Why the phrase "sexual intercourse" is no longer useful
I often hear people equate “sexual intercourse” with “intimate relationship.” Such as: “Oh you teach people how to have healthy intimate relationships? Do you have sexual intercourse with your clients?” … It makes my head spin. What? Why is this such a common question? Perhaps because that is our history. That is our domestication.
Somewhere around 1900, Sigmund Freud concluded that heterosexual intercourse was the only healthy, acceptable form of sexual expression for women.
In the Mad Men days of the 1960’s, Masters and Johnson created a huge stir when they had the audacity to map out the physical sexual act. Their map was one single peak on a chart which represented the ejaculation. “Foreplay” + ejaculation + refractory period = sex.
Even then, many people were apparently unable to say the word "sex" so the euphemism for "sex" became “intimacy." If you’ve seen Mad Men, think about the social structures of the day. “Intimate relationship” back then involved very little talking. It was about making a few awkward moves and then getting married and considering the relationship complete. There wasn’t much information about the subject of intimate relationship. Thus, "sexual intercourse" became the very definition of “intimate relationship.”
After Masters and Johnson, all sex therapy organized around the act of sexual intercourse, with all sexual “problems” neatly labeled in the bible of psychology, the DSM, in categories such as “premature ejaculation,” “erectile dysfunction,” “anorgasmia” and other phrases for “your penis or vagina is broken" and once we fix that, you will be a perfectly functioning sexual being.
"Vaginal intercourse is ... what people imagine when they think sex," concluded the 1994 Sex in America: A Definitive Survey. Even dictionary.com defines "sex" as "sexual intercourse," AND "intimacy" as "sexual intercourse."
So here we are in 2018 living under these same 50-year old constructs. We still say "sex therapy" and mean "fix you so you can have sexual intercourse with the goal of ejaculation." We still say "sexual dysfunction" and mean "your penis or vagina is broken because it can't have sexual intercourse with the goal of ejaculation." Even "intimacy problem" often means "your penis or vagina is broken because it can't have sexual intercourse with the goal of ejaculation."
It's time to let all of that rest in peace.
It's not neutral. It's harmful.
Here is why the concept of “sexual intercourse” is dead:
- Leaves out the evolution of our species. The future of our children depends on it. Our species has an opportunity to evolve rather than devolve. Mad Men relationships are not enough anymore. As we evolve, relationships have the potential to become wondrous, fulfilling, multi-dimensional works of art. Sexual expression has about 7 billion different possibilities. Each of us has a variety of beautiful ways we express our sexuality. We will evolve by encouraging the full range of authentic and creative sexual expression.
- Leaves out the juicy part. Mainstream porn watchers, if you are bored it’s because what you are watching is boring. The act of sexual intercourse is simply preparing for penetration, penetration, and rolling over afterwards … a predictable and unfulfilling sequence. It leaves out the entire universe of sexual energy, authentic arousal, desire, curiosity, experimentation, exploration, Planet Pleasure. Planet Pleasure is a place where time seems to stop and the rest of the universe seems to melt away because every cell in your body is engulfed in pleasure. Time spent there literally evolves our consciousness.
- Leaves out the whole body. Neither my sex, nor my intimate relationships, are restricted to my crotch. "Sexual intercourse" reduces my entire sexuality to my vagina. It leaves out all of my other body parts which love to be included in my sexual pleasure. Even my genitals and erogenous zones extend way beyond my vagina.
- Leaves out multiple orgasms. The concept of sexual intercourse leaves both people gunning for one goal: “orgasm” which in the old model is defined as an ejaculation for male bodies and a clitoral orgasm for female bodies. A sadly limited concept of pleasure. Back in the day when sexual intercourse was charted and graphed, not many people in the Western world spoke out loud about multiple orgasms. Today, readily available resources teach multiple orgasms for all genders. (For male bodies, I recommend the book The Multiorgasmic Male. For female bodies, I recommend the Anatomy of Female Arousal). Why would we deny ourselves access to the wonders of Planet Pleasure by following the narrow “sexual intercourse” script which is over after a single male ejaculation?
- Leaves out gender freedom. The gender binary is no longer inclusive. All genders have a right to enjoy full sexual expression. The concept of sexual intercourse is tied to one female body having sex with one male body. It still works. But it certainly does not include how a lot of people are having sex these days.
- Stifles communication. The concept of sexual intercourse has shackled us. It stifles communication by taking away creative exploration when we discuss a sexual encounter. If everyone assumes that “sexual intercourse = sex” then if I ask if you want to have sex, you might assume I mean sexual intercourse and there would be nothing more to discuss. This lack of creative, honest conversation about what we both really want means we are both engaging in an old fashioned script on auto pilot, whether or not it is what either of us want. This lack of honest conversation doesn’t leave room for the deeper, juicier conversations that begin to create true intimacy.
- Negates consent. We can’t have consent without communication. The lack of honest communication leads to unwanted touch, hurt feelings, trauma and re-traumatization. The narrow script relegates consent to “yes” or “no” rather than “who are you today?” We see how deficient that is in the #metoo age. Even “sexual intercourse” is an unclear term - does it refer to all penetration? To all orifices? Without a broader conversation, we don’t get a chance to say "yes" or "no" to any specific activity. We aren't giving ourselves the space to be authentic.
- Shames almost everyone. The concept of "sexual intercourse = sex" shames, devalues and diminishes almost all human sexual desire. A small percentage of human sexual desire is restricted to “normative sexual intercourse” - two people, different genders, one body part inside another. "Sexual intercourse = sex" leaves most of us feeling broken because our desire is so much more diverse. In reality, our desire is natural and beautiful.
- Leaves out inspired fertility. Even baby making has evolved. The act of creating human life is now scientifically proven to be an energetic act. I would rather my child not be created out of “sexual intercourse” where maybe I had an orgasm or maybe I didn’t. I would prefer my child be created during an energized, prolonged, bonding connection on Planet Pleasure where time seems to stop and the rest of the universe seems to melt away because every cell in my body is engulfed in pleasure.
- Leaves out bubble baths :)
You are hereby invited to evolve beyond the limited and harmful concept of sexual intercourse. You are invited, instead, to enjoy Planet Pleasure. A place where all of your sexual expression is welcome and celebrated. Where your whole body matters and all of your amazing pleasure zones are available for exploration. All gender expressions are honored and cherished. You are invited to honest communication and clear consent, which allow for long, intense vacations on Planet Pleasure. And if you choose to create new human life, you are invited to do so in a molten abyss of deeply bonding abundant pleasure, adoration, authentic expression and love.
Goodbye "sexual intercourse." It's time to expand our concepts. May you rest in peace.