Intimacy v. Sex

"We were intimate for the first time last night!"

One of your girlfriends excitedly shares this nugget of information over brunch and a few mimosas one day. Are you the kind of person who assumes intimacy means sex? Is it possible they opened up to each other emotionally without any physical contact?

Rather than assuming, let's look at the relationship between intimacy and sex and how they relate to pleasure, arousal, and desire. Oooh, la la!


What is the Difference Between Intimacy and Sex?

This is the million-dollar question, and the difference is way more straightforward than it seems at first glance. Sex is a physical act between yourself and another person or with yourself and yourself! Not all sex involves big passionate moments underneath a waterfall (thank you, Hollywood).

Ultimately, sex can be whatever you make of it, as long as it is consensual. Sexual activities often release feel-good endorphins and allow us to feel more connected to our partners and, most importantly, ourselves.

Psst, those endorphins do not only release when you have an orgasm—no need to put pressure on yourself. Enjoy yourself and chase the good feeling rather than the big finish! 

While intimacy is a common euphemism for sex, there are three different types:

  • Emotional intimacy: the feeling of closeness, sharing personal feelings, and giving validation. This type can exist between family members, friends, and romantic partners.
  • Physical intimacy: adds the layer of touch to feelings of closeness. This can be things like platonic hugs or cuddles.
  • Sexual intimacy: combines physical and sexual actions with trust and emotional closeness.


Sex without Intimacy

If you've ever had one night stand with a stranger, you've probably experienced sex without intimacy. It's all about the raw physicality, and while that doesn't mean that there isn't arousal and desire, intimacy and closeness usually take time to grow.

Sex without intimacy isn't a problem as long as all involved parties understand that that's the deal on the table. Emotions can get more than a little bruised if one person wants more than the other or is feeling unreciprocated feelings. Ouch!


Intimacy without Sex

What about the flip side of sex without intimacy? Can you have intimacy without sex? Absolutely and this doesn't have to be just in platonic relationships. Many couples may experience changes in sexual desire throughout long-term partnerships, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they have stopped being intimate with one another. Some ways to be intimate without sex are:


  • snuggling before bed
  • holding hands
  • taking an interest in the other person's day


Shop Runi for Better Sex

Runi is an intimate wellness company that celebrates pleasure as an essential component of human sexuality fundamental to overall health and wellbeing. We empower people to take ownership of their pleasure by cultivating a community of openness - providing innovative products that are fun, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use.