Framing Intimacy

River

Active member
I just read a post in another thread where someone said that she does not consider sex to be "intimate" unless she's emotionally intimate with the person. I basically said that makes no sense to me, since sex, to me, is always intimate.

I'll continue along the same vein here. Sexual contact and pleasure, including orgasm, to me, cannot be sharply segregated from what I'll have to call The Whole Person. A whole person cannot be divided neatly into "physical" and "emotional" -- as if these two "things" were separate or separable. Therefore, all sensual relating is necessarily also, partly, emotional relating. If any of these two deserves to be called "intimate," then both must be -- or the person in question has an internal divide of a kind I simply cannot experientially imagine. I can intellectually grasp the concept of such a divide, but honestly cannot fathom or imagine what that might feel like, because I've never felt it.

I speak as a person who has had a whole broad range of sexual encounters and relationships -- all of which, for me, were intrinsically and necessarily intimate.

Yes, intimacy can be thought of as something which shows up on a spectrum of kinds and degrees, but for sexual acts to be considered "non-intimate" strikes me as wildly strange. Unless that sexual act is occurring between a person and a robot, sex toy or virtual reality fantasy machine of some kind (rather than a person).

Maybe what makes me different from those who think otherwise is that I can (and must) see such things in terms of a spectrum, while some see it more like an on/off switch.

Some of the most intensely intimate sex I've ever had has been with a person I had just met ... and in a relationship which, sadly, didn't last through the next morning.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Here's how Wiktionary frames intimacy:
"Noun
intimacy (countable and uncountable, plural intimacies)
1. (uncountable, countable) Feeling or atmosphere of closeness and openness towards someone else, not necessarily involving sexuality.
2. (countable) Intimate relationship.
3. (countable, especially plural) Intimate detail, (item of) intimate information."
FWIW.
 

KC43

New member
The first definition in the bit Kevin quoted is where I'm coming from. I *don't* necessarily feel close or open to someone I'm having sex with. Admittedly, I tend to keep myself fairly walled off emotionally, and as I said in the other thread this morning, I don't often experience strong emotional connections or attachments to people. For *me*, it is entirely possible to separate physical from emotional. Sex with someone I don't know well, or don't feel an emotional connection to, is fun and probably feels good, and it might be exciting, but it isn't intimate, because I don't have that closeness and openness with them. They're just sticking one of their body parts into one of mine because we both want to and we both enjoy it.

That isn't how sex *always* is for me. If I already have an emotional connection with someone, that means I've already developed the closeness and openness with them, and that will be present during sex. Though now that I think about it, I had to work to make that be true. For a number of years, due to my attachment difficulties and to abuse and sexual trauma, my body was almost entirely separate from my emotions and conscious mind, so even with someone I was deeply in love with, there was no intimacy or connection during sex. It was, again, just body bits banging together. It's taken a lot of therapy and a lot of trauma recovery work on my own for me to be able to experience sex as an intimate act even with, for example, Hubby or my boyfriend.

Like I said in the other thread, different people, different ways of experiencing and relating. Your way, River, is nearly as foreign and incomprehensible to me as mine is to you; while I can relate to experiencing sex as an intimate act, I can't relate to *always* experiencing it that way. I have experienced sex as an intimate act with someone I've just met, because with some people, the emotional connection I require first forms almost instantly. On the other hand, I've had sex with someone I'd considered a friend for six *years* and didn't experience it as an intimate act, because I didn't have that emotional connection with him.

For *me*, sex isn't always intimate. It's entirely dependent on who I'm having it with, and whether I have an emotional connection with them and if so, how deep that connection runs.
 

River

Active member
Thanks for that thoughtful post KC43. I very much appreciate it that you didn't turn what I said into an accusation or criticism of you ... and respond angrily.

I may have more to say here soon. I tried to say more, but I find it very challenging to articulate anything much at the moment.
 

KC43

New member
I didn't take it as a criticism at all, simply as what it is: you stating that the way I (and some others) view sex doesn't make sense to you. That isn't something to take personally. I'm glad you moved the discussion over to this thread so it isn't derailing the other thread any further.
 

River

Active member
I'm moving my response from this thread -- http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?p=400872#post400872 -- to here.

Perhaps this is a semantics issue: River, do you not believe that there is a difference between "Fucking" and "Making Love"?

Rather obviously, for some people there is a sharp, very distinct line dividing these two things while for others there is no such sharp line. There may be a continuum, or spectrum, but for some of us these two things are always blended or mixed--overlapping--, not two totally distinct and separate boxes.

In other words, for some people sex is always continuous with "intimacy" and for others it is not.

Another question for River - because I am curious, you don't have to answer - what other activities, besides sex, do you consider intimate?

Some activities for me are necessarily intimate -- and they are necessarily intimate for lots of people besides myself. Any kind of prolonged touching, be it cuddling or even massage is "intimate" -- even if the massage is provided by a professional. It need not be erotic massage to be intimate. Deep kissing is always intimate for me. I simply cannot imagine deep, wet kisses and NOT being intimate -- and since sex and deep kissing are very similar for me, in terms of the general tone of feeling involved, sex is always intimate.

There are of course many kinds of intimacy -- emotional, intellectual, physical, etc. Intellectual intimacy has a very different feeling tone, for me, than physical intimacy. But it's still intimate. Sometimes intellectual intimacy has a similar feeling tone as physical intimacy, but it need not -- for me. It depends on the people involved.

Any activities can be intimate, I suppose. Working together, playing together..., even just hanging out. But not all activities must necessarily be intimate. For me, sex must always be on a continuum including this thing we're calling "intimacy".

I'm certain that millions and millions of people share my sensibility about sex -- like deep kissing -- always being intimate. Meaning, we can't imagine doing this without there being intimacy along with a desire and a willingness to be "intimate".

Curiously, I've discovered that many people who are into "non-intimate 'fucking'" feel exactly as I do about deep ("french") kissing. They cannot do that without "intimacy". It is necessarily an intimate experience for them.

I get zero pleasure in sex if there is zero "intimacy" involved. It is the opposite of pleasure if there isn't any "intimacy" in it. BUT I can have "intimacy" on the casual end of the spectrum, meaning I can "make love" with a person I'm not in a "romantic" relationship with. But it would not be "just fucking".
 

River

Active member
I may as well say it. I consider sex without 'intimacy' as a kind of dissociation. There are many kinds of pleasure which are not erotic or sexual, but erotic/sexual pleasure without the sorts of feelings we call "intimate" are, to my mind, a kind of splitting or dividing of things nature would have us not divide -- unless some sort of dissociation process is at work.

Eating a gourmet meal is an example of a kind of pleasure which isn't generally regarded as "erotic," and which isn't generally regarded as having to do with "intimacy". But sitting at a table by one's self, eating, isn't anything like pressing one's body against another preson's body. It's this pressing of bodies together which seems to me to be inherently "intimate" unless some kind of dissociation is at play.

Not all dissociation is a clear result of severe trauma, I suppose. (It's hard to say, really. I don't claim to be an expert on either dissociation or trauma! And dissociation, like many things, can be understood as having various kinds and degrees.)

I certainly do not believe people are simply born with an embodied divide between sexual activity and feelings / intimacy / "connection".... I don't think the association between sex and "feelings" is acquired or learned, entirely, either. But it's unlikely that folks who disagree on this matter can persuade one another with rational arguments.
 

KC43

New member
I disagree with you that sex without intimacy is automatically dissociation. For some people, sex is simply a leisure or recreational activity, at least some of the time. For example, people who go to a swinger's club with the sole intention being to get laid. "Getting laid," like "fucking," to me is *not* an inherently intimate act, any more than sitting in a movie theater next to someone I've never met is an intimate act, or using a stationary bike at a gym next to someone else. And for some people, at least *some* sex is nothing more or less than a form of exercise or entertainment.

For others, as Jane pointed out in the other thread, sex is a means of earning a living. It is no more intimate than walking into an office and sitting in your cubicle next to all the other cube-gophers.

In my opinion, for me at least, "intimacy" consists of three components existing simultaneously: physical closeness (bodies pressing together, as you note), emotional closeness, and mental connection. If at least two of the three exist, it constitutes intimacy. But if only one of the three exist, it might not be intimate. So if the *only* closeness in a sex act is bodies pressing together, and there is no emotional or mental component, then to me it is not an intimate act.

All that said, while I do not believe that non-intimate sex is *always* a result of dissociation, for *me personally* it sometimes has been. As I noted somewhere along the line, due to sexual trauma and some serious body shaming beginning when I was very young, I learned to separate my brain and body. Until about 12 years ago, when I started learning yoga, I was constantly injuring myself because I literally could not judge where my body was in relation to anything else, even if I was looking right at the other object. So anything that involved my body to a high extent, such as sex, was usually done in a state of dissociation, not because I was choosing to dissociate but because there simply was little to no connection between my mind and body.

That is no longer the case, because yoga helped rebuild those connections and I've worked HARD on restoring the connections fully, but because the disconnection was caused primarily by sexual trauma, having that mind-body connection during sex is still sometimes difficult for me. So I guess for me, another requirement for me considering sex as an intimate act is that I have to feel the mind-body connection when sex is occurring. Since that is most likely to happen with someone I'm *emotionally* intimate with, that goes back to my point that I don't feel sex is intimate unless I have emotional intimacy with the other person first.

As for kissing, snuggling, handholding, etc., I do consider those intimate, because I am unlikely to do them with someone I don't have an emotional connection with. Also...let me see if I can explain this clearly. Sex can be an act between two (or, let's face it, more) people who genuinely love or at least care about each other. It can be a means of strengthening and deepening an emotional connection, a means of showing love and affection, or even just a "hey, let's make each other feel good," but in that context, I would agree it's an intimate act.

But sex can also be used as a means of making money. It can be used as a weapon, either emotionally ("I won't fuck you until you take out the trash" or "You're pissing me off, so don't even touch me"), or physically, i.e. sexual assault. Sex *can* be an intimate act, but it can also be used in ways that aren't intimate, or even in ways that are extremely harmful and damaging. Sex acts are NOT always intimate; it depends on the intention of the people engaging in it, assuming both/all people intend to engage in it in the first place since sex is something that can be forced on someone else against their will.

Sex is like fire. It can warm you and light things up and be gentle and reassuring; or it can destroy everything in its path.

Kissing, snuggling, hand-holding, etc., on the other hand, are physical signs of an emotional connection with someone we love or care deeply for, and they're demonstrated much more broadly, for example to our children or other family members, to friends we consider platonic, etc. We are unlikely to kiss or snuggle with someone for whom we don't already have a measure of emotional closeness (i.e. love or affection). Therefore, to me, unlike sex, those things *are* pretty much always intimate. They are rarely, if ever, used as weapons or a means of earning money. They are almost exclusively used for demonstrating strong positive feelings.

I can fuck someone without being able to tolerate having them hug or kiss me, because to me, those are not the same thing at all. I reserve demonstrations of affection for people for whom I feel affection. Sex, because of its dual nature as something beneficial but also something harmful, doesn't fit my definition as a demonstration of affection, unless it's with someone with whom I'm already affectionate and with whom I engage in the other activities that I *do* consider intimate.

Edited to add: I'm not trying to persuade anyone to change their mind, I'm simply stating my position on the subject, and giving a perspective that some on the "sex is always intimate" side of the line might not have considered.
 

River

Active member
Thanks KC43 -

I wanted to say that I read your post and that I'll try to respond to it soon, beyond mentioning that I awoke in the middle of the night last night and pondered for a couple of hours on the whole topic and theme we're discussing here. It's a very challenging topic, I think.

Basically, I think, my point of view is that some things are just basically sacred, and sex is one of these.

But the word sacred is loaded! It generally caries associations and connotations from religion, and I'm not using the word that way. As a matter of fact, I don't think I'm using the word sacred in any sort of conventional way or sense. By "sacred" I simply mean that it is something which properly ought to be treated with reverence. And that's another word folks tend to associate with religion, and which I don't mean in a religious sense (as I am not religious). Both terms, sacred and reverence, can be understood in a humanly universal sense which is secular, not religious. All people and cultures have things which are held to be sacred and which are thought best treated with reverence.

Sex is sacred and ought to be treated with reverence because it can be among the most powerful gateways, or passageways to what is often called "spiritual" or "mystical" experience. Again, these terms are loaded and are not ideal. The word "spiritual" is in many respects rather unfortunate, as it often is used to connote something "not material" and "not of the body". But that's precisely not what I would mean by it. For me, the body / "soma" is the locus and quintessence of "spiritual" experience.

Much of what I've said so far has resonances with Tantra. And I do consider myself a tantric practitioner -- but not in any conventional sense and not within any recognized and established tradition. I borrow inspiration from traditions and such, but I'm an outsider to them all. I'm also a non-theist. Or a pantheist. Or both. Probably both. For me the whole of existence and nature is what religious people call "the divine" -- but since there is no divide between "divine" and "ordinary" and "everyday," folks like me can easily be misunderstood.

It is puzzling to me how we moderns can (and do, and don't) recognize and honor "the sacred" and things reverential by nature. Oftentimes, we simply deem nothing to be sacred or reverential by nature. And I think this does us -- and nature -- much harm. And yet I basically subscribe to conventional naturalism for most things.

More later. I gotta run.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I tend towards "both/and" approach in life. Not "either/or."

To me "sharing sex, making love" -- those things are sacred.

I also think there is space for "recreational sex/just fucking." Does it mean I want to jump just anyone off the street? No. Does it mean sometimes there could be space in my life for FWB? Yes.

There's also space for intimate things that are not esp sexy.

Sex is sacred and ought to be treated with reverence because it can be among the most powerful gateways, or passageways to what is often called "spiritual" or "mystical" experience

I know what you are talking about. Over here we call it "Other."

There are times with my spouse that yes, it is that "Other" sex. Transcendental.

There are times with my spouse where it's just a solid fucking. Scratching the itch.

There's been times where sex has been about procreation. And lemme tell ya, during the TTC time it was NOT always transcendent "Other" sex, or even fun recreational fucking. Sometimes it was very perfunctary like "Alright, ovulation window. Trying to make a baby. How fast can we get you to cum in me? So we can get back to what we really want to be doing?"

I think all of those things are intimate. To the same DEGREE? No.

The dentist with gloved hands sticking fingers in my mouth? The doc doing my annual pap? That IS intimate to me. How many people do I allow that access to my body? Not many, and certainly not just anyone off the street.

It is also sacred, transcendent or "Other?" Nope.

Is it scratching an itch? Nope. I don't have any "oooh, must get a pap!" urges like I sometimes have very horny urges.

More like perfunctory.

Here's another human intimacy that has NOTHING to do with transcendent sex, horny urges -- nursing a child. That experience is is sometimes transcendent, sometimes scratching the child's itch to nurse, and sometimes perfunctory.

Here's another human intimacy. Being there knowing the person is going to die. Keeping them company in the waiting... that you know is coming very soon. Like in days or hours. What to you do talk about with that person?

I've only done it once. Totally NOT sexy. Def intimate. Because when a person only has hours left, who do they want to be hanging out with? The pizza delivery guy?

There could be way more death midwives helping with that passage but there aren't. Be nice if the person could experience death passage as transcendent but I'm afraid the more common experience is perfunctory, and possible sometimes lonely/alone and difficult.

Galagirl
 
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vinsanity0

Active member
Are you equating intimacy with feelings? Sex is very intimate, though romantic feelings need not be involved.

Being somewhat demisexual, I get where you are coming from, though when I was younger I had no problems having sex for the sake of having sex. And with the handful of men I've had sex with there were no romantic feelings whatsoever. These days I don't really enjoy sex unless I am emotionally intimate with my partner.
 

KC43

New member
River, I'm quoting your post in bits and pieces to help organize my thoughts a little better, not to exactly call you out, though I am going to respond directly to a couple of things you said.

Basically, I think, my point of view is that some things are just basically sacred, and sex is one of these.

All people and cultures have things which are held to be sacred and which are thought best treated with reverence.

*Your* point of view is that some things are basically sacred. Not everyone shares that point of view. I believe you're correct that all *cultures* have things which are held to be sacred. However, not all *people*, if you are using that term to mean a group of individual human beings, hold things sacred. Some people, as I think you point out later in your post, consider *nothing* sacred. Some people do consider some things sacred, but sex isn't one of them.

Sex is sacred and ought to be treated with reverence because it can be among the most powerful gateways, or passageways to what is often called "spiritual" or "mystical" experience.

I would add something like "For me" or "In my opinion" to the beginning of this sentence, because like your statement about sex being sacred, this is a subjective thing. Not everyone believes as you do. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the way you believe, but there's also absolutely nothing wrong with *not* considering sex to be a sacred act. With this sentence in particular, people who don't believe in spirituality or mysticism likely don't think of sex this way.

For me the whole of existence and nature is what religious people call "the divine" -- but since there is no divide between "divine" and "ordinary" and "everyday," folks like me can easily be misunderstood.

It is puzzling to me how we moderns can (and do, and don't) recognize and honor "the sacred" and things reverential by nature. Oftentimes, we simply deem nothing to be sacred or reverential by nature. And I think this does us -- and nature -- much harm. And yet I basically subscribe to conventional naturalism for most things.

I'm a Witch and a Goddess-worshipper, as well as holding nature as something sacred. So now I have another train of thought...

In Witchcraft (Wicca in particular; though I don't consider myself Wiccan, much of the studying I've done and things I've learned come from Wiccan beliefs), nature is sacred. Since our bodies are part of nature, they are sacred. Some also believe our bodies are representations of the Goddess and God, and that we each carry the Divine within us, which also makes our bodies sacred. And in the Charge of the Goddess, it says, "Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals." Which would certainly seem to support your assertion that sex is a sacred act.

I personally have trouble seeing it that way *all the time*, because I have experienced sexual acts that were not chosen, that were acts of violence and aggression rather than love, and that were damn sure not pleasurable. Of course, referring back to the Charge, if it is *not* an act of love and/or pleasure, it isn't of the Goddess and therefore isn't sacred on any level. But I acknowledge that sex, when done from a place of love* (more on that in a moment), consensually, and with the intention to create and share pleasure, can be and likely is a sacred act.

(*Love, in this context, doesn't necessarily mean romantic love. I feel varying levels of an emotion that I consider to be love for all human beings, because they're human beings and I believe all humans deserve love. And because as I said, as a Witch I do hold nature sacred, and of course hold the Divine sacred, and humans are aspects of both of those. I suppose another way of phrasing my sentence in the last paragraph might be "...done from a place of respect.")

However, again, not *everyone* believes sex is a sacred act or an act of reverence, or an act to be revered. And for those who do, sacred does not necessarily equal intimacy, because as I think I said previously, intimacy is, as far as I'm concerned, not solely a physical thing, it also requires an emotional and/or mental component, most likely both. I would actually go further and say that intimacy does require both emotional and mental connection/closeness, but does not *require* any type of physical closeness or connection. So as I'm seeing it, intimacy is a mind-and-soul thing, not necessarily mind *body* and soul. The physical component is a bonus.

If I have sex with Joe Randomdude who I met five minutes ago at a house party, it can be seen as a sacred act, because we are (hopefully) coming from a place of mutual respect and are honoring our bodies by giving and receiving pleasure to/from one another. ("All acts of love and pleasure") But it would, to me at least and to others, *not* be seen as an intimate act, because it is purely a physical thing. Joe Randomdude and I don't have any emotional connection or closeness; we've known each other five minutes and so haven't had time to form that. We probably have somewhat of a mental connection, but it's tenuous at best because it's formed from five minutes of conversation, so basically we're just connected enough to know we want to fuck. So while it could be sacred, at least in some points of view, it isn't intimate by the definition and description of intimacy I'm using.

Sex, sacred, intimacy... all of these are things that are to varying degrees subjective. Sex is the least subjective, because there are facts about what sex is, but it's still subjective in some ways because some people consider certain acts to be sex acts while others do not. "Sacred" and "intimacy" are almost entirely subjective, because they are based on individual perceptions and points of view. There are, to my knowledge, no *facts* about what constitutes sacredness, because different things--including nothing--are sacred to different people. There are no *facts* about what constitutes an intimate act, because intimacy is more of a sense or feeling than a quantifiable thing.

Again, this all comes down to different points of view, different experiences, and different belief systems, including but not limited to spiritual beliefs. There is no persuading others to agree with us, but then again, why do we need others to agree? This isn't a thing that's either right or wrong, it's just a thing that people view and experience differently, and everyone's beliefs, point of view, and experiences are right *for them*.
 

River

Active member
To everyone posting in here:

This is seriously not easy material to work with -- for me or anyone, I think. It takes time and care and sensitivity to ponder and speak to in any kind of sincere, helpful and/or interesting way. I'm going to take it with that kind of slowness, 'cause I honestly am nowhere near having it all figured out! Thanks for participating in the conversation!

I seem to be comprised, in my attitudes and beliefs, of a hefty amount of both very pre-modern and modern (post-modern? amodern?) influences.

Like moderns -- and post-moderns (and amoderns)--, I generally want to allow for folks to decide, in general, what is sacred "for them," if anything. Respect for the rights and freedoms of individuals -- "liberalism" -- is a pretty modern thing. And I have a lot of that in my make up.

Premoderns were generally different, whether in civilization or in indigenous, tribal (etc.) cultural conditions. The notion of "the sacred," (and/or worthy of reverence) in pre-modern times and places was not decided by the individual, but was a cultural fact. You might disagree with your culture on such things, but it was highly unlikely that you did, or even could -- because these pre-modern cultures left little room for such reflection and discussion. Things just were as the culture said they were and that's that, end of story. (Often, if you thought and acted otherwise you'd be put to death, exiled, banished or punished in some serious way.) The notion of the sacred was, in this way, not open for discussion much, and very authoritarian in structure -- whether the authority was held by a sub-group of cultural elites (as in Civilizations) or simply distributed within the tribe (outside of Civilization, per se).

Like most folks living in modernity -- or post-modernity --, I'm somewhat conflicted about the sacred and about reverence. If you examine carefully, you may find that you're also conflicted about it, to some extent. Why? Well, if it is PURELY a personal decision and matter (what is sacred -- if anything --, and what is worthy of reverence) then some things which aren't really merely or simply personal matters can get neglected, often very badly. (We're in the midst of a global ecological catastrophe which, I think, demonstrates this point quite well. We also have other major social and economic problems which reflect a lack of a common, shared, sense of what is simply sacred and worthy of reverence. These things have become reduced to "mere opinion" in modernity and post-modernity. And, frankly, I think both a lot of good has come with this freedom to decide for ourselves what is sacred and worthy of reverence (if anything). And -- also -- a catastrophe has resulted from this very modern / post-modern condition.

"If life itself is not sacred or worthy of reverence, surely nothing is." I would say. And yet we -- collectively -- are not treating life as if it were sacred and worthy of reverence. We treat it as expendable, valueless. (I mean life in both the individual, biological sense and in the ecological, biospeheric sense.) And this tells me -- I think -- that something is wrong with our collective sense of "the sacred" and "what is worthy of reverence". For if we treated life itself as sacred / worthy of reverence, we'd begin to seriously address the crisis of destruction which, each day, results in a more damaged and broken ecosphere.

My point here is that ... perhaps we ought not to blithely regard all matters of sacredness and reverence as "mere personal opinions". AND, perhaps we ought not allow such matters to be imposed by authoritarian dictators and assholes, either. There may be a third way which is neither of these two.

Okay, that's my contribution for the moment. I'm sure I'll have more to say soonish.
 
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River

Active member
Are you equating intimacy with feelings? Sex is very intimate, though romantic feelings need not be involved.

I have no specific reason to take this question as directed toward me, but I'll answer it anyway.

I do not equate intimacy with feelings, but I do think that the attitude of willingness to be intimate and the attitude of willingness to feel are deeply related. And, speaking of related, I think both attitudes are about a willingness to be related (not in the sense of "relatives" [family], but in a larger, broader, more general sense).

I won't explain it in detail at the moment, but I have a certain way of thinking about the word (and thing) we call "intimacy," which posits that a fullness of intimacy requires a fullness of two main ingredients: (a) familiarity and (b) unfamiliarity -- or knowing and unknowing (known and unknown). When we think we fully know another person, thing, situation..., we are generally refusing relationship. Relationship is about ongoing, unending discovery as much as it is about knowing and being familiar. The surest way for me to disconnect from you and to not see or know you at all is to presume that I already know you.

Intimacy is, in large part, a willingness to be deeply related. It is a willingness -- an openness -- to surprise, ongoing discovery, unfoldment into both knowing and not-knowing. Rather paradoxically, knowing and "familiarity" can be the biggest blocks or obscurations to "intimacy". This relates to the sub-theme of "vulnerability" which has been mentioned in this thread, too. So-called "vulnerability" appears to be a necessary component to "intimacy" -- and relationship.
 

River

Active member
Sorry for going on and on, even though I hadn't planned on it and said I was done for now. But that word "sacred" seemed to need a little more attention, as does the word "reverence".

Dictionary.com gets all the way to items (senses) 5 and 6 before going beyond any specifically religious senses of the word "sacred":

5. regarded with reverence: the sacred memory of a dead hero.

6. secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right: sacred oaths; sacred rights.

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sacred

All of the more common uses of the word "sacred" appeal directly to religion for their meaning.

And one obvious problem with this is that the various existing religions vary tremendously in what the regard as sacred. Another obvious problem is that many people are not at all religious. Another is that religion tends to rely on "faith" (blind belief, really) rather than reason or evidence to substantiate itself. Another is the problem of blunt authority as a way of imposing doctrines (including doctrines of "sacredness").....

Modernity -- the historical epoch we're ostensibly in -- results in a powerful erosion of religious authority in our world. And I happen to think this is a very good thing! But it also has the effect of eroding our COMMON sense of "the sacred" and of "that which is worthy of reverence," often reducing these to "mere opinion" or "religious relics".

Personally, I think there is as much danger and risk in regarding "the sacred" as a matter of mere opinion as there is in handing the matter over to religion and it's authoritarianism. But science, as we know it, isn't of much help in us finding guidance on such matters. Rationality, as we know it, isn't nearly as much help as we might wish it to be. So there is this very subjective aspect to the inquiry, "What is sacred? If anything. But is it purely a matter of subjectivity and mere opinion? Can we discuss the matter of sacredness and "worthy of reverence" without appeal to authoritiarianism, or reduction to mere relativistic opinion?

This question, you may notice, naturally expands to include all matters which appeal to a need for a "common good" (rather than a merely subjective sense of personal preference). If there are no common goods, aren't we at a loss to organize our activities in a way that allows for coordination and cooperation? And would this not lead to disaster?

Several folks in this conversation on sex in relation to sacredness (in this thread and elsewhere) have mentioned "sex workers" -- prostitution -- as an example of sex without intimacy. This forced me to look deeper for clarity and understanding. You see, I'm all for there being a right to be a sex worker / prostitute (it should not be illegal!). But I see prostitution as a symptom of something having gone wrong with "sex". When sex is a commodity for sale in the marketplace, it seems to me, that can only be a symptom of something having gone wrong. But it's not at all easy to point out what is "wrong" with it. And it's not very far down the trail of such inquiry that folks may bring up the question, "Well, what about food?" .... "If buying and selling sex is somehow 'wrong', mustn't buying and selling food be similarly wrong?" And I can only agree that, yes, it is similarly wrong. For food, too, is sacred. And somehow the buying and selling of anything tends to erode the presence of something which is most sacred about "the sacred" -- and that is that it is a gift. When things are sacred they tend not to be treated as commodities, but as gifts. Their value is in fact increased, rather than reduced, in having been given rather than exchanged.

And we're now in such a bad way with all of this -- the commodification of nearly everything -- that I worry we're losing nearly all contact with the notion (and experience) of "the sacred". When a market economy decides all value, we're totally fucking fucked! And I actually worry that we'll not realize this, will forget it entirely. And boy are we then utterly and totally fucking fucked.

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The notion of "the common good" has all but been abandoned by moderns / postmoderns, having been reduced to "mere personal opinion". (This, by the way, explains much of the "appeal" (ick!) of premodern religion, including "fundamentalisms" of all kinds.)

Unfortunately, in this post-modern condition, the notion of "the common good" has been largely reduced to the notion of "common goods" -- with "goods" being things bought and sold in a supposedly "free market". The Market, in this strange way (!) seems to have replaced religion in determining "value" (good). Good has become "goods" -- or things/services for sale.
 
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vinsanity0

Active member
But it's only sacred if you make it sacred.

I think Bella holds sex to be sacred, which is a very foreign concept to me ( other than being raised Catholic where they tried to teach me that sex should be reserved for marriage). Usually I meet someone and there is a physical attraction and at least a little mental attraction, then we have sex. Then we sort out the rest later.

I don't think sex itself is a mystical experience, but I have had some really great sex. I've also had sex with people whose names I've forgotten.

I have to say you are in the minority, especially since there is no religious reasoning behind your philosophy.

Personally, I think sex is a basic animal instinct.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I think "rutting/fucking" is basic animal instinct.

And "sharing sex/making love" could sometimes be taken to a transcendent, "holy communion" kind of place because it's a place where spirituality and sexuality intersect. Tantric sex is up in that bucket to me.

Everyone has their own thoughts sex and intimacy though.

"If life itself is not sacred or worthy of reverence, surely nothing is." I would say. And yet we -- collectively -- are not treating life as if it were sacred and worthy of reverence.

I agree with you. I think all things are holy or infused with the holy as a pantheist. However not all people are pantheist. So what I can do is practice/live my life as though things are holy and hope that others will come to realize that we (collective humanity) could do better. I am not the "we." I am only one person. But I figure if I hold up my end of the collective sticks and enough people eventually do same, then there's enough "we" holding up their end of many sticks to make significant changes.

Otherwise... there is no sginificant change and then "we" run out. HOW? It depends. Likely we cause our own demise through collective foolishness. The sun isn't going to expand to gobble up the earth for a while. But it could happen that way too.

I often wondered what would happen if all the "save the earth stuff" changed to "save the humans" because that's what it is really. So the climate changes and we all die. So? The planet will keep on. It's got a much longer clock to go. Sun isn't red dwarfing right now. And left to its own devices it will heal itself. Maybe not be humanly hospitable but it will carry on until its own clock is up.

This forced me to look deeper for clarity and understanding. You see, I'm all for there being a right to be a sex worker / prostitute (it should not be illegal!). But I see prostitution as a symptom of something having gone wrong with "sex".

Where is the space for the sacred prostitute then? We don't have much of that here in this american culture, but it has existed.

Does that mean there aren't ALSO prostitute related problems that are a symptom of sex gone wrong or society gone wrong? No. There can be those things too.

When a market economy decides all value, we're totally fucking fucked! And I actually worry that we'll not realize this, will forget it entirely.

I am going to misquote it... but friends of mine have this quote in their home office. Something along the lines of

The economy can be about "bonus" stuff -- motorcycles and goods and whatnot. It cannot be about "basic needs" -- like food, medicine, etc. I shan't die if I have no motorcycle. Food is another thing.

So I agree with you there.

Galagirl
 
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River

Active member
But it's only sacred if you make it sacred.

Well, kind of. Another interpretation is that it is experientially sacred if we recognize it as sacred. If we don't recognize it as such, it doesn't appear to be (in our experience).

I think Bella holds sex to be sacred, which is a very foreign concept to me ( other than being raised Catholic where they tried to teach me that sex should be reserved for marriage). Usually I meet someone and there is a physical attraction and at least a little mental attraction, then we have sex. Then we sort out the rest later.

I feel both lucky and blessed that I was not raised within any religion. I've been able to find out what "sacred" is -- for me -- without the interference of dogma. "Reserved for marriage" as a standard for the "sacredness" of sex, for me, is a silly and absurd notion. But this does not result in my tossing out of the baby (sacredness) with the bath water (religion).

I don't think sex itself is a mystical experience, but I have had some really great sex. I've also had sex with people whose names I've forgotten.

Of course, I never said that sex automatically leads to or results in a mystical experience. I simply said -- or implied -- that it can do so, and that it's more likely to do so than lots of other activities (which is partly why it is sacred). You can have a similar experience as a result of eating a few special mushrooms, apparently (though I've yet to try this method). Those mushrooms are, then, sacred in my book! (Actually, there is now science showing that these special mushrooms frequently have this effect!)

I have to say you are in the minority, especially since there is no religious reasoning behind your philosophy.

Actually, there are several quite different yet similar tantric traditions which agree with my point of view, here. But so what? I do not regard religions as providing any kind of actual, real authority on anything. (Tantra and neo-tantra are represented in very diverse ways, anyhow.) I do regard personal experience as valid and important, however. But only when many people report having similar experiences under similar conditions do I begin to consider these reports sociologically and psychologically significant. It just so happens that millions and millions of people have had "mystical experiences" while having sex. Sex is often regarded as one of the most common and frequent experiential contexts for "mystical" experiences (or, put in other words, experiences of being an integrated part of a unified whole cosmos, not separate from it but integrated with it). Another way of describing "mystical" experience is to say that in such experiences one feels "at one" with the other (such as the lover, but also the world and "universe". "God" as a word or notion may have nothing to do with it!

In any case, being a minority has never dissuaded me from thinking that perhaps I may have some understanding or insight.


Personally, I think sex is a basic animal instinct.

I do too! But in no way does this result in it being less "sacred" for me. Animals can have experiences of the sacred, after all. And clearly we humans are mammals / animals / primates.

It would probably do us all well to develop a sense of "the sacred" which does not depend upon religious authority.
 
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River

Active member
I am going to misquote it... but friends of mine have this quote in their home office. Something along the lines of

The economy can be about "bonus" stuff -- motorcycles and goods and whatnot. It cannot be about "basic needs" -- like food, medicine, etc. I shan't die if I have no motorcycle. Food is another thing.

So I agree with you there.

Galagirl


This is encouraging for me. Thanks!

:)
 

TheLimey

New member
So, I've just read through this, and based on what I've just had happen to me, there's a lot here that makes sense and even sheds light.

Ultimately, I feel that intimacy is tied up with vulnerability. You cannot be intimate (and I don't mean sexually, but perhaps in the sense of letting someone close physically and/or mentally), for any meaningful length of time, without being vulnerable, and sharing that vulnerability.

My work has a a life coach on hand, who runs the 'blue sky thinking' sessions, and fosters the ethics/ethos of the company. Part of being a good coworker is accepting that you need to be vulnerable. Not being defensive, not being avoiding, being open.

So much of that runs through deep and meaningful friendships, and deep and meaningful relationships. Without being vulnerable, and having that reciprocated, you will never be intimate, in the sense of someone you trust, and who trusts you back, who you aid, as ND who willaid you back, and who you live, and who will love you vack
 
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