Sex vs Lovemaking – Why Are we so Confused?

Submitted by: Big Little Wolf

Did you get lucky this week?

in_love_sexOr should I say, did you score? Did you hook up? Or are you more comfortable if I ask if you made love?

Whatever you call it, great sex is great sex, right? Not exactly? Then do our distinctions in terminology serve us, or complicate matters?

When it comes to sex and love, these days – everyone seems confused. I can’t help but wonder if the problem is an issue of language, at least in part, and an implicitly assigned value system we ascribe to the words we use. Are we living by a hierarchy of intimate encounters that we judge in their aftermath?

Rules, no matter what

When we’re young, any sexual contact is a “score” – and may also be a credential, an obstacle to overcome, a source of embarrassment, or an accomplishment. Good, bad or indifferent, sex is a constant preoccupation, and not just for the young.

 The caveats and exceptions to the rules of engagement? They are many, including socially acceptable age ranges, mutual consent, guidelines about power relationships (like boss-employee or teacher-student). There are cultural and religious boundaries that reserve intimacy for marriage, the taboos against incest, and the impossible-to-unravel stigmas and myths around older man-younger woman, and older woman-younger man.

All that aside, “doing it” is considered a rite of passage. And once beyond that barrier, a vast area of self and other opens, and the real exploration unfolds.

Scorecard or report card?

So returning to the essence of my original question – did you have sex this week, or did you make love?  And why is it that at age 30, “making love” may rate an A on the report card, but “having sex” – even if it was fantastic – only earns a B? What about relations after a long marriage, then divorce at 40 or 50? Will sex of any sort garner high marks from the friends, without further qualification? Do these assessments vary by gender?

It seems we all swim (consciously or not) in a constantly shifting pool of approval (or not), a sort of system of standards tied to demographics, personal history, life stage, or all of the above. Must we really assign judgment to our assorted encounters – or authority to the judgment of others?

Great sex is great sex

Some say yes to the carnal side of life. Period. The sexual aspects of any relationship – one night or a lifetime – are fundamental.

Some don’t ask these questions. Or they pose them later in life, when they sense something is missing.

Others qualify their musings on this topic; perhaps the diversity of sexual encounters before, during and after long-term relationships enable them to do so. Their journeys have taught many shades of sexual expression, something beyond a simplistic mention of compatibility, or a tally of partners, positions and orgasms.

Some experience sex without investment in emotion as good and part of the many ways sexuality plays out. Tenderness, intimacy, and shared comforts needn’t be banished from the bedroom because the word “love” isn’t spoken.

Lovemaking

The distinction between sex and lovemaking is vital to some men and women. They seek lovemaking – a fusion of body and spirit; they assume, or ascribe love to acts of lovemaking.

When we introduce truly splendid sex into the mix, do some of us confuse it with love? Do we then call it lovemaking, grade it with the long-awaited “A,” and hang on too tightly?

Must you be “in love” to “make love?”

Men, women and sexual energy

I suspect that men and women grow similar in our inclinations as we gain experience, capable of recognizing the differences between sex with emotion and sex without. But then we’re back to individual perception. To history. To personal needs. Yes, we love great sex – but great lovemaking? Does that remain the fine bottle of wine worth the wait? The holy grail, for some more than others?

  • What about sex as fun, or joyful exercise?
  • What about the fact that sex is a natural anti-depressant?
  • What about the way it energizes and fills us with a sense of being alive?

“Just sex”

“Just sex” is often the phrase reserved for the contrite cheating lover; it is dismissive and impersonal, rationalizing infidelity where fidelity is assumed. Sex is slotted into a compartment as a physical act, a bodily function. We place boundaries around it, separating it from lovemaking.

When we are honest with ourselves, isn’t “just sex” - sex? Enjoyable, mediocre, fabulous, empty, affirming, or whatever else any coupling might entail on a given day? Don’t we understand “just sex” quite well, especially if we’ve ever been married for a long period of time?

Eroticism

Where does eroticism slide into our sticky spectrum of sex to lovemaking? Does it fit somewhere along the scale we’ve devised – deserving of an A+ or extra credit? Does it exist in some other dimension altogether, veiled or tucked away beyond closed doors and discussion?

If eroticism involves the forbidden, the “little bit naughty” or something more, might it be as simple as sexy stilettos in bed? Is it the twists and turns of a supple body and a Tantric consciousness?

Is it role play for all participants, unusual locales, experimentation, games and toys, a provocative sharing of consensual attitudes and activities? Is it always about the thrill of pushing boundaries, even just a little?

When you move into realms of the erotic, the sexual magnetism of our partners may be heightened; encounters reverberate and replay in our minds, in our fantasies, and in our expectations and needs. We’ve journeyed to a new place in ourselves; we don’t want to lose sight of that landscape.

When the sex is extraordinary, must we convince ourselves it’s love? And why is love always tied to the A or the A+ in our assessment? Are we back to a socially-sanctioned hierarchy of sexual experience, in which the pinnacle is love?

Good is good, whatever you call it

Great sex may be soulful, imaginative, lighthearted, tender, unexpected, intense in sensation, and overflowing with emotion. It may also serve as a bridge to a deep place of self that longs for solace or celebration; we’ve experienced a loss or a win, and the connective tissue of shared emotion deepens the experience, even if only briefly. After all, our vulnerable selves are inside each other, joined, and we are quite literally not alone.

Why do we feel compelled to package, label, and channel sexual experiences into compartments? Do we manufacture love where it doesn’t exist in order to feel comfortable with splendid sex?

And if our hearts and lives are tenderly intertwined, whatever the assessment of our physical encounters,  are we not making love?

In this fusion, will there always be confusion?


© D A Wolf

These days, Big Little Wolf (”Ms. Big”) reflects on life and her Daily Plate of Crazy, where she writes essays on everything – sometimes serious, sometimes fun – whatever strikes her on a given day as interesting, unusual, entertaining, or of concern.

More Articles:

“Baby, This is Sex Not Love”

Sexual Adventure: Less Than a Bump & a Grind

G-Spot: A Gem of a Post-Divorce Discovery


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