Five Moments of (Nonsexual) Intimacy
There's this pervasive idea that "intimacy" implies sex; as a rebuttal, I designed an entire fic form. If you're a writer, why not give it a shot? So far, two of my fellow writers have done so (one in POI, one in Lost); I hope that others will see what they can do with it as well.
This was designed with the idea of exploring intimacy within five nonsexual, nonromantic relationships (i.e. deep and intimate, but not "mates"), or five different forms of intimacy within one nonsexual relationship, but it could just as easily be used to explore five different forms of nonsexual intimacy within a sexual relationship. (It's also a reminder that if sexual intimacy is the only intimacy you've got, your relationship is not gonna last.)
The Fic Form
The Five Moments of Intimacy (FMI or FMNI) fic form contains one representative of each of these five categories of intimacy:
- Physical/Sensual Intimacy
- Grooming, massage, first aid, basic human touch -- any close physical contact that doesn't include a sexual component.
- Emotional Intimacy
- Shared emotions (good or bad), or comforting someone.
- Experiential Intimacy
- Letting down your hair together (e.g. sharing a beer), or going through the same event.
- Secret Sharing
- Anything you wouldn't want the public to know about, but decide to share with this one specific person.
- Medical care, showing weakness, letting your guard down (e.g. sleeping) while in the care of the other.
Optional Addendum: You can turn this into 6-7 parts, or a 5+1 fic, by adding one of these categories:
- Teasing Intimacy
- Close friends share a lot of in-jokes and can rib each other without getting upset about it; they understand how to joke in a way where both parties are enjoying it.
- Knowledge Intimacy
- Being aware of the other's preferences, strengths and weaknesses, etc. is a form of intimacy -- even just knowing what to order for lunch, which presents to get, or how to avoid hurting their feelings.
- Inversion: Sex Without Intimacy
- Hate sex, casual sex / one-night stand, encounter with a prostitute or glory hole, lonely sex that is nothing more than physical attributes. Even rape would count for this category.
- Inversion: Sexuality Reduces/Destroys Intimacy
- Cheating, dubcon that leads to a breakup, sex ruins a friendship, etc.
- Full Inversion: Five Ways a Character Is Incapable of Intimacy
- I've done this with a Welcome to Night Vale fic and a POI fic, demonstrating each category in its inversion. Kevin's ability to be intimate was stolen from him; Anton's relationship with his father is devoid of intimacy, leaving him with no one to turn to when he's lonely or afraid or needs advice.
- I've also considered a full inversion where a character makes serious mistakes while attempting to achieve intimacy; think about Phil in Groundhog Day, trying to build a relationship with Rita, but managing only the surface elements, until finally he changes his inner self enough to achieve true intimacy.
Why does this idea bug me so much?
Well, to begin with, I grew up with this idealized Platonic male-male relationship idea:
- David & Jonathan (Old Testament)
- Jesus & John (New Testament)
- Paul & Timothy (ditto)
- Archie & Jughead (Archie Comics)
- Cecil & Kain (Final Fantasy IV)
- Holmes & Watson (Sherlock Holmes)
- Frodo & Samwise (The Lord of the Rings)
- Aragorn & Legolas (ditto, though I mostly got it from The Mellon Chronicles)
- Hawkeye & BJ (M*A*S*H)
- Kirk & Spock (Star Trek)
- Geordi & Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
- Bashir & O'Brien (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
- Sisko & Dax (ditto -- they were close, lifelong friends before Dax took on a female host)
And yeah, you could interpret each of those relationships in a sexual way (many have), much as you could interpret any close-knit brothers in an incestuous way (many have), but that's mostly if you start with the preconception that sexual intimacy is The Highest Form of Intimacy, to the point where other forms of intimacy are somehow flawed and inadequate. In other words, the preconception that if you're not having sex, you're not all that close to each other.
Which is ridiculous, of course, but it's also quite offensive, if you stop to think about the implications. If sex is a requirement for a truly close relationship, then it follows that:
- Family relationships aren't truly close (unless you cross the sex taboo): sisters, brothers, cousins, parents and children, etc.
- Friendships aren't truly close unless you end up in bed together.
- A person can never be truly close to someone they're sexually incompatible with: heterosexuals can't be close to the same gender, gay men can't be close to female friends, lesbians can't be close to male friends, and asexuals can't be close to anyone at all.
- A person who is monogamous can't be truly close to anyone other than their mate.
- The sooner you move into a sexual relationship, the closer you'll become; putting that off is reducing your potential intimacy.
- If you break off the sex, you'll never be truly close to that person until you resume the sex; if you never resume the sex, you'll never be close to them again.
It's a giant string of toxic attitudes, is what it is. I'm particularly annoyed by the idea that aces can't be in intimate relationships at all (purely because they don't want to get into anyone's pants).
Besides which, it's trivial to point out counter-examples:
- Family relationships that delve into sex tend to destroy the trust of that relationship (they're almost always abusive).
- Friendships that delve into sex generally can't go back to being "just friends," and if the sex doesn't turn into full-blown romance (and it usually doesn't), the friendship breaks up.
- People who interpret a friendship in terms of sex when it has never been sexual can actually make the friendship decay: See Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, who started feeling awkward toward each other after the fandom started insisting on a sexual interpretation (despite their protests of "neither one of us is gay!").
- It's not the potentially-sexually-compatible pairs that do well on intimacy; it's the pairs where sexuality was never part of the equasion. See the whole "men and women can't be friends (unless one or both of them are gay)" idea: Two men (or two women) who are heterosexual can appreciate a kind of intimacy that doesn't happen when sex is always in the back of your mind. I assume the same is true for a gay man and a lesbian, since they don't need to worry about mixed signals.
- A person who is in a committed monogamous relationship can be great for intimacy outside that relationship, since everyone's clear on the boundaries.
- People who move into sexual relationships too quickly tend to kill the relationship.
- …and that's not even counting the ploy of pretending to be interested in someone purely to get into their pants, which obviously gets revealed after the sex has happened and the manipulator completely changes their tune (this is used symbolically in Buffy).
- A bad relationship that has a sexual component is clearly not intimate. Once you break it off, going back to that same relationship and getting back into the sex doesn't make it any more intimate, and can have devastating consequences -- the opposite of establishing a new intimacy.
So the whole "intimacy = sexuality" concept just falls apart at every turn. And yet, as a culture, we're predisposed to view everything in terms of sex. We've got this preconception that the closer and more intimate the relationship, the more likely the sex, and that, to me, is a very sad way of looking at the world.
Ergo, I created this fic form.