When I think of people I know who aren’t experiencing sex (or intimacy of any kind) in a healthy, committed way, I see insecurity. It’s sad, really. I want people to be secure in who they are and in who their with and I want that security to come from a really healthy space, one that doesn’t clutter their world with more baggage. And that’s what happens outside of healthy commitment.
Now here’s an expanded version of the positive in addition to the negative consequences.
1. Intimacy increases/decreases
Intimacy is related to privacy which is why we’re not intimate with everyone we meet. We’re not interested in everyone knowing everything about us. That’s normal, healthy behavior and it doesn’t mean you’re not being vulnerable (something that’s’ quite healthy, also). Vulnerability is another topic for another week.
We need privacy. We need for people not to know us physically in a random manner. This level of knowing, of revealing, makes us more vulnerable to STDs and parenthood that we aren’t mature enough to commit to (old news, I’m sure.) In time, it also reduces what was private. We should be fighting harder for sexual privacy (as in not sharing who we are so freely) than we do for privacy from the government.
And as what was private becomes public, intimacy decreases. The mystery is gone. The depth is lost. And it’s likely that we’ll become less trusting.
2. Trust increases/decreases
Building trust is something we need and want to be able to do. Like privacy, it’s normal and healthy. When you lack sexual privacy, you make yourself and the people you’re allowing to know you sexually, less capable of being able to identify people who are filled with integrity and want the best for you sexually. Sexual “freedom” perpetuates skepticism about the world because the more sex you have with different people, the more you expose yourself to people who don’t actually care for you sexually or otherwise. These are people who aren’t interested in you, personally, before they’re interested in you sexually. That opens you up to more hurt, to more sexual frustration. People have different sexual expectations so if you’re always looking for sexual pleasure, you’re going to experience disappointment which will lead to frustration–in yourself (feeling you’re not performing well) in others (because you don’t think your sexual partners are performing well). You will increasing feel as though they’re selfish because they’re not trying to do more for you and the feeling will be mutual. This frustration yields more distrust.
This doesn’t mean that all you need is to say you’re in a committed relationship so, therefore, you can start having sex. This also doesn’t mean that just because a couple is married means they should be having sex, either. In an age where commitment in marriage is waining, the key is commitment. And it’s one of the keys to sexual openness. Committing to someone is much more than saying we love each other. It’s committing to growing together and if you’re committed to growing with someone then you’re committing to understanding who they are, how you fit into that picture and how you can commit to helping them experience not just sexual fulfillment but fulfillment in every other area of life.
So yes, there’s this privacy clause that’s part of having sex and if you open yourself up and allow yourself to experience the lack of privacy, then you’re allowing yourself to experience the lack of trust, the lack of safety.
So let’s talk more about safety by talking about commitment.
3. Commitment increases/decreases
Commitment is always for a period of time. Your job may send you oversees for 2 years. That’s a form of commitment. Another form could be some sort of topical small group gathering that lasts for 6 weeks.
Friendship* is similar except that we don’t go into any relationship thinking that it’ll only last a certain amount of weeks or months or years. We unconsciously think lifetime, permanent not temporary. Temporary friendships are typically caused by a breakdown in trust and we experience frustration/hurt/sadness when that happens…unless we’re so emotionally broken that we’re able to seemingly distance ourselves from it all.
If this is the way we are naturally–inclined to want something that stays–then when we think about committing to someone sexually, why don’t we think permanently? Whether you want to call that marriage or partnership, there is this real aspect of being together permanently.
Commitment is deep, it’s hard, it’s layered. It’s wonderful to know when you have a committed relationship, to know that even when you’re a jerk, you’re going to work through stuff. That’s huge like an orgasm. An orgasm is no simple thing. You shouldn’t be sharing that mystifying act with everyone.
There’s another negative consequence related to sex and commitment. Having sex can also cause you to commit to someone you shouldn’t commit to. Many people have become “free” with their sexuality and have allowed themselves to move from one partner to the next. But there are others who still believe in commitment and as a result of having sex with that person, they start believing that they should commit. That’s normal, it’s healthy. Except that the person you feel you should commit to isn’t necessarily the person you should commit to.
Whatever we believe, we want to commit to something. We don’t like committing to something we can’t be proud of, something we’re only 40% convinced about. So with a human being, with friendships, we’re not going to grow with someone who we only like spending 40% of our energy on. Sex has a way of connecting people and if we’re not wiling to recognize that for what it is, to surrender to what that is, then we’re prone to experience a lot of pain and cause others a lot of pain also. Sooner or later you realize the person, outside of the sex that could be great, isn’t what you want. But the guilt that’s grown (which you could say is the consequence of a particular faith upbringing but I’d argue is there in spite of that) is not what you want to experience.
There’s intimacy, this opening up of a private space by partaking in a very private act. There’s trust that deepens as intimacy is shared repeatedly. And there’s commitment, the desire to stay together, to grow together. They are all good consequences of sexual activity but outside of an already committed space, one that says, “I’m here for you even if we can never have sex” these consequences turn negative and it takes a while to heal from the damage they cause.
To have sex is not simply to have sex…no matter what kind of sex it is.
*By friendship, I mean friendship, not acquaintanceship. Wikipedia spells it out more clearly.