What is sex? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a physical activity that is related to and often includes sexual intercourse.” Clinically, I could argue that this definition often deters those who do not (or cannot) have intercourse from having “sex” or engaging in physical intimacy with their partners. For example, some women who experience pelvic pain often cannot engage in penetrative sex as it aggravates their condition, causing discomfort or even intense pain. The relationship between partners in these situations may be often fragile or estranged, and discussions regarding sex, if and when they happen, likely are volatile.
Quite often sexual disconnect results in the avoidance of a couple’s physical or intimate relationship altogether. So, how can we broaden our definition of sex to incorporate any form of physical touch that is desirable and makes us feel intimate or closer to our partners? When sexual contact is engaging and connects partners on an intimate level, it can be mutually pleasurable and enjoyable regardless of whether penetration occurs. Emotional closeness and desire for one another are the relationship building blocks used to strengthen the sexual bond between couples.
However, oftentimes couples facing sexual difficulties can disconnect and/or judge themselves and their sexual relationship because of standards set by Western culture and media. Sex in Western media continually and often distorts the reality of what many individuals are facing in their own lives. Distorted conceptions of sex contributes to shame, guilt, judgment and criticism of one’s self if one doesn’t feel that they can measure up to society’s expectations of what great sex is.
For the sake of your own health, focus on what makes you feel good and what you think helps you to feel close with your partner. If it brings a smile to your face, gets you excited and the end result is a good time had, then you’ve accomplished your goal. Sex is a journey that couples can experience when they define it in a way that helps to bring them together. So just keep in mind that you can have “sex” anyway you’d like to. It will be worth it!