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Why We Should Stop Using The Phrase "Make Love" So Much

How about we use sex to celebrate love instead of to "make" it?

Love & Relationships

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?

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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?

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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

7 Tips That Have Helped Me Abstain From Sex

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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