We use the word so often and yet we never really stop to ask what it means or where it came from. Does it really describe what we’re trying to convey? How is it different than making love, knocking boots, coitus or f***ing? What has the word done to the meaning of two people coming together for an intimate exchange of energy?
The word sex comes from the Latin word sexus meaning the state of being either male or female. So it has absolutely nothing to do with arousal, giving and receiving pleasure, sacred union, or anything else that we associate with the modern day use of sex. It is also connected to secare “to divide or cut” showing further that the word accentuates our differences and only strengthens a gender binary, or the division between men and women. The word sex was first recorded in the 1520s, but it didn’t find popular usage until the early 20th Century when terms like sex appeal (1904), sexual intercourse (1929), sex drive (1918), sex object (1901) and sex symbol (used in anthropology starting in 1871, but first applied to a person, Marilyn Monroe, in 1959) came into being. The term sex therapist appeared as late as 1974.
So we see that the word “sex” was never meant to convey connection, love, lust, desire, union, or any of the other beautiful, dark, sweet or mysterious aspects of intimate connection with another human being. It is also genital based, our sex, as they still say in French, and it reflects only the union of a man and a woman, both big limitations to put on human sexuality which is much more than genital contact between a man and a woman.
But what can we say if we don’t say sex?
It is impossible to throw out the word sex altogether, but it’s exciting to think what might happen if we brought more consciousness to how we communicate about it. I think we use unclear language or umbrella-like phrases when it’s something we feel fear or shame about. So saying things like, “We had sex” or “I want to have sex with you” are in fact ways of avoiding communicating what we truly feel, want and desire. The word sex is a cover-up for who and what we really are and how we’re expressing that.
So the next time you’re talking about the subject, try to explore what you’re really wanting to say under the vague use of the overused word sex:
“I really want to touch your body with my hands.”
“I literally lost my mind with pleasure last night.”
“I want you deep inside of me right now.”
“The attraction was so intense, I was wet before they even touched me.”
How else can you talk about the experiences you’re having without using the word sex?
We came together. We devoured each other. He gave me pleasure for hours. She would just breathe and I would tremble. We made love. We fucked our brains out. We were naked for hours. We never left the house.
Now doesn’t that sound even better than s-e-x?