Ericka Hart, M.Ed.
Sex educator, Racial/social/gender/justice educator, Writer, and Model
This is a great question! As a sex educator, people often come to me thinking that sex is the ultimate goal. People are right to assume that the foundation of my work is centered around sex, but a big misinterpretation is that does not mean the act of sex is centered. There are a plethora of topics under the sex education umbrella and one of them is intimacy. The media has derailed the true meaning of intimacy by linking it to a means to have sex. One of the first discussions in my classrooms is that intimacy never has to be sexual. Intimacy is the act of sharing time, space and connection with one other person or group of people.
This means there are so many forms of intimacy that are not sexual. One that I think is often overlooked is getting to know someone. In order to get to know someone on a deeper level, trust is required. Intimacy and trust go hand in hand because if someone does not feel safe enough to share their life, they will not share and intimacy will not be established.
Being let into someone else’s world inevitably will bring you closer to that person or people.
Generally speaking, people will take their time to open up and share aspects of their lives, but when they do it opens the door to a deeper connection. When you know more about a person, you can express care, love and thoughtfulness based on how they want to receive intimacy rather than what you think is best. There are a few things you can do to spark conversation and connection ranging from least to most physical:
- Make a meal together: Cooking provides an opportunity for collaboration and connection. Cooking together can make you feel connected by sharing likes and dislikes with food, an opportunity to make each other laugh and work together towards a common goal. Cooking also takes patience and is great practice for decision making, as you have to figure out what you will make and where it will happen.
- Share an activity: Inviting your friend or partner to share in an activity that you enjoy is another great way to establish intimacy. Sharing something you love to do with another person requires vulnerability as they are going to witness you participating in the sport/hobby/activity. You will likely have to explain the rules or how things work if they have never participated and also work with them to understand how it works. For example, if you love knitting, you can share why you love knitting and explain how to make a certain stitch. Seeing someone take interest in your interests is a lovely way to feel closer to someone.
- Go for a walk: Being outside is already great for your mental and emotional health, doing so with a partner(s) or a friend will only increase serotonin levels. If you are both comfortable, try holding hands (maybe not the whole time as palms get sweaty lol). This is a great way to be out in nature while also talking about whatever topic under the sun.
- Cuddle: Another activity is cuddling, cuddling is also linked with being a form of foreplay but it doesn't have to be that at all. Cuddling is a great way to address skin hunger, a longing sensation typical for so many people to experience when they have not been touched in a very long time. You can set a literal timer, cuddle for the duration of a movie or just until someone has other plans.
Sexual intimacy isn’t a prerequisite for a meaningful relationship because its not foundational to what is necessary to have a meaningful relationship. What creates a meaningful relationship is trust, vulnerability and connection, these principles can be present in any relationship, not just sexual relationships.