The Surprising Avoidance of the Word "Sex"
I've been noticing that the word intimacy is being used in place of, or maybe confused with, the word sex, and wondering why. It's odd. Articles are being written more and more about intimacy this and intimacy that. Just recently I've seen reporters looking for sources on why getting “intimate” in the morning is best, what yoga positions double as “intimate” positions, and the kicker was an article about “intimacy” toys for women. Why not just say, “Sex in the morning,” “Sexual positions,” and “Sex toys?” Surely, there is nothing intimate about the relationship between a woman and her sex toy. Or is there? It depends, I suppose, on what we mean when we say intimate. Let’s assume then, for our purposes here, that we are not referring to the “relationship” between humans and inanimate objects.
So then, why the sudden shift away from the word sex when the world around us has never been more sexualized?
Of course, it’s understandable that intimacy would be tied to sex. Sex acts can be deeply vulnerable, honest and exposing. But that’s not a given. Sex and intimacy can also be worlds apart where sex is one thing and intimacy is something else altogether. Only sometimes do they overlap and that sometimes is when love is involved. And I don’t mean love for another person. I mean love for oneself.
Perhaps a better way to think about intimacy is to talk about closeness, where closeness is about being comfortable bringing one's whole self (flaws and all) forward and available to share with another. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are enough to openly be that person, sex or no sex. It’s just that with sex the potential for a very deep emotional connection exists, which is precisely why sex is not interchangeable with intimacy. People commonly shut down and run away rather than open up to, and immerse themselves in, that raw experience. In fact for many, sex is used as a vehicle to escape, disconnect and hide behind actions where it’s easy to pretend one is someone he/she actually is not.
So, while referring to sex as intimacy may point to a trend in semantics, doing so serves no one. It only takes us farther away from attaining the deep, loving connections that give life meaning.
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