ARE WE EXCLUSIVE? THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEX & INTIMACY

Dana (@danathehardway) is the lead copywriter for Lovers. She is passionate about writing, allyship, sex-positivity, and telling good jokes.

Just having fun. Involved. Friends with benefits. Sleeping together. We’re together. Screwing. Banging. Making love. Bumping uglies. Knowing someone in the biblical sense. Knocking boots. That Ain’t My Truck (song by Rhett Atkins). Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under (song by Shania Twain). 

What term describes your sex life currently? Have you ever used any of these terms or phrases? Have you sung these lyrics adding your own meaning behind them based on what’s going on in your love life at that time? (Country music is great for that btw). Whatever description you choose, there are two things all of these references have in common- they are all ways of talking about having sex AND they attempt to explain the level of intimacy taking place within that sexual relationship. What can get confusing here, and the point of this article is simple- are sex and intimacy synonymous? Are they the same thing? Are they exclusive? Or just friends with benefits?

Google “euphemisms for sex” and the hilarious phrases never end. That could be expected. Google “euphemisms for intimacy”... and you get more flowery versions of the same phrases for sex. It gets rather convoluted rather quickly. To make things easier to talk through, let’s set down some definitions to help us differentiate the two terms.

Sex: (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.

Intimacy: Close familiarity or friendship; closeness. Knowing someone on a deep level. There are four identified types of intimacy - emotional, intellectual, experiential, and spiritual.

Intimacy is often used as a euphemism for sex, a way to refer to the act of sex without using the S-E-X word. Both words do reference a kind of closeness, so it’s easy to see how they have developed a relationship (see what we did there?) and are commonly believed to be synonymous even though they are not. While it’s not necessarily a problem to use the words interchangeably, what we felt was important to point out, is that sex doesn’t necessarily include intimacy and intimacy is forged in plenty of ways that aren’t sex. 

Are sex and intimacy synonymous? 

While sex can be accompanied by strong feelings and there are a variety of ways a person can show up vulnerably during sex (getting naked, consenting to participate in any type or kinky act, etc.) this doesn’t necessarily equal the creation of intimacy and that can be where we confuse the two the most. This can happen especially among folks who are less experienced sexually and/or who have not had solid examples of true forms of intimacy.

While we’re making the case that it’s important to recognize the differences between having sex and having a truly intimate connection with someone, we want to be clear that there’s nothing wrong with sex without intimacy! Intimacy is not required for sex to be pleasurable, powerful, and healthy. Communicate honestly, always prioritize consent from all parties involved, and be sure to check in with yourself about how these experiences make you feel. Our blog on Conscious Sexuality is great additional reading around this! 

If you’d like to build more intimacy into your sexual relationship, you’ll want to start outside the bedroom and even with your clothes on! You can start with learning more about each other through a game like Mind, Body, Soul

Whether you’re making love, friends with benefits, or just hooking up, we want you to be happy, healthy, and present in your pleasure. As your place for pleasure, we’re here to help!

Want more great sex tips?
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Further Readings:
The Difference Between Sex & Intimacy: Psychology Today
4 Types of Intimacy (Besides Sex!): Mind Body Green
Emotional Intimacy vs Sexual Intimacy: Dr. Kristie Overstreet

WITH PLEASURE,

LOVERS