The other way that a person can experience sexuality is intimately.
If illicit sex is about experiencing the dark or shameful excitement of doing something “wrong” and erotic sexuality is about experiencing the joys of sex, then intimate sexuality is about experiencing and knowing another person.
In the intimate expression of sex, the purpose of the sex is the most-complete possible engagement with your lover. Your desire is for them… not primarily for sex.
Think of it this way: I ask a bud to go throw the football. He says “nah, I’m not really interested in throwing the football.” Then I have two choices… I can say “ok, then I will find someone else who might be interested in tossing the football”… this choice would indicate that football was the interest – what was irreplaceable to me was football. Obviously, with something like football, even if someone was as insecure about not being chosen as I am, they would probably be fine with it….
… or, I could say “well, then, bro, what would you like to do?” In this, I would be making it clear that the intent of the request was getting time with the person. The person is a priority over the activity, get it?
Intimacy is about knowing another person. The more intimately I know them, the more I know what is going on inside of them – their thinking, ideas, beliefs, etc. I think it is a mistake when speakers, pastors, etc. use “intimacy” as a euphemism for “sex.” I think it is confusing. Certainly two people can have intimacy without it having anything at all to do with sexuality. This confusion is another reason I wanted to write this article.
It is easy to see why or at least how the two got confused. As its creator intended, sex is meant to be experienced intimately, and it also encourages intimacy. It is meant to be intertwined with sex, like baptism and salvation for the Christian… however, they are not interchangeable and you certainly can have one without the other. This unavoidable intertwining, I assume, is why “intimacy” has become a nice way of saying “sex”, but it leads to confusion… and God knows we don’t need any MORE confusion in this area.
There are some very significant consequences of the expression of intimate sexuality. First, unlike erotic or illicit sex, it is an investment that grows.
One of the lies of modern psychology about marriage is that being good at sex (as a skill set, like skiing, or swimming) is important in marriage. This MIGHT be true if every man or woman appreciated and enjoyed the same things sexually and in the same way. However, they don’t.
I had some clients in the past who were both sex professionals… and they were married. Why were they in counseling? Because they were unable to enjoy the sex life that they wanted in their marriage. Believe me, they had all the skills and experience they needed… and they looked like Greek gods. Their eros meters must have been off of the chart. However, as I said before, “generally, when someone has a dissatisfactory experience of their sexual life, it seems most often because they ONLY have illicit or even erotic expressions.” Maybe this is part of why sexual experiences between future spouses before marriages often have to be healed as part of marriage counseling… maybe, but I don’t know.
The truth is that in marriage, the fulfillment is about intimacy, not sex… including in regards to sex.
Again, maybe… maybe this is why people who have something of an expertise in sex aren’t more (in the anecdotal experience of this therapist) likely to have a great or satisfactory sexual aspect to their marriage; but, people with a “PhD” in their spouse do!
Hope for us:
All around us are examples of broken, shallow, empty, hopeless examples. We have taken God’s great precious and valuable gift of sex, taken it out of its protective glass case of marriage and begun to treat it as common and cheap… a thrill of empty calories rather than a satiating meal of intimacy…
but all we need is the hope of it having been done well… a different kind of example… A path worn well enough to follow.
I have one: my grandparents were married 62 years before my grandfather died. Few of us will ever know that kind of intimacy. I don’t mean to be odd about this, but I assume that my 84 year old grandmother did not compete well in the erotic arena… but can you imagine how there would be no one on Earth capable of competing with her in the intimate arena? And they didn’t have just time, but devotion, love, knowledge and passion. My wife and I model our marriage after theirs.
Intimate sex is the fire in the fireplace – or even the stove – life giving, warm, still hot, but not destructive…
or in the food analogy – it is the fine 7 course meal (which dessert is typically a part of – and some eroticism is often a part of intimate sex, but it isn’t the purpose of the sex. The purpose is to experience the other person.
As time passes and the “ravages” of age set in, our erotic power may fade… but our intimate investments can compound. I am certain my grandfather would not have traded for any woman anywhere.
I have an example.
I intend to be another.
Keep looking for more articles describing the rest of the teaching about sexuality that I went over at the Seminar. My goal is that all of us be able to communicate to our wives (and families) that they are treasure. I don’t want to leave sexuality out of that discussion. If this is your first article to read, let me encourage you to go back to the Phalanx page and start the materials to men to start getting the complete picture.
For the ladies reading this as well, let me strongly recommend Shannon Ethridge’s book The Sexually Confident Wife – it deals with many of the issues that keep women from enjoying a powerfully sexually intimate relationship with their husband!
Brother to Brother