Based on my personal views on sex (that it shouldn't treated lightly or casually, and it's something that affects our mind, body and spirit—both the Bible and science will back that up; more on that in a sec), there used to be a time when I thought penning something like this would not be necessary. Yet, if you live long enough, life will teach you some things and expose you to a world of people who think totally different than you do. Between once working with a ministry that got people out of the sex industry and free from porn addiction, being a pregnant teen director for the local chapter of a national non-profit and then becoming a marriage life coach, I have met many (MANY) people who are kind, loving, generous—and also love the act of sex while pretty close to loathing the thought of engaging in physical intimacy.
For the record here, I'm not speaking of commitment-phobes. Those are a horse of a whole 'nother color, chile. No, I'm referring to those who are all about gettin' it in, as much as possible; however, when it comes to a ton of foreplay and definitely when it comes to any afterplay (or honestly, even when it comes to much physical intimacy in between romps), they are more than happy to take a pass. Oh, and before some of you roll your eyes and say to yourself, "Hmph. Sounds just like a dude", actually, who has shared this perspective with me the most have been women. So many, in fact, that I thought there had to be at least a handful of our readers who also can relate on some level.
So, let's do this. Let's dig into the polka dotted unicorns known as folks who love to have sex but can actually do without all of the physical intimacy stuff—whether in the bed or out. Is that problematic or not? Let's explore.
Is There Really Such a Thing as Sex Without ANY Kind of Intimacy?
As someone who grew up being taught that the Bible was to be the foundation for the choices I make, sex has always been seen as being pretty sacred to me. I'm pretty sure that anyone who is even remotely familiar with the Good Book knows that it says that sex is for married couples, period. Hmph. Come to think of it, I don't know of any holy books that say otherwise (definitely not the Qur'an or the Torah). And when it comes to Scripture, specifically, the verse that I've always adored is this:
"There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, 'The two become one.' Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never 'become one.' There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for 'becoming one' with another."—I Corinthians 6:16-20(Message)
Now here's the thing. As a woman who's never been married before (by choice, not by circumstance. I'm pretty sure many of you can say the same), you can read articles I've penned for the site like, "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners" and "Why I Named The Children I Aborted" to know that I am certainly NOT the posterchild for abstinence (check out "I've Been Abstinent For 12 Years. Here's How."). I think that a part of it is because, although I do think that sex is absolutely best in a long-term relationship, the physical pleasure that comes from the act can make it REALLY HARD to turn it down, even if you're not "officially" with someone. That's why, I totally get it, when one of my married friends says to me, every time I hit another year of abstinence milestone, "It might be biblical, but it sure as hell ain't natural." Understood.
So why I am even approaching the topic of what sex is from this angle? Mostly it's because, when it comes to sex making two people one, whether you try and apply a holy book to your life or not, this is one area where religion and science are largely on the same page. Why do I say that? In walks, oxytocin.
"The human body releases powerful hormones in the brains of men and women during sexual activity, including the neurohormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Women are more sensitive to the effect of oxytocin, a hormone that is also found to be a bonding hormone released during childbirth and nursing. During sexual activity, as oxytocin is released, it 'acts as emotional super glue between partners'. Men, on the other hand, are more affected by vasopressin, which similarly 'helps a man bond to his partner and instills a protective instinct toward his partner and children'."—"How Are The Hormones Released During Sex Like Human Super Glue?"
"Oxytocin was also correlated with the longevity of a relationship. Couples with the highest levels were the ones still together six months later. They were also more attuned to each other than the low-oxytocin couples when Feldman asked them to talk about a shared positive experience. The high-oxytocin couples finished each other's sentences, laughed together and touched each other more often."—"Be Mine Forever: Oxytocin May Help Build Long-Lasting Love"
Say that you don't subscribe to any particular faith or that you don't believe in God at all—science is still out here, making it abundantly clear, that there are hormones in your body that are designed to bond you to the person or people you have sex with.
That's why I've written articles on here like, "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner" and "We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'"; while physical pleasure is certainly a benefit of sex, it's important that you don't overlook the fact that sex can mentally and emotionally bond you to someone too. Don't believe me? Think about the guys you've dated who you didn't have sex with vs. the ones you did. 9 times outta 10, who was harder to shake? Be honest…with yourself.
You can Google articles about who has better sex—married people or single people (it's married folks). You can poll your friends about when they thought sex was better—in a long-term commitment or not. At the end of the day, it's kind of hard to get around the fact that while the mechanics of sex can be enjoyable, whether you're with your sexual partner or not, when the emotional intimacy component is in place, it's simply bar none better. And here's the thing—to a certain extent, oxytocin is gonna make damn sure that some level of attachment is cultivated…whether we want it to happen or not.
That's why, it's my personal belief that people who say that they like sex but hate intimacy may be in a bit of denial about the intimacy that transpires during the act, regardless of what they think is happening (or not happening). Yet when it comes to things like kissing and cuddling and them being semi-disgusted, let's pull back the curtain on that psyche, just a little bit more.
So, About Hating Physical Acts of Intimacy. What’s Up with That?
Some of y'all might remember, a few months back, when I wrote, "Umm, What's Up With These People Who Hate Kissing?". It was pretty enlightening, even to me, and I've been writing about sex for a couple of decades at this point. One woman I interviewed for the article said that her husband's tongue always feels awkward. A guy said that mouths feel wet and weird to him. What I found to be fascinating is, the people I spoke with didn't give me the impression that they had issues with physical intimacy, in general, so much as the mechanics of kissing itself. Got it. But what about physical intimacy overall? I decided to ask Melissa and Eric from that same article for their hot takes on that.
Melissa. Married. 29. "Funny that you would ask me this because, I'm weird when it comes to physical intimacy. While I do like to hug my husband and I enjoy being close to him while we're watching television or something, during sex, I'll pass. Like cuddling after intercourse? All I can think about is that wet spot and how I want to get out of it. I don't know.
"The sex is good but once it's over, I enjoy my personal space. I'm just now thinking that it might be because, once you've been that open with another person, you need to retreat to gain your bearings a bit. Does that make sense? I wouldn't say that I hate physical intimacy so much as, to me, it's just not all that necessary."
Eric. Single. 25. "I'm not even used to a woman separating sex and intimacy, so this question has caught me off-guard. Anyway, I like physical intimacy if it's with a woman I'm emotionally intimate with. Otherwise, physical intimacy before or after sex feels like we're trying to make the relationship something that it's not—or something that it's not yet. A lot of cuddling and stuff like that is way more sentimental to me than just intercourse, so if we're not together, I'm not the biggest fan."
Just to round this out a little bit, I decided to ask someone else I know who happens to love sex and loathe physical intimacy. Let's call her "Sheryl".
Sheryl. Married. 39. "I definitely have a higher sex drive than my husband and I absolutely am not a fan of physical intimacy. Meanwhile, he can't get enough of it. It just feels hot, awkward and like you're invading my personal space. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I grew up in a home that was loving but definitely not big on the PDA. So, I got used to not needing a lot of physical touching. Plus, my husband is the exact opposite, which feels clingy and needy more than anything else. I don't think there's anything 'wrong' with me. I just think I process that a lot of touching comes with sex and outside of that, I'm cool. Who said that everyone needs to get kissed and cuddled all of the time, in order to feel loved, anyway?"
Sheryl has a point. Who did say that physical intimacy must come before and after sex is a cardinal rule? I will say that as someone who is a words-of-affirmation-and-physical-touch-love-languages kind of girl, I can't even imagine the two not going hand in hand, but after speaking with these individuals and also other clients, I get it. You can very much enjoy sex and not need all of the foreplay or afterplay that comes with it for so many people. It doesn't mean that anything is "wrong with you". It's just not your personal preference.
Still, how do you know when your preference might be linked to something deeper or it has a great potential to become highly problematic in your relationship?
If your avoiding physical intimacy is costing you your relationship. Relationships are about compromise. And you know what? In many ways, so is sexual fulfillment. Even if physical intimacy is not really your thing, if it is something that your partner needs or enjoys, find ways to meet him halfway. Again, as a physical touch person myself, to simply clam up after sex feels like rejection. If your partner feels the same way, that can start to build a wedge between the two of you, even if that's not anywhere close to being your intention. By the way, it's also a good idea to bring how you're feeling up to your partner. Even though it might seem a little odd to them, knowing where you're coming from can help him to be more patient as the two of you work to figure out what will work, well, for you both.
If compromising causes you to feel violated. There is a caveat to what I just said. If compromising in this realm makes you somehow feel physically or even emotionally violated, don't push past that. Instead, do some sex journaling or even consider seeing a reputable therapist, counselor or life coach about what's going on. I know someone who used to hate kissing in the mouth. After seeing a therapist, come to find out, it was because she had been molested by a cousin who used to force their tongue in her mouth when she was little. While it can't be said enough that not preferring physical intimacy "just because" isn't a red flag, if you're someone who clams up or lashes out when someone attempts to be physically affectionate with you, that could be a sign that you're suppressing something. It can never hurt to work with a professional, just to see if that could possibly be the case.
If you "fear" physical intimacy. Not needing a hug vs. being terrified of one are two totally different things. If you fall into the latter category, it very well could be that you are dealing with some level of philophobia which is basically being afraid of emotionally attaching to another individual.
I know we covered a lot of ground here, but as I draw all of this to a close, let's get back to the title of the article. Is there anything wrong with loving sex and hating physical intimacy? In short, no. There's not. Just make sure that feeling this way isn't harming your relationship or that the "hate" isn't tied to something deeper. Other than that, feel OK with being this way. It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round and being different isn't automatically wrong. Enjoy your sex—and well, your dry spot too, sis. #wink
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