Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education. -Bertrand Russell
Question #91492 posted on 07/11/2018 2:30 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

A person giving a lesson in RS week just posted on our ward page that we are talking about "human intimacy". After a second I figured out she is talking about sex. I didn't really grow up in an LDS context. Two questions.

One: How do I stop my head from exploding during her lesson every time someone uses "intimacy" as a euphemism for sex? This is probably my biggest Mormon culture pet peeve because "intimacy" is so overused that intimacy is rarely used in its other contexts. This feels unfair because there are plenty of better ways to refer to sex and intimacy doesn't really have any good synonyms. Also, I feel like this usage hints at an oversexualization of emotional closeness in general (you know, "NEVER BE FRIENDS WITH SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX OR YOU WILL BE INTIMATE...").

Two: Can you think of any other synonym for intimacy other than "emotional closeness"?

-Grumpy

A:

Grumpy,

One: It does annoy me. But I tend to be much more gentle when I post things online. They will be there a long time. A whole range of people will see it. I get it. But I really hope the lesson doesn't get taught that way. 

Effective lessons on this subject use the intimacy as broadly as you've described. You can try and catalogue different kinds of intimacy. But it would suck to have to specify all the time. I guess it may already be necessary. Non-sexual physical intimacy(ex. cuddling), platonic intimacy, romantic intimacy, and family intimacy are the first that come to mind. 

I have no problem talking directly about sex. But I would hate for "intimacy" to take on any stigma because it describes an aspect of partnership that is related to sex, but not limited to it. I think that's what you're saying but I just wanted to clear that up. 

Maybe a good way to keep your head from exploding, and yourself from stigmatizing a very helpful and encompassing word-- just fill in your understanding of the word intimacy whenever you hear it. She might be using it synonymously for sex. But maybe she means it the way you do. You can get by if you assume that's the case for most usages.

There will be some usages that you can't really fill in for her. Like if she said "make sure to use protection when you're being intimate." But if she says something like "intimacy between married partners is a beautiful part of God's plan." Go ahead and think about how sacred and honest pillow-talk can be.

I hope I'm making sense. It's super late and I'm doped up on caffeine.

tldr: apply your definition of the word when you hear someone else use it. Even if you dont think that's how they meant it. I have actually learned a LOT and received a lot of revelation this way with other words and concepts. 

Two: A synonym for "intimacy" huh? I honestly can't think of anything that implies the same physical and emotional closeness, belonging, mutual trust, safety, or commitment.

When I hear the word "intimate" I think of moments of absolute honesty and truth, when I was so close to a person that the truths almost bore themselves. In a very C.S Lewis way, the need just flowed out of me and it wasn't mine anymore.

I think of phrases that sound better quiet like "please stay," "are you awake?", and "amen." Or the countless times I shared a twin bed with my best friend. Or the last time when I told her I was sorry I couldn't come to her when her dad died.

"Affection" misses all of the gritty truth being shared. "Vulnerability" misses the part when someone catches you and needs you too. "Attachment" gets some of the commitment and permenance but doesn't reach the benefit, the wholeness, of intimacy. 

Intimacy is what happens when people reveal themselves, see each other clearly, and give of themselves to each other. I mean that to be entirely suggestive. But also true of all intimate relationships be they platonic, familial, or even a whole group of friends. 

Thank you for asking this question! I had no idea this word meant so much to me until I had to sit down and really think about all it implies. 

I think we both just need to keep exploring this word. It's a very good word. Don't shy away from using it the way you understand it. I have used it to describe very platonic relationships and was generally understood because of context. Trust that people will be mature when they hear you say it and understand your meaning.

Babalugats