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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Intimacy and Where You Find, Experience and Cultivate It

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Author Topic: Intimacy and Where You Find, Experience and Cultivate It
Executive Director & Founder
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So, almost every day, we talk with someone here who has gotten the message that only sex can create big intimacy or only some -- sometimes even only one! -- kinds of sex can.

Hopefully, if you didn't know before you got here and hang out here at all, you already know that's not true. Hopefully you also know -- especially if you want to experience and grow intimacy -- that intimacy really isn't even about sex (of any kind) at all, even though sex (of any kind) can sometimes be one way or place where we can find, experience or cultivate intimacy. Same goes for relationships: intimacy isn't just something we can or do experience in sexual or romantic relationships. We can also experience it in every other kind of relationship, too.

In case some clarity is needed, intimacy, as a word, refers to an experience of closeness or deep connection in its simplest definition.

To pump up this conversation a bit, I thought it might be helpful if everyone could pitch in about what the topic says: about some ways you have experienced and cultivated intimacy in your life. It might be helpful for folks to see how many different ways people can experience or have experienced intimacy.

I'll start, to get us going:
• Sex any kind (just figured we'd get it out of the way as something general)
• Sharing part of my life history with someone I feel insecure, uncertain or not-great about
• Allowing someone to take care of me when I'm sick or taking care of someone else when they're sick
• Being a person someone feels safe crying with
• Having someone's back when they don't feel able to stand up for themselves
• Talking about things that are the most important to me in a very personal way
• Listening to someone when they really need to be heard, even if I really want to interject my own stuff
• Letting someone know when I feel really, really scared
• Sleeping in the same bed with someone
• Practicing music in front of someone when I know my practicing sounds crappy
• Having someone really want to share something they really geek out on with me, but think others find boring
• Helping someone, or being helped myself, through a big loss or disappointment

[ 01-25-2012, 10:18 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Executive Director & Founder
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Having anyone at all hang around me after serious dental surgery. Because let me tell you, if being in massive pain, drooling, facial swelling, being seen wearing bags of frozen peas on your face AND being loopy as anything on painkillers with someone else isn't about intimacy, heck if I know what is. [Razz]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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One thing that springs to mind immediately is letting someone read something I've written, or watch me dance. Both of those are really personal to me, so letting someone in on either of those things is a Big Deal.

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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I agree with some of Heather's ones.

*in some situations, hugging, holding hands
*giving and receiving massage
*holding someone who is dying
*comforting relatives of someone who has just died
*meditating with someone
*praying or religious chanting with someone, receiving a blessing from a monk together

Another experience of intimacy for me is when I come out to someone. Those words often bubble up from a place of fear, shame and grief so it's really important that whoever I tell can treat me and those feelings with care.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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For me, being honest with someone about my illness and sharing it with them, from little things (like talking about my restrictions or the meds I take) to big things (like doctor visits and hospitalizations, or my worries about my future). I often feel like my illness makes me vulnerable, so letting someone when it comes to that is a huge deal.

Another one is sharing things that are really important to me (movies, books, music, etc) - I feel like they reveal a lot about who I am and what matters to me, so it's a bit like sharing a deep secret. Same goes for when someone else does the same for me.

And to repeat one that Heather mentioned: sleeping in the same bed. That's also a huge expression of intimacy for me.

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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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One for me is being able to hug/ cuddle with someone when I get scared by something stupid in a movie and being able to keep doing it until I feel better.
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moonlight bouncing off water
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*holding hands
*staring deeply into someone's eyes
*sharing something deeply personal
*talking about the fact I worry way too much about things, especially when I tell that person what those things are
*telling someone I'm bisexual
*actually really expressing how I feel about religion and god (because most people freak out at me, so I only fully express myself about this when I can be sure I won't be made fun of or have someone tell me that I'll go to hell for not believing in god)
*talking about mental illness in my family (this one is huge one because of the stigma around it)
*letting someone know what makes me feel vulnerable


I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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I've always felt the most intimate with my partner while snuggling in bed, with our dogs and cats on top of us, while enjoying some good books that we will later exchange with each other.

Some others:
  • Watching the sunset/sunrise while camping, curled up in the same sleeping bag
  • Having someone tell me personal details about themselves, knowing they feel safe enough with me to reveal intimate things
  • Sharing my poetry with someone
  • Eskimo kisses
  • Having someone cut my hair

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Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise. - Grace Hopper

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bump on a log
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Yes to the dental surgery! When I was sixteen my mother had some done. I was supposed to be eighteen for them to release her to me at home, but there was nobody else, so they let my age go. I came home and she was half asleep sitting up in bed with bloody cotton wool in her mouth. I sat down next to her and she grunted and leaned on me and promptly went to sleep and slept for ages while my arm and shoulder slowly went numb... I felt privileged.

Another time I was hanging out with a friend watching movies on his computer and we fell asleep propped against the wall side by side. The same friend used me as a pillow when jetlagged on another occasion. Something about sleeping and how vulnerable it makes you.

I was once in church with that same friend and when it got to "Let us offer one another the sign of peace", we shook hands and said "Kristi frid", as you do, and gave one another a special smile that said, Hi, we're friends, not strangers like the rest here. (For what it's worth, I am, in the illustrious company of Pasolini, an atheist with a nostalgia for belief.)

Telling people things. My other close friend confides very personal stuff in me. For me, if I tell someone about a film or book that is special to me or play a piece of music I love for them, that is one of the biggest demonstrations of love and trust I can give, because I am a very private person.

On the other hand, for Friend 1, the one I was just talking about with the sleeping thing, it's not sharing confidences that marks intimacy, but being able to relax and goof off and chat with me online for a while and then stop and do something else without my being offended, because he's free to come and go as he likes and I will welcome him whenever he turns up, he doesn't have to stand on ceremony.

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Saffron Raymie
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The second you realise that the other person passionately cares about what you care about. They get it. They don't argue. They understand. Then your hearts open up and the secrets are sprinkled all around you both. Stuff you can't talk about day-to-day; maybe even ever.

It can be amazing if they've been there too. You don't have to have any kind of relationship with them.

Like, when you go see your favourite band live, and you don't know anyone there, and then all of a sudden the band does something different in a song - some kind of addition you've never heard before. You look at the person next to you, and their eyes are shining, your eyes are shining; and you share a moment.

Before the gig, we were all quietly waiting in line, not talking, texting other people, being impatient. After the gig, we all ran out squealing and jumped in the water fountain together because of the coloured lights - literally the entire audience of the arena, dancing and singing like we'd all been friends for years.

Or when you're whole internet community ends up in the same place for an event, and you're all so awkward and shy without the net - nobody talks. Then someone mutters a shared joke from a forum and suddenly it's like you don't even need to be shy - why did we even think we did?

Or like when you get to see a very special person you only know from the internet who you've been waiting to me meet for ages, and so has another person you've never seen before - and when the special person arrives you squeal and giggle and hold hands.

Or when you see somebody sitting and crying in the street and you go over and hold them and hear them out, and they look up at you for a sec and say 'oh gosh, you're only a little 'un as well!' and you know that you matter to them.

Or when you're at a protest, holding hands with others who feel like you do. When the person next to you updates you on what you care about, simply because they get it. No small talk. No introductions. Just a collective spirit.

[ 01-25-2012, 06:36 AM: Message edited by: Seashie Ray ]

'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Sharing trust (note: not "tryst" - I mean "trust" with a "u" [Wink] ) and having it respected and honoured time after time.

Basically, trusting someone and knowing they won't break it. [Smile]

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*someone telling me about something that they really care about, are passionate about, or believe in
*someone, or me, saying what they believe is right, against a wrong, and receiving support from me, or others
*someone revealing a vulnerability to me, telling me they're afraid, sad or hurt
*touching someone's face
*accepting someone, or receiving acceptance, where it wasn't really expected
*sharing very personal stories, information or feelings with someone
*when my partner says my name, because of the affection, care and respect that sounds in it
*when my partner and I are very affectionate in a very silly way, in person or over Skype cameras; when other people are around, a very small, subtle gesture can reference this particular thing, and we both grin at each other

Regarding sex or sexual intimacy, I find that it's very, very dependent on the whole context and the existing relationship. For sex to feel intimate for me, it needs to feel like I can enjoy and explore their body and they mine, and that we both want to find out what the other person likes. It has to be about the person, the meeting of people, rather than about the sex. I've had intercourse that didn't meet that description, and it didn't feel intimate at all. 1 minute after, I felt the same as if I'd walked to the shop to buy a newspaper; that so did not meet my need for physical intimacy. I've had clothed (sexual) hugs, touched on the arm or back, that felt much more intimate and were much more rewarding.

The most intimate touch I've ever experienced wasn't what a lot of people would call "sex". I'd built up a very intimate email connection with someone, where we wrote honestly, openly and respectfully about a lot of the things that were most meaningful to us. The third time we met in person, I already knew this person was hugely important to me. We'd already hugged and kissed. We were sitting together, and they put their finger very deliberately on my arm, and then on my bare shoulder, gently, slightly and very slowly moving my strap over. That touch made my whole body shiver and completely overwhelmed my mind. In intensity and intimacy, it outstripped hundred-fold any and all sexual contact I'd had with anyone else (not that it was lacking there, either). It was so much of a big deal to both of us, so deliberate and meaningful, that it Felt like that much of a big deal.

The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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I'd have to say a few for me are:

*Being able to joke around with the person and smile, because around most people I become nervous to show my fun-loving side.

*Letting people see what I write, and listen to me sing. (someone wrote something similar above [Smile] )

*Hugging/Cuddling. I personally get nervous to hug people, but once I do I can't get enough of it. You could ask my one sister about this, we are good friends and we cuddle a lot [Big Grin] !

*Listening to people. I surprisingly get a bunch of my friends looking for my help and advice.. I do give them support and just open my ears and let them tell me what they need too. Then I sometimes give my input, but honestly all they needed was someone to listen to them [Smile] After this, most of them are there for me in return, I can then open up to them.

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