Wednesday, May 17, 2006
This question was posed to me by a friend, although not quite exactly in that way. The friend was having a disagreement with someone about this question, and was doing some informal research on what people thought.
Another way of putting this question is: who's the bigger slut: someone who has sex with three different people in one week, or someone who says "I love you" for the first time to three different people in one week? (Obviously, we're talking about the romanto-erotic version of that first declaration of "I love you". Saying it to friends and family doesn't count (barring the case of incest I suppose). And neither do hippie declarations of universal amity ("I love you, man!"), nor do passionless formulaic utterances ("Yes dear, of course I love you."). Now of course this form of the question presupposes that both of the above-mentioned behaviors are slutty, i.e. promiscuous in an unhealthy way. And we are, in the case of the three "I love you" statments, stretching the term "slut" away from its usual sexual meaning to a more general one. And maybe some people who are very comfortable with their sexuality or emotional selves could do these things three times a week and not have it be slutty at all. But then we only need to increase the number of sexual episodes and declarations of love to some number where it is unhealthy and re-ask the question. The point is not to draw a line between slutty and non-slutty; it is to use the "That's slutty!" reaction to get at the relative intimacy of "I love you" vs. the sex act.
We can of course, quibble about the definition of sex. Maybe "I love you" is more intimate than a blowjob, but less intimate than full "Clintonian" sex (i.e. sex as defined by Bill Clinton, which I guess in penile-vaginal intercourse.) But that is a whole separate line of inquiry.
So what do I think? For me, saying "I love you" for the first time is more intimate than having sex. I mean, which are you more likely to do on the 3rd or 4th date? I think this answer is true for the broader culture that I am familiar with, as well. People are freer with their bodies than with their hearts. And I think this is good, provided proper precautions are taken. My friend, who originally posed the question, agrees with me. What about you?
An interesting side question: does the use or non-use of prophylactic measures change the level of intimacy of sex vis-à-vis "I love you"? For me, I think it might.