Sex is often linked to intimacy — so much so, that phrases like being intimate have become euphemisms for having sex. Having sex between partners may foster intimacy or be an expression of intimacy that already exists within the relationship. And while not everyone has or wants to have intimacy as a component of their sexual relationships, for some people there’s a strong connection between the two.
But what about non-sexual intimacy? The other day at school my classmates and I were talking the non-sexual ways we feel intimate with our sexual partners. What gestures generate those feelings of caring, trust and closeness with our partners when we aren’t all naked and sweaty. What type of “non-sex sex," as my colleage Dr. Lily Zehner calls it, do we enjoy?
“Non-sex sex” or NSS (because acronyms, FTW!) is cool for a couple of reasons. First, if sexual intimacy is something you do want in your relationships, NSS can help establish and strengthen closeness, so that when you do get it on, sex becomes an extension of feelings that are being cultivated in other parts of the relationship.
Often folks with long-term sexual partners, go through periods where — for any number of reasons — they don’t/can’t have a lot of actual sex. In those cases, NSS is a great way to maintain an intimate bond. No, you may not be lying naked together a lot right now, but if you can still show affection, desire and joy in your partner, those dry spells tend not to be as rough.
Like ASS (“Actual-sex” sex) different people enjoy different types of NSS. Here are a few things that make me feel intensely intimate with my partner even when we’re both fully dressed.
The other day when I arrived home The Man of Mans surprised me with a tub of my favourite ice cream. It was a simple gesture, but one that let me know that he’d been thinking about me. After eight hours of class and a long rush-hour commute, a shot of love and refined sugar was exactly what I needed to energize me as I tackled my homework. That little container of sea salt caramel awesomeness was evidence that my happiness is something The MoMs actively thinks about.
After I finished my schoolwork, I looked up from my books and coyly undid the drawstring on my sweatpants. Licking my lips I —
I’m actually talking about the making-fun-of-someone teasing. Strangely, the reason this feels intimate for me is because I’m really sensitive about teasing. I was picked-on a lot as a kid and being made fun of can be kind of triggering, if the circumstances aren’t right for me.
I have to really trust someone to be okay with razzing them and vice-versa. When that trust is there, I love a bit of verbal sparring. The Man of Mans is by his nature kind and supportive. When we take the piss out of each other, it makes me laugh, instead of wilt because I know he isn’t trying to belittle me. I feel the closeness of our bond and when he calls me “Gutter brain,” I know that it’s all in good fun.
Some people prefer to keep their displays of physical affection private, which I can totally respect. I really enjoy participating in public displays of affection like hand holding, kissing, hugging, snuggling, and maybe even a little G-rated groping. I’m an extrovert, a broadcaster, an exhibitionist, and all those other words that basically mean “great, big show-off.” I love being open about my life — especially the parts of my life I’m most proud of. I love my partner and I’m super-proud of him. When The Man of Mans touches me in front of other people, it’s a nice reminder that he’s proud of me and our relationship too.
I’m a dancer. Not formally — unless “flailing to the disco beat” is now an officially recognized genre — but few activities make my body as happy as grooving to my favourite tunes. The Man of Mans doesn’t have boogie fever like I do. But every once in awhile, he’ll get up and get down with me for a few minutes while we’re getting dinner on the table. What makes a great dance moment greater? Sharing it with my love!
What about you? What’s your favourite kind of “non-sex” sex? How do you express and experience intimacy in your relationships? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
(Many thanks to Dr. Dawn Micheal for giving the lecture that inspired this post).