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I Absolutely Hate The Phrase 'Make Love.' Here's Why.
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I Absolutely Hate The Phrase 'Make Love.' Here's Why.

A couple of weeks ago, as I attempted to listen to the radio (throwback music fans can read between the lines there; some of this music these days is violating as hell), it was like the universe was begging me to pen this article. First, it was Lilo Thomas’s “Wanna Make Love (All Night Long).” Then it was Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” (question: why I gotta throw my clothes on the floor when he’s gonna gently take his off?). Then it was (and this is my jam — but still) Lorenzo’s “Make Love to Me” (yes, I finally went to a throwback station to get all of this). And while one part of me had my head and neck swaying from left to right, another part of me was low-key irritated…like I almost always am…whenever I hear the phrase “make love.”


Sex. As making love. What in the world? I mean, if only married (or folks in long-term committed relationships…and I do mean more than just three months) were saying it, I could kind of get it. Okay, but you’ve been seeing someone, and after a few days, y’all have sex, and you say that he made love to you? How is that even possible? In the immortal words of NeNe Leakes, I feel like when love is tossed around so casually like that, it’s somewhere asking, “Now, why am I in it?

Yeah…we’re gonna go there today. And while I totally get that this is my opinion, not everyone will agree, and there will be some pushback, please just entertain why, when it comes to describing a sexual experience, “make love,” more times than not (at least these days), is not the responsible depiction of what’s actually going on.

Where Did the Phrase “Make Love” Even Come From?

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Okay, so before we get into why I feel so strongly about “make love” as I do, let’s look into its origin story because I promise you that I have wondered, for years now, who even came up with the concept. I did some digging, and the closest thing that I could find is an English writer by the name of John Lyly, who once penned a piece calledHow To Make Love to the Moon: Intimacy and Erotic Distance, seemingly around 1590 — and he wasn’t talking about sex at all. He was actually referencing romance and courtship. Oh, but by the 20th century, it was used a bit more broadly, and then by the 1940s, it had become the slang term that it is now.

So, let’s start there, shall we? Initially, "make (produce) love (deep affection)" had nothing to do with the bedroom at all. It was about doing things to bring two people closer together on a mental and emotional level. Sex was so not the agenda.

Now bookmark that, please, as we move right along.

Why 'Make Love' Is One of the Most Irresponsible Phrases Around

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I already know. Some of y’all are gonna say, “So, are you saying that sex doesn’t produce deep affection?” It can. It most certainly can. My pushback would be that casual sex doesn’t do that, though. I mean, the mere definition of casual includes things like “without definite or serious intention; careless or offhand; passing” — so if no one is seriously intending for anything more than getting off to happen, if they are actually making moves that by, direct definition, are careless (listen, I’m just breaking the words down) — how could any real affection come from that? Because, for the record, affection means “fond attachment, devotion, or love.”

How can someone be casually devoted or casually love you? THEY CAN’T — and yes, I am yelling it. Devotion and love are very intentional. Extremely so.

And for the people in the back who still are rolling their eyes at your monitor or cell phone screen because you’re like, “There have been times when I have felt extremely attached or devoted to someone who I had a casual experience with. Hell, sometimes I even felt like I loved them” — well, I really wish that one day all of us will take oxytocin highs literally and seriously. Yes, there is a hormone in your body that is designed to bond you to the people you sleep with; however, that speaks to a physical response far more than an emotional dynamic…and that’s just what trips a lot of people up: they don’t know the difference between the two.

Okay, but what if you are in something that isn’t casual? What then? I’ll say this: I once penned a piece for the site entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good.” The thing that you have to be careful of is using sex as a deflection from real issues that need to be addressed and then calling it “making love” to make you feel better about doing it. Because think about it — if you keep telling yourself that whatever the two of you are going through “isn’t so bad” because you just made love last night…do you get how deceptive that can (potentially) be?

Case in point. I know someone who is going through a divorce who said that because the sex with their spouse was so good, they would confuse great sex with a healthy relationship…yes, even in marriage. And because of that, they never really got to the root of their issues…which only made the problems and challenges worse. The worse they felt, the more sex they would have and the more they would justify staying…due to the sex.

Listen, no one said that sex isn’t mighty powerful. In fact, I’m the one who will stand on the highest hilltop and yell that it is with the biggest bullhorn. That’s why it needs to be approached from a responsible space and mindset — which is why, when it comes to the act, I have my own motto, one that puts “make love” into, what I believe is its proper place.

Sex Does Not "Make" Love; Sex CELEBRATES Love

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I’m aging myself. Plus, as pro-Black as I am and as triggered as I would sometimes get by just how WHITE the original Beverly Hills, 90210 was, I was still a fan. Hell, in college, my late fiancé and I would even sometimes watch it together. And a classic episode was when Brandon Walsh’s girlfriend, Emily Valentine, slipped him euphoria; he got mad, and she told him that if they made love, he wouldn’t be mad anymore. What he said in response was a checkmate for the ages: “In order to make love, I have to be in love.”

Yeah, Brandon was preachin’ right there. I mean, how many times have you watched a movie or TV show where two people have been having consistent sex and then, when one of them says, “I love you,” the other one will be semi-freaking out, talking about “It’s too soon to say that.” So…it’s too soon for someone to declare their love to you even though they are out here making love to you? Make it make sense, y’all. If love is what sex is making, shouldn’t love be produced after a couple of times?

Are y’all starting to see more of my point?

It is my personal belief that a lot of people feel uneasy about “love” being used too soon because, deep down, they know that making love isn’t what they are doing. Getting to know someone better. Enjoying their time. Sharing orgasms with someone who can get them there. Sure. LOVING THEM? Sex producing love? Nah. And that’s why I firmly believe that sex doesn’t make love; sex CELEBRATES love. Because if you don’t love someone outside of the bedroom, sex isn’t gonna make that happen…, and if you do, sex is simply a physical manifestation of a deep and profound feeling and decision (with actions in place that totally back it up) that already exists.

Just ask some long-term committed couples that you know if sex is what “makes them” love their partner vs. sex being something that they used to celebrate — proclaim, rejoice in, honor, praise, revere, revel in, bless — that has already been established. And gee, when you look at all of the definitions (and synonyms) of celebrate, doesn’t it make sense that sex should be seen through the lens of celebrating love rather than making it?

Because if you truly value love, if you esteem it as special and sacred, sex would be honoring, revering, and blessing the bond between two people who care about each other, far beyond the surface level — two people who are committed, who have been through some things, we have made some compromises and sacrifices…two people who love each other in the purest and most accurate kind of way.

This brings me to my next point.

Please Don’t Expect Sex to Do Love’s Job

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About a year ago, someone asked me what I thought was the biggest mistake that women can make when it comes to sex with a new partner. There are several, yet the one that immediately came to mind was, “Please don’t ask a guy if he loves you during the act. What guy would say ‘no’?”

This isn’t rocket science, and a lot of women know it. So, why do they do it? Honestly, it’s a form of manipulation, whether they realize it or not, because they are using a very vulnerable moment, where folks are usually not thinking very clearly, to have a serious conversation. Then, if a man says “yes,” they hold them to it as if it’s the gospel. Out here, expecting sex to do love’s job is reckless and emotionally dangerous.

And that’s the reason one billion why “make love” irks me so. I’ll explain deeper. Because I am both a marriage life coach and a doula, sometimes “the lanes” cross. When a couple is in trouble, sometimes they will tell me that they think having a baby will make things better. A child is not meant to be anyone’s savior. And you know what? Neither is the act that gets them here (funny how that plays out) — sex.

Sex is not supposed to be expected to do love’s job because love is a HUGE responsibility. Being patient with someone? Constantly encouraging and supporting someone? Being steadfast in trying times? Honoring your word? Allowing reason to override emotion, so that you can make responsible and accountable decisions for the sake of your relationship? You expect love to make all of that happen for you? In what universe?

I promise you, the more that I have spent time pondering all of this, the more “make love” is something that I almost wish would go away. For those of you who actually love each other (mutually so), CELEBRATE LOVE all you want. Sex producing love? It’s just never gonna sit well with me. Love is too awesome, and "producing it" is not sex’s responsibility.

This brings me to my final point.

If Love Is Cake, Sex Is Icing (and Kinda-Sorta Barely That)

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An ex of mine from back in the day, used to say all the time that if you need condiments to make your food taste right, it wasn’t prepared well in the first place. Now, if you paid attention to the title of this last section, I’m pretty sure that you can see where I am going with this.

My favorite cake is very specific: It’s Red Lobster’s chocolate cake (sidebar: did you know that the founder of Red Lobster stood up to Jim Crow laws back in the day?). Hell, I don’t even eat shellfish yet I’ll get some cake from that spot. Anyway, the icing is cool, but if one day I went there and the cake didn’t have any icing on it, I’d still eat it — that’s just how good the cake is. Oh, but on the other hand, if all they had was icing, I would take a hard pass. Too much icing can be overkill. Too much icing, without cake, can make you sick.

See what I’m saying? When it comes to cake and icing, I see love as “cake” and sex as “icing.” Icing can make the cake so much sweeter and enjoyable, yet if there was no cake…what’s icing’s freakin’ point at all? Icing is literally designed to accentuate/amplify something that already exists. It needs the cake far more than the cake needs it.

And for those who got through all of this and are still wanting to “But what if…” what I’m saying — listen, I write about sex too damn much on this platform for y’all to think that I don’t know that sex has layers to it. All that I’m addressing today is why I wholeheartedly believe that “make love” really needs to be used less. Honestly, I wouldn’t lose a bit of sleep if it got retired altogether. If you’re not in love, or in a mutually loving situation (because the two are not exactly the same), why not say what you’re actually doing: you’re having sex? It’s a way to keep you from programming your mind to make the reality of what is happening more than it is.

And if you are in love (or mutually love), give yourself more credit: sex is not producing love…sex is BLESSING the love that you and your partner have worked so hard to establish.

_____

Aight. I don’t know how to drive this point home more than I just have. I think now I will listen to a true classic R&B song that totally cosigns on my point — what y’all know about Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack’s “Tonight, I CELEBRATE My Love for You”?

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Good, real stuff right there.

Celebrating what’s ALREADY BEEN made. Excellent.

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