“I don’t get it! What did I do wrong?!”
My sister’s words still ring in my ears as I type this.
We’ve all done it at least once in our lives. Maybe women more so than men, maybe some more so than others…but it happens. No, it’s never pretty once we’re finally out of it and looking back in shame. Yes, it’s just another one of those things you have to go through and fuck up in order to learn. And I’m not talking about college orgies on acid either. I’m referring to the times when we get emotionally clingy with somebody immediately after sleeping with them. Oh yeah…I went there.
To me, this unintentional (sometimes irritating and embarrassing) chain reaction can best be explained by calling for distinct definitions between emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy, both of which get completely confused when it comes to copulating.
Dr. Cheryl Macdonald describes sexual intimacy as, “the physical contact of all forms with another person,” in her article How To Achieve Intimacy. It involves the body’s biological reaction to and connection with another. Basically, it’s everything that comes along with the actual act of fornication.
Emotional intimacy, on the other hand, is defined on selfgrowth.com as such:
…a psychological event that occurs when the trust level and communication between two people is such that it fosters the mutual sharing of each others innermost selves. It is unbridled mutual self-disclosure.
In other words, it can be referred to as the reciprocal connection and exchange of deep genuine feelings (primary emotions such as hurt, fear, excitement, loss) with another. It comes with trust, vulnerability, and the insatiable need to cuddle.
The confusion lies in the vulnerability and the bearing of it in both: Emotional intimacy requires the bearing of your innermost hopes and fears; sexual intimacy requires the bearing of your bare ass. And in bearing those sweet cheeks, women are known to release oxytocin thereafter, the infamous “cuddle hormone.” According to researchers Barry R. Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple in their 2004 study of brain activation during vagino-cervical self-stimulation and orgasm in women with complete spinal cord injury, oxytocin is secreted into the body of women in response to either stimulation of the breast and nipples or cervical and vaginal walls. It’s also known to be released in systemic circulation during orgasm for both men and women. In their article Will Orgasms Keep You In Love?, Marnia Robinson & Gary Wilson go on to further state that oxytocin levels are at their highest level in the body during sexual climax. Basically, this little culprit is known to arouse a physical need to hold onto another, whether breastfeeding or boning, and more so during the latter.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Well, if ya ask me, I blame it on the cuddling.
It’s an act that we’re taught to perceive as intimate, connected, and meaningful more so in an emotional sense than in a sexual one. I said earlier that women may be more inclined to be clingy after sex than men, but if anything it would only be because they are the ones releasing this hormone more typically. The truth is, men are just as guilty due to the ill-conceived notions that we all have when it comes to viewing how we (or how we think we should) feel about the people we fuck.
When it comes to having sex with somebody before establishing a solid emotional connection, people far too often confuse the physical, sexual attraction and connection with the intimacy you find in the sharing of deeply imbedded emotions. Plenty of people go as far as replacing an emotional connection to their partner with sex.
I remember the first time I personally felt an actual divide between the two in my own sex life. I was lying in bed after hours of red-hot, uninhibited passionate sex with a man I’d met and spoken with maybe twice. As I lied in his arms, he began talking about his job and the undeniably boring details of it. With our fingers interlaced and my face nuzzled against his chest, it suddenly and finally hit me: I could give two shits about anything this guy has to say…or about this guy altogether!
In the past, I would normally sleep with a man and immediately test the sound of my first name with his last, picture what our children would look like, and how my parents would react when they met him. Honest to God, within minutes after we’d cum. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one guilty of it either (or at least I fucking hope not). Sure enough though, soon after, I’d be sitting with my heart in my hand wondering “WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?! I THOUGHT HE LIKED ME!!!!!” much like my sister.
The point is that, while the two tend to go hand-in-hand, emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy are two completely different things that are all too often confused as one. Next time you find yourself a lot more into somebody you’ve had physical relations with, try to think of this simple statement: You don’t have to love everybody you fuck, just like you don’t have to fuck everybody you love (think of mom and dad…eww, right?).
Let yourself off the hook. You weren’t really into them anyway.
Komisaruk, B. R. & Whipple, B. (2004). Functional MRI of the Brain During Orgasm In Women. Newark: NJ