Burk We no longer feel the social pressure to confine sex to committed relationships. Sex is now an accepted recreational activity. We may have overcome our fear and shame about sex, but many of us still have issues regarding intimacy. If we experience more intimacy than we can handle, we will feel threatened; our safety checklist will be triggered.
When we experience an orgasm, we reveal ourselves more completely and more honestly than at any other time. We let our egos die for a moment, and we have the chance to experience a true connection with another person. We still equate sex with love, and love with commitment. And we equate love and commitment with vulnerability, responsibility, and the fear that our needs will not be met.
What most of us crave, however, is not sex, but intimacy. The challenge is that the only model most of us have for expressing or experiencing intimacy is sex. Intimacy requires trust, and trust takes time.
The level of intimacy we experience through sex can be threatening to many of us, particularly if the sex occurs early in the relationship. Safety is essential in the early stages of a relationship—even the smallest safety violation can mark the end of a budding romance. As we get to know our partners over time, we create a foundation of trust and familiarity. We can keep minor safety violations in perspective. This is not the case when we have truly casual sex with someone.
There is no real relationship to discuss. We experienced too much intimacy too quickly, and we need to create some distance, some space, and to put up some walls so that we can recover.
These walls, however, block the emotional and spiritual connections we experienced that made us want to get to know each other in the first place. Two popular television shows demonstrate our current approaches to sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex. The four main characters are smart, independent, decent, professional, attractive women. They each have a different approach to sex, love and relationships, and between them they cover a broad spectrum of expectations and attitudes towards sex.
The main characters have become so much a part of popular culture that many women use them as reference points to describe their own patterns and feelings about sex. So do many gay men.
She has no guilt or shame associated with sex. Sex for Samantha does not require any kind of emotional commitment, nor does it imply any kind of relationship. She enjoys sex for the sake of sex. Samantha is largely self-sufficient, and is able to meet her validation needs through her close friendships.
Although Samantha had three significant romantic relationships during the run of the show including a lesbian relationship , she has never set out to find a relationship. Carrie, however, is looking for something more than just sex—she is looking for a relationship. Sex is a part of casual dating for Carrie. For Miranda, sex is more than just sex—it implies some kind of commitment, and requires some kind of emotional connection.
Miranda needs to feel that sex is a part of a relationship—and she has, in the past, used sex as a way to try to initiate a relationship. Once she has sex with someone, she immediately begins to see him as a potential long-term romantic partner. For Charlotte, sex should only be part of a committed relationship.
If we want to find a model for an intimate relationship, we have to look to another popular television show: They validate and support each other, and they share the kind of emotional connections that most of us truly crave in our lives. Ironically, the only reason that they manage to do this is that sex can never be a part of their relationship, since Will is gay. Women and gay men have always shared a special bond.
In many ways, relationships between women and gay men are the only ones where we can experience true intimacy without involving sex. But sex and intimacy are still connected.
The more intimate we become with someone, the more important it will be that we are able to express that intimacy through sex. Our objective in our romantic relationships is to feel loved. Ultimately, love involves a balance of sex and intimacy.
But for many of us, the choice seems to be either having intimacy without sex, or sex without intimacy.