The Fallacy of American Sexual Mythology: Intimacy and Sex

When I was in high school, one of the sexual myths that was poured into my pliable young brain during those awkward sex ed classes was the following axiom:

Women use sex to attain intimacy, and men use intimacy to attain sex.

It was something that we took on blind faith, and rather than analyzing the underlying gender dynamics, we took it as truth. Later in life, when I became a woman who made her own fully informed sexual decisions, it was always under the specter of knowing that intimacy and sex were two dynamics that men and women played at odds with each other. At first, I thought I would be ahead of the curve if I didn’t use sex to attain intimacy but, rather, used sex as the end all be all of my sexual encounters. I figured men would appreciate that: if we remove intimacy from the equation all together, than it’s a win-win for everybody. However, after doing that once or twice, I came to the logical conclusion that, in fact, the above axiom was an oversimplification of arbitrary gender roles that were assumed within a patriarchal society and forced onto different genders in order to maintain the current status quo.

To say that women use sex to attain intimacy is to presuppose that women use sex as a tool to attain something greater than sex itself. While this isn’t an inherently fallacious sentiment, to necessarily state that what they are attaining is emotional intimacy isn’t always true. Women use sex to attain all sorts of things, including validation, attention, sexual pleasure, revenge, power, control, money, new cars, new shoes and babies. Also, women can use sex as a means to having sex, as well. To assume that all women attach an emotional price on their sexual activities is to deny the emotional depth and cunning that women possess; sure, craving intimacy is a very human thing, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

On the other hand, to say that men use intimacy to attain sex likewise underestimates the emotional capacity of men. As a feminist, it’s always shocking to see sexual social standards that harm not only women but also men, because to reduce man to a fucking machine is to rob him of his capacity to crave intimacy as something that is in and of itself beneficial. Men dehumanize themselves by being complicit in the myth that sex is the end all, be all of the male ego because that in turn allows women to treat men merely as tools of their own sexuality. And, as someone who has treated men like that, let me tell you: they do not like that. Men are equally as capable of falling in love, of catching feelings, of wanting a future, of wanting marriage, of wanting something long lasting and intimate out of their relationships as women are.

Statements such as the above reduce men and women to an erroneous and ignorant level of humanity. While it is true that some people might fall accurately within that oversimplification of their gender roles, to assume that men use intimacy to gain sex and women use sex to gain intimacy as a precedent of the fundamental sexual nature of humanity is wrong. Rather, that axiom reinforces gender roles that are beneficial within a patriarchal society because to keep women separate from their sexuality is to keep them in darkness, and within that darkness women are more easily controlled. Reinforcing the idea that women fear sex or do not want it prevents a woman from truly knowing herself; on the other hand, to shame a woman who fully explores her sexuality as a method for self knowledge ensures that women who express their sexuality do so in fear.

To denigrate the emotional nature of women is to keep them as secondary creatures, and to elevate the sexual nature of man as superior to woman only props up a failing visage of masculinity. The virility that American masculinity presupposes every man possesses is not an accurate depiction of what American male sexuality truly looks like. Few and far between are the men who must fuck like dogs in order to be fulfilled, yet our society finds these men and lauds them as the icons of masculinity. Yet to maintain the visage of masculinity as a constant fucker oppresses men as well because how many men who adopt this lifestyle long term are truly happy?

The fact of the matter is, the delineation between people who fuck to be close to people those who get close to people in order to fuck doesn’t necessarily fall along gender lines. Creating this schism is arbitrary and divisive because it creates a gender confusion that the majority of people cannot relate to but try to attain; and in trying to attain this gender normalcy, they only avoid expressing their true sexualities and attaining any simulacrum of sexual happiness. While sex and intimacy can overlap in certain realms, and while sex and intimacy can exist completely unrelated, the point of this essay isn’t to necessarily examine the coexistence of intimacy and sex but rather to state that the relationship between intimacy and sex doesn’t diverge precisely along gender lines. Rather, it is up to you to decide how your sexual experiences and your intimacy with your partners coexist and to remember that sex and intimacy are things that we are constantly learning more about, and our attitudes towards them change accordingly.