How to have sex without fucking, being fucked, or making love

And why it even matters


I am fortunate to enjoy a healthy sex life and a positive relationship with my own sexuality. I like myself and my body, am comfortable in my own skin, at ease with my pleasure, and care about my partner’s. And that’s like 99% of all it takes. In short, I enjoy sex.

But earlier this year, I “broke” sex for myself. For a brief time, I didn’t know “how” to approach sex anymore.


Back in April, I was doing some serious reading around healthy relationships — not “self help” books (which, as we know, are largely useless garbage), but the heavier-hitters of philosophy and spirituality.

In particular, I wanted to know what is — and isn’t — heathy love. And I learned that:

Healthy love largely hinges on where we gain our self-esteem, and whether it’s through ourselves or the subjugation of others.

I also learned that it is impossible for us to love and subjugate simultaneously.

In The Heart of the Soul, Zukav and Francis write,

“Intimacy and the pursuit of external power — the ability to manipulate and control — are incompatible.”

In all about love bell hooks writes,

“We cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist.”

In The Will to Change she adds,

“Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion.”

In How Can I Get Through to You? Terrence Real writes,

“Sustaining relationships with others requires a good relationship with ourselves… [and] healthy self-esteem means being neither one up nor own down.”

Similarly, the Dalai Lama says, of selfless love:

“It is not a question of neglecting oneself for others’ benefit. In fact, when you benefit others, you benefit yourself because of the principle of interdependence…

The greatest and highest love… benefits the recipient as well as the person who gives love, since we are all connected and interdependent.”

And the thing is:

If this is true for the relationship overall, it also has to be true for sex.

If love can’t exist with feelings of selfishness and subjugation in general, then we also can’t care about our partners while subjugating — or allowing ourselves to be subjugated by — them in the bedroom.

Healthy sex matters because healthy relationships matter

This is the same person.

But I realized that if we do not care about and respect each other in bed, when we are at our most intimate, then we do not care about and respect each other at all. If we are selfish with each other when we are both at our most vulnerable, then we are selfish in our love overall.

And that’s how I hit a wall and couldn’t enjoy sex anymore.

I mean, how are you supposed to feel if you love yourself but get off to being dominated? How are you supposed to feel if you also love your partner but get off to dominating them?

I didn’t know how to approach it, what to think, what mindset to get into, how to do it.

Conventional Ways to Have Sex

There are only so many types sex, and at their core most of our approaches to it are “fucking” — some variation of domination vs. dominated.

In a heteronormative couple, it’s typically “man as dominant,” with the dude actively “fucking” while the woman is passively “fucked.” This the most common model we see and subscribe to, from daytime television to film to porn to our real lives.

There is, of course, also “woman as dominant” (with the dude in a passive or “service” position) with a whole slew of themes around this.

Then there’s reproduction — a purely biological model of procreation. You can even play around with this as a model, and there are tons of fetishes for it.

Then there’s love-making.

But if you take away “fucking,” aren’t interested in reproduction and don’t yet have the upper-echelon of love-making, then… what’s even left?

I felt like Gigi from He’s Just Not That Into You:

Gigi: So what now I’m just supposed to run from every guy who doesn’t like me?
Alex: Uh. Yeah!
Gigi: There’s not gonna be anybody left.

There won’t be any more sex. How do we even approach it from here?

And then we must ask the same questions of the relationship overall, because it’s all the same thing:

Is there such a thing as a truly equal relationship? Can we exist happily in that ambiguity?

Is there such a thing as truly equal sex? How do we care for each other if we don’t want to use each other for own pleasure, but we don’t yet love each other?

Healthy sex

Looks exactly like healthy love.

We do not go into sex simply looking to use our partner to meet our own needs. We do not use sex as an arena to boost our self esteem. We do not subjugate, dominate, coerce, manipulate, control, hurt or abuse. We don’t use sex to appease or negotiate or power-play. Not even if we both do it and “balance it out.” Because each time we are selfish in sex we undermine love, and each time is one more tiny cut among countless invisible wounds.

Instead, we enter with in-tact self-esteem. We go in wanting to give, not take — and not at the cost of our own self-worth, but in alignment with it.

The Dalai Lama actually addresses the question of “how to approach sex,” saying that our highest hope for sex is its potential as a “spiritual path,”

“[Sexual intercourse] causes a strong focusing of consciousness if the practitioner has firm compassion and wisdom. Its purpose is to manifest and prolong the deeper levels of mind.”

And honestly, because that can sound a little heady to just jump into, the first step here is really something that just looks like,

Be present. Be kind. Be empathic. Be generous, not selfish. Be compassionate, not consuming. Just be mindful.

He compares this to conventional models by specifying:

“However, if you engage in sexual intercourse within an ordinary mental context, there is no benefit.”

I like this. But I also think we can do better.

Not to take issue with the teachings of the His Holiness The Dalai Lama, but I think we can do one better.

We are certainly better off if we approach sex with self-respect, self-esteem and a spiritual gentleness.

But that’s just self-love. If we also care about love, and accept the definition of love as holding someone else’s wellbeing as equal to our own, then our highest approach to sex is to view it with the lens of their spiritual experience as well.

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