We no longer feel the social pressure to confine sex to
committed relationships.

In fact, we’re free to explore our
sexuality with just about anyone we like. Sex is now an
accepted recreational activity. What we often don’t realize,
however, is that even casual, recreational sex still
involves intimacy. We may have overcome our fear and shame
about sex, but many of us still have issues regarding
intimacy. If we experience more intimacy than we can handle,
we will feel threatened; our safety checklist will be
triggered. No matter how “safe” we make sex, sex may not be
safe to us.

When we experience an orgasm, we reveal ourselves more
completely and more honestly than at any other time. We let
our egos die for a moment, and we have the chance to
experience a true connection with another person. Then the
ego comes back into the picture, and we’re hit with the fear
of separation, and all of our old patterns. If we don’t have
enough trust or enough safety, we will feel threatened,
guilty, and generally unsafe. No matter how much society’s
beliefs about sex have evolved in our lifetime, our core
conditioning tells us that there’s no such thing as
no-strings sex. We still equate sex with love, and love with
commitment. And we equate love and commitment with
vulnerability, responsibility, and the fear that our needs
will not be met.

Sex is very easy to come by in today’s society. What most of

us crave, however, is not sex, but intimacy. The challenge
is that the only model most of us have for expressing or
experiencing intimacy is sex. Intimacy requires trust, and
trust takes time. It’s very difficult to experience true
intimacy through casual sex.

The level of intimacy we experience through sex can be
threatening to many of us, particularly if the sex occurs
early in the relationship. Safety is essential in the early
stages of a relationship–even the smallest safety violation
can mark the end of a budding romance. As we get to know our
partners over time, we create a foundation of trust and
familiarity. We can keep minor safety violations in
perspective. This is not the case when we have truly casual
sex with someone.

When we become sexual with a person we’ve just met, even the
smallest safety violation will be enough to stop our getting
to know each other. One of the challenges is that it’s not
usually appropriate or possible to have a Relationship
Definition Talk with a person we’ve known less than six
hours. There is no real relationship to discuss. While we
both may have wanted to pursue a romantic relationship
before we had sex, we often find we’re less interested the
next morning, because we feel unsafe. We experienced too
much intimacy too quickly, and we need to create some
distance, some space, and to put up some walls so that we
can recover. These walls, however, block the emotional and
spiritual connections we experienced that made us want to
get to know each other in the first place. Since we don’t
really know our partner, we wonder if there was ever a
genuine connection between us. We often end up with the
awkward “morning after” where one of us promises to call the
other, and neither of us believes the phone will actually
ring.

Two popular television shows demonstrate our current
approaches to sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex.

SEX WITHOUT INTIMACY: “SEX AND THE CITY”

HBO’s television series, “Sex and the City,” follows the
loves and lives of four single women living in New York
City. The show has become a cultural touchstone because it
explores sexuality from the woman’s point of view in frank,
funny, and honest ways. The four main characters are smart,
independent, decent, professional, attractive women. They
each have a different approach to sex, love and
relationships, and between them they cover a broad spectrum
of expectations and attitudes towards sex. The main
characters have become so much a part of popular culture
that many women use them as reference points to describe
their own patterns and feelings about sex. So do many gay
men.

For those of you not familiar with the series (and even for
those of us who are), I’ll provide a brief description of
each of the main characters to illustrate their attitudes

towards sex.

SAMANTHA

Samantha Jones takes the most stereotypically male approach
to sex. She truly enjoys sex, and for the most part, she’s
content to have a healthy sex life with multiple partners.
She has no guilt or shame associated with sex. Sex for
Samantha does not require any kind of emotional commitment,
nor does it imply any kind of relationship. She enjoys sex
for the sake of sex. Samantha is largely self-sufficient,
and is able to meet her validation needs through her close
friendships. Although Samantha had three significant
romantic relationships during the run of the show (including
a lesbian relationship), she has never set out to find a
relationship.

CARRIE

Carrie Bradshaw has a healthy appreciation for casual sex as
well. Carrie, however, is looking for something more than
just sex–she is looking for a relationship. While Carrie is
less likely than Samantha to simply hook up with an
attractive stranger, she doesn’t need to feel like she’s in
a committed relationship before she will have sex. Sex is a
part of casual dating for Carrie.

MIRANDA

Miranda Hobbes is more interested in finding a romantic
relationship than she admits. For Miranda, sex is more than
just sex–it implies some kind of commitment, and requires
some kind of emotional connection. The few times Miranda has
indulged in strictly casual sex, she’s been disappointed.
Miranda needs to feel that sex is a part of a
relationship–and she has, in the past, used sex as a way to
try to initiate a relationship. Once she has sex with
someone, she immediately begins to see him as a potential
long-term romantic partner.

CHARLOTTE

If Samantha is the most stereotypically masculine in her
approach to sex, Charlotte York is the most stereotypically
feminine. Although she doesn’t like to admit it, Charlotte
is uncomfortable with the idea of casual sex. For Charlotte,
sex should only be part of a committed relationship.
Charlotte sets the most boundaries with respect to her sex
life–how far she’s willing to go sexually has a direct
relation to how strong a commitment she receives from her
partner. Of course this did backfire on her–she made her
first husband wait until they were married before she would
have sex with him, and then discovered that he couldn’t.

INTIMACY WITHOUT SEX: “WILL & GRACE”

“Sex and the City” mainly focuses on sex. If we want to find
a model for an intimate relationship, we have to look to
another popular television show: “Will & Grace.” Will Truman
and Grace Adler share a tremendous amount of love, trust and
intimacy in their relationship. They validate and support
each other, and they share the kind of emotional connections
that most of us truly crave in our lives. Ironically, the
only reason that they manage to do this is that sex can
never be a part of their relationship, since Will is gay.
Women and gay men have always shared a special bond. In many
ways, relationships between women and gay men are the only
ones where we can experience true intimacy without involving
sex.

But sex and intimacy are still connected. The more intimate
we become with someone, the more important it will be that
we are able to express that intimacy through sex. Our
objective in our romantic relationships is to feel loved.
Ultimately, love involves a balance of sex and intimacy. But
for many of us, the choice seems to be either having
intimacy without sex, or sex without intimacy. We’ve all but
forgotten how to combine the two.

(Source)