Sex: How To Enhance Intimate Sexual Experiences

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What’s the connection between sex acts and intimacy? Trevor Adeline/Getty Image

Emotional intimacy can lead to better sexual experiences for many people, especially women.

Intimacy and sex are related but are not the same. It’s possible to have one without the other. Case in point: Today’s hookup culture separates physical relations from feelings of trust, acceptance, empathy and emotional connection, and mutual commitment.

For many people, especially women, intimacy can lead to better sexual experiences. A study published in American Sociological Review (1) found that heterosexual college women have orgasms more often in relationships than in hookups. Another study, in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2) in 2015, reported that “men are more likely than women to have dated and hooked up and less likely to have formed a long-term relationship, although they are more likely to wish there were more opportunities to form long-term relationships.”

“In this hookup culture, a lot of people get hurt, let down, and feel rejected. It’s not good,” says Barbara D. Bartlik, MD, a psychiatrist and sex therapist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

3 Ways Emotional Intimacy Makes Sex Better

1. When you know you are accepted and valued, you are more comfortable talking about your fantasies and what gives you pleasure.

“I am all for talking about sex. People think it’s like in the movies, where two people run together without saying a word and just immediately proceed to have mind-blowing sex. Good sex in the real world is not like that. If you can’t talk about it, how is your partner going to know what you want?” says Dr. Bartlik, who is also the coauthor of the book Integrative Sexual Health.

2. When you trust the other person, you are willing to take risks and expose vulnerabilities that can lead to new, enjoyable experiences. When your partner trusts you, they will reveal their inner thoughts and desires, which will make you more connected as a couple.

3. When you feel emotionally connected, you both can be your authentic selvesA meta-analysis published in January 2014 in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology (3) found that people with more open attitudes about sexual pleasure are able to explore their sexuality without guilt, which makes for more satisfying sex.

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