The random stuff that I find myself thinking about and then researching, I get it from my daddy. Back when he was still alive, it was nothing for him to send me fun facts, usually during the most obscure hours of the morning, on exotic animals, random independent artists and historical info. So, if you're wondering what compelled me to sit up one day and wonder where the phrase "make love" comes from, you can thank him—and the fact that I write about sex and relationships for a living. Oh, and also the fact that it's the kind of phrase that irks me to no end.
To tell you the truth, I've always been that way about the term. I'm not sure if it's due to how casually sex is treated by so many people, or the insane amount of expectation that is placed on the act—but to automatically assume that sex is the act of "making love", that seems a little…ill-defined. At least, to me. But before diving deeper into why I feel that way, let's look at where in the heck the phrase came from in the first place, shall we?
When Did Folks Start Saying “Make Love” Anyway?
So, after doing a bit of research, there are a couple of things that I found to be interesting about the history of "make love". First, one article that I read stated that, as far back as the 1600s, the dictionary defined the phrase in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with sex (or sexual activity) at all. According to it, make love used to be defined as something very sweet and extremely innocent. What it meant was "to pay amorous attention; to court, woo". Hmm. Interesting.
There is another article that I read that basically co-signs on the fact that make love used to have nothing to do with the actual act of sex. Back in the 1800s, when a man was trying to woo a woman into courtship (because back then, you didn't date unless courtship was the goal. Check out "This Is Why You're So Frustrated With Dating" for a breakdown on what courting actually means), the steps that he would take were called "love making". If a man showed significant interest, if he gave the object of his affection gifts, if he took her out—all of these things were referred to as making love.
And how did it "evolve" into sex? Apparently, by the turn of the 20th century, the Oxford Dictionary redefined making love as—"to engage in sexual intercourse, esp. considered as an act of love; frequently used with to, with".
So, make love used to refer to a man using gestures to court a woman. Then it transitioned into being sexual intercourse with someone that you love.
Both sound pretty good, right? To a large extent, I'd agree; especially when it comes to the courtship point because I like the thought of a man being intentional about wooing a woman as he is trying to "make love happen" with her. So, why do I feel like we should stop using the phrase "make love" as much as we do? Ironically, it's because of what the definitions of "make" and "love" mean.
Make. Love. Revisited: What does Making Love Really Mean?
Is it truly possible that the act of sex—especially sexual intercourse—can make love happen? Well, if you read articles on our site like, "Experts Believe Passion (Not Love) Makes Sex Better. You Agree?", the answer would be "no". Believe you me, I know a lot of people (myself included) who have had some truly mind-blowing sex with people they didn't love; sometimes with people they barely even like (see "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner"). Although it can be a hard life lesson, we need to make sure that we don't mistake strong attraction and carnal compatibility with true love. So already, you can probably see why the phrase doesn't impress me. Let's move on, though.
Next, let's look at the definitions of "make" and "love". To make something is "to bring into existence by shaping or changing material, combining parts, etc." and "to produce; cause to exist or happen; bring about". Love? Personally, I don't think that dictionary definitions do the word nearly enough justice, but to be fair, here is one—"an intense emotion of affection, warmth, fondness, and regard towards a person or thing". Like I said, that's not nearly good enough. How about we go with a Bob Marley quote on love? It's a lengthy one, but it's pretty fitting.
"Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you've never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can't wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself.
Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition, but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it's like being young again. Colors seem brighter and more brilliant.
Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn't exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day's work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there's no need for continuous conversation, but you find you're quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do.
Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart, knowing that there's a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that's so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security are in knowing that they are a part of your life."
Love is multifaceted. We all know this. And while I'm not sure if life only gives us one person who we can say these things about, I do feel like this is a wonderful, beautiful and cherished definition of love. Know what else? I don't think that the act of sex alone can make this happen—can bring this into existence…can produce this…or can bring this about.
That's why I'm really big on saying that sex doesn't "make love" so much as it celebrates love. The reason why I think it is so important to look at it from this perspective is, well, words are powerful. So is oxytocin. That hormone is designed to make us bond with the individuals we have sex with; it's a chemical reaction to a physical act. But if we automatically think that just because we get an oxytocin surge or just because we're sexually compatible with someone, that it automatically means that love is being made—goodness, y'all. Do you see the kind of mess that can make? Has made? Is making?
I know people who've had a one-night stand and believed they made love with the person. Lord. If you've seen the old school classic film Fatal Attraction (Michael Douglas, Glenn Close), you know that Ms. Cray-Cray used that phrase after the second night of sleeping with a married man. Things didn't end well for Dan (the cheater) and his family, Alex (the crazy chick) or Dan's daughter's rabbit. I know people who've remained in emotionally draining and totally unhealthy relationships because they believe their partner is making love to them; they don't have much in common anywhere else but, since the sex is good, they feel that love exists somewhere in the dynamic. I also know individuals who know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are settling for less in their relationship or situationship. Still, they keep engaging in coitus, hoping that it will literally make their partner fall in love with them; they feel that since they "make love" to their partner on a consistent basis, they keep telling themselves that being in love is inevitable. Geeze. Not only is that a lot of pressure to put on oneself, it's a lot of pressure to put onto sex as well.
Now do you see why, whenever I hear the phrase used on television, in a song or in casual conversation, more times than not, I'm internally rolling my eyes? Sex brings about love. Yeah…it just doesn't sit well with me.
And what about married folks or people who are in long-term commitments? Do they make love? While I definitely think that the phrase applies to them most, I'd also be willing to step on out there and say that a lot of them would state that love is made outside of the bedroom more than in it. When you forgive your partner, that's making love. When you accept them without trying to change them, that's making love. When you make compromises—and sometimes sacrifices—for the health and well-being of the relationship, that is making love. And then, when you have sex with this individual? That's celebrating all of the love that you've given to that person. That is when you are doing some of the synonyms for celebrate—bless, proclaim, commend, feast, perform, honor, revel, rejoice, revere and let loose.
"Make love" is so saturated into our culture that I know it's still gonna be used—and misused—to death. But hopefully, this at least provided another way to look at the term. Sex is amazin'. But to expect it to make something as BIG as love? I just think that's not giving love all of the credit that it deserves nor is it seeing sex from a truly realistic perspective. Use sex to celebrate love not make it. I think you'll be a lot happier that way if you do. But hey, that's just me.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important
Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him
Why We Love Men Who Are Absolutely No Good For Us
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Sabrina Dhowre Elba Admits To Not Initially Knowing Who Idris Elba Was When They Met
Model and entrepreneur Sabrina Elba recently recalled the intimate moments surrounding the fateful day she first encountered her husband, Idris Elba.
The couple, who have been together since 2017, met at a jazz bar in Vancouver when Idris was working on his film Mountain Between Us. Years later, in April 2019, following a whirlwind romance, Sabrina and Idris would tie the knot in Morocco.
Since then, the pair's love story has become "couple goals" among many for various reasons. The list includes the numerous times Sabrina and Idris have showcased their love on social media. Another factor contributing to the duo's likability is that Sabrina and Idris have displayed over the years that being with the right partner can elevate one's career or passion in life.
Sabrina and Idris have collaborated professionally in several businesses, including their Coupledom podcast and skincare brand S'Able Labs. In a June interview on Jemele Hill's Unbothered podcast, the 34-year-old opened up about the events leading up to when she met Idris and how she initially didn't know who he was.
Sabrina on Meeting Idris
Sabrina, who was living in Vancouver at the time, said that the same night Idris was in town, she went out to a jazz bar for an event called Slow Jam Sunday for a friend’s birthday.
Around that time, the model was getting over a breakup and claimed she wasn't interested in a relationship because of how badly her previous one ended. In a past interview, Idris revealed that he, too, just went through a breakup before meeting Sabrina.
"This is so funny. I [had] just gotten out of a really bad relationship, so I was not this person. I was like 'men are trash. They suck.' I'm literally ready to switch it on up or something because I was so over it," she said. "I come to this party with a night off at work that I prebooked because I was working literally every weekend. But it was my girlfriend's birthday party, so I was there kind of by chance."
Sabrina also revealed that, coincidently, the night she took off for her friend's birthday celebration was the same night Idris had the day off and was convinced by his stunt double to attend Slow Jam Sunday.
"Slow Jam Sundays is an amazing night in Vancouver. It's the one night I would probably go to, but you wouldn't see me out often because I was a weekend worker. I was working at restaurants and service industry, your weekends are taken up," she stated.
"Idris was filming this film in Vancouver and had one night off in Vancouver because most of it was filmed sort of up north in the mountains. His stunt double convinced him to go to Slow Jam Sundays. By chance, we were both there."
Further into the interview, Sabrina disclosed that her friend was interested in Idris at first and went to flirt with him. However, the Daddy's Little Girls star dismissed the friend's advances because Sabrina had caught his eye.
When Sabrina's friend informed her about what happened, she admitted that although she tried to put up a front for her friend's sake, the S'Able Labs CEO was happy because she thought he was also attractive. Following the discussion, Sabrina and her friend went to the section where Idris was, and the couple realized how much they had in common, from the music choices to their background.
"So I go over, and we have like one of those conversations that you just feel like you've known this person for ten years because we're singing the same songs. When a song comes on that I love, he's like, 'I love this song.' I'm like, 'what?' Like I just had this like cultural connection. He's African. I'm like,' Where are you from?'" she said.
Sabrina On Not Knowing Who Idris Was After Meeting Him
As the topic shifted to Idris' celebrity status, Sabrina explained that she didn't know who he was until after it was brought to her attention by a few people she met outside of the bar.
"When I went outside, I realized because there's a group of people there, they're like, 'Oh, you're talking to Idris Elba,'" she stated.
When asked about how well-known the actor was when they met, Sabrina shared that Idris was widely famous in America but not so much in Canada and that the one film she saw him in was the 2009 thriller Obsessed.
Sabrina would add that even after being told who Idris was, she couldn't recollect where she knew him from until her friends mentioned the movie.
"Well, so the film that I had seen was Obsessed... I feel Idris Elba now he gets recognized so much. In that moment, unless you were kind of in that zeitgeist, he was definitely a lot more popular in America," she said. "I don't think I would've known it even when they said that was him. I was trying to remember, like, my friends were like, 'yeah, he's from Obsessed.' We're like, 'Oh, yeah.'"
After figuring out who Idris was, Sabrina shared that when she re-entered the venue, she doubted a relationship would form between them given his occupation, the short timeline he would be there to shoot his movie, and the constant temptation that could flock around him due to his status. But despite Sabrina's uncertainty, they would exchange numbers before she left.
"So I went back inside, we started chatting some more, and he was like, 'Let me take your number.' I was like, 'Alright,' and then I left," she stated.
The model explained the reason why she left the event was that her friend, whose birthday she was celebrating, wanted to check out other spots. When the night was coming to an end, Sabrina hailed a taxi to go home when she received a phone call from Idris. The entrepreneur revealed that the Takers star stopped her from entering the cab and urged her to get in the car he was driving, and they spent the whole night talking until 8 a.m.
"I got in his car, and we spoke till like 8 a.m. easy. It was probably like 2 [a.m.] at that time. We just had the most intense, amazing conversation," she said. "It was the first time I ever connected with someone to the point where I was like, I went home the next day called my friends, I was like, 'I think I found my soulmate.'"
Sabrina revealed that from that fateful night, she and Idris became inseparable. The couple would be long-distance for a brief stint of their union until they acknowledged how difficult it was to maintain that type of relationship. Sabrina ultimately decided to move in with Idris although she was skeptical at first, she claimed it was one of the best decisions she's made because she found her "soulmate."
Sabrina Elba's First Night with Idris Elba Sounds Like a Romance MovieModel and philanthropist Sabrina Elba joins Jemele to discuss her marriage to actor Idris Elba, and their heartwarming, love at first sight origin story.SUBS...
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Feature image by Dave Benett/Getty Images for Space NK