What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you put “intimacy” and “man” in the same sentence? Is he a willing participant? Is he fully invested in being in the moment, or is he thinking about what comes next? Society tells us men only care about the sex and that anything else is a means to an end. However, Jarren, a late-twentysomething from the West Coast, feels society couldn’t be further from the truth.

I would define intimacy as almost exclusively emotional… a good 85%. I fully believe in being physically intimate without having to be intimate overall. I don’t think a lot of people would agree. To me, it is being able to truly be yourself around another person or people, which really means you can express yourself and react naturally as if you were in a vacuum, with no fear of being preemptively judged.

It’s very important to me because I have been someone who has been so many different places in my life, and not all of the connections stick. But the ones that do, matter a lot to me. To be able to hold onto those and still be able to be intimate and know that there is someone somewhere to accept me for me  because of who I am is important. It does a lot to make places that aren’t home feel like home.

When it comes to the term “pillow talk,” I would say it is when you are chatting with someone in bed, post-coital. But it doesn’t have to be an intimate or sexual conversation. It’s simply a conversation where both people feel comfortable enough to let their walls down.

 Pillow talk…it’s simply a conversation where both people feel comfortable enough to let their walls down.

I was first introduced to this concept, and I think a lot of men are, as something that you don’t want to do. As men, we’re always told that women want to do it but that men shouldn’t, but I enjoy it. I think it is because I like having deep conversations with people.

My family has also played a significant role in how I view love and intimacy, especially when it comes to marriage. I was raised by a single mother who then got married and then divorced. Love for me has never equated to marriage.

My mother doesn’t have a partner and hasn’t for nearly 20 years. Our family is extremely close and very loving. My sister and I have partners and she is about to marry, but it was never stressed to us from the top down that first comes love and then comes marriage.

In that way, my relationship to my family has always been accepting, allowing you to go about romantic relationships in your own way. Even if someone might think that you’re making a bad decision, the interactions are focused more on you telling them what’s wrong and them wanting to make sure that you’re going to be okay as opposed to judging you.

That has translated to how I treat people: I like to think that I don’t judge people or situations from the outside. I have dude friends who  talk about this person and that person, and I am always thinking to myself that they don’t know. Having been in tumultuous relationships, you just don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

Like some people, sex has also played a role in affecting how I view relationships, love, and intimacy. I was 18 when I first lost my virginity with a girl I was dating. It was my birthday and I already knew where I was going for college. It was right after prom. She took me up on the top of this mountain and it was in the car.

To be able to…be intimate and know that there is someone somewhere to accept me for me because of who I am is important.

At the time, I remember not knowing what was going to happen, all the way up to being in the back of the car. Up until that point, we’d fooled around but never had sex. I don’t even recall ever pressuring her about it or even feeling like I was missing out because we hadn’t done it yet.

None of my boys even asked if I had done it or told me that I should be doing it. I guess people assumed that we were. Because of that experience, I feel people are all on their own timelines and hit their own peak at their own time.

It’s also affected my overall views on sex in that I really see the whole experience being consensual and more of an open-door policy. I like to talk about physical intimacy a lot to make sure we are on the same page as a way of showing respect. I don’t know a lot of guys or girls would say that that is a big priority.

What really pisses me off is that we are inundated with this idea that men should be held to a different standard than other people. And it plays into that double standard where people believe men somehow operate differently and can’t be sexually harassed. We as men are not always told that there can be a conversation when it comes to sex because we’re told it should be automatic.

So, if it doesn’t happen, it is our fault. I remember when I was young and first started having sex, there was this pressure to last long and not come too quickly. A lot of people feel that at first and then they realize that it is a two-way street and isn’t’ something you should be worried about.

We as men are not always told that there can be a conversation when it comes to sex because we’re told it should be automatic. So, if it doesn’t happen, we’re told it is our fault.

At some point, that fear faded away. But now it has affected my outlook on being able to talk more openly, in a good way. The idea that men are and should be constantly ready for sex and that women are supposed to shun while men should be always pursuing bothers me.

In reality, both men and women have all sorts of factors and desires when it comes to sex. So, the idea of not automatically seeing men as sex robots has been a very positive thing, and it’s allowed men to even be okay with saying no.

The most meaningful relationship that I’ve experienced is the one I’m in now. It’s taught me a lot. Part of it is the time in life. When you’re in high school and college, and there’s a lot of shit going on, you can say you have your relationships but  there are also a million things happening.

So, if things fall on the wayside in your relationship, it happens. But being in the real world and in a relationship where I really click with a person who I feel deeply committed to has been eye-opening. First and foremost, it has made me realize how previous relationships weren’t necessarily reflecting who I wanted to be.

My current relationship has given me more of a chance to reflect on the person I really want to be, while also acknowledging the idea of a future, which is very new for me. It’s really hopeful because, on a certain level, I can be spontaneous and I don’t always like to have a plan. In some ways, that doesn’t allow your heart to expand to its full capacity. That’s helped me realize what I want in a relationship and what I want in my life in general.

As men, we’re always told that women want to [be intimate or pillow talk] but that men shouldn’t, but I enjoy it.

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