.” Sounds somewhat silly to my ears, but this is what I do. I take apart our grammatical phrases and point out how they don’t really make much sense. Can one actually “have” sex? Like, possess it, I mean. Put it in a jar, on a shelf, in a pocket or purse….own it. Once the act is completed, it only exists as a memory. For example: When you walk, drive, read or talk, do you say you “have walk, have talk”, etc.? Ok, ok, I know that one can say “I have walked to the store.” But the common term one hears is “I have had sex” Not “I have sexed.” Although, it may sound funny, but that would be the grammatically correct phrase. In its proper context, the action is “to engage in sexual activity.” There are more common terms but not appropriate in this format. Most of those terms contain about four letters each. You get the point.
Hopefully, we have not gotten lost in the semantics here. That was not my intention. So, let us move on. Love is an action verb and an emotional one. I feel love. I love my family, friends, and maybe even all living beings. Yes, some people do say that they “make love” but that is a euphemism for sex, so I will discount that. Sex and love are frequently portrayed as intertwined but we know they are two very different aspects of a relationship. No, I will not get into the vey different and diverse types of relationships. Not here, not now. In most romantic relationships, sex is introduced as a component at least some of the time. But for sure, they are often mutually exclusive. Outside the romantic nature of a relationship, there is love which does not involve sex. True love, real love, selfless love is not about sex or romance. It is about caring deeply for another person. It is not obsessive. It is not possessive. It is kind, compassionate and (as much as possible) altruistic. Love of one’s parents, one’s children, one’s friends. When we love someone, we care about their well-being, apart from our own. Sex is about our own needs and wants. Sure, we want our partners to enjoy it too, but isn’t that really how the sex reflects on us? A selfish sex partner is not very popular. No one ever says: Sex with him/her/them was so good. They were incredibly selfish!
Number four on the list is intimacy. To be intimate with someone (not referring to another euphemism for sex, like “sleeping together’, etc.) is also not about sex, romance or love. It is a close, personal connection which involves trust, confidence and emotional support. Intimacy is not one-sided. It requires a shared standard of value. It is developed gradually, over time and through incremental steps. Never too soon or too quickly achieved. When boundaries are well established and respected, it grows with time, patience and mutual respect. Sharing intimate details of one’s thoughts, experiences and hopes is one of life’s precious commodities. When we share these very private aspects of ourselves with another, that is the meaning of intimacy.
Back to sex. As promised, I will reiterate that sex is just that….sex. An action verb. It’s fun, exciting, full of adventure and, yes, risk. Think of other activities we can describe similarly. The danger and the risk involved contribute to the excitement. That does not mean we shouldn’t consider the possible consequences. Don’t skydive without a parachute. And even then it’s not completely risk-free. Sex is recreation, procreation (if that’s on your agenda) and motivation. Consider what motivates us to engage in sexual activity. Pleasure, release, distraction for the routine and the mundane, and mood elevation. Do you expect all those rewards without some element of risk? We can be adventurous and reduce unnecessary risk at the same time. I’m definitely not suggesting that you not be spontaneous. After all, spontaneity is part of the fun. A little knowledge about the activity you’re about to embark upon goes a long way. As with most things in life, education is not boring or a waste of time and energy. Good education is what matters. Know your sources and ask questions. And when in doubt, research the source. Bad information can be more harmful than no information. So please, be well-informed. And have fun!
One final thought. Of course it is possible for these four components to come together in one brilliant package. It is rare, but that’s what makes it special. If you find satisfying sex, love, romance and intimacy in a relationship, you have hit the jackpot. Congratulations. I hope you appreciate it for its rarity and specialness. It does require good care and maintenance. Oh yeah, what’s right for some isn’t always right for everyone. Take what you need and leave the rest. Choose what’s right for you.