My whole life, I’ve been creeped out by the term “make love.” It’s just such a loaded phrase. Plus it makes me think of my grandparents; it’s weird and old-timey. I’m not the only guy I know who feels this way. I’ve always said “have sex” or “fucking.” But now at 28 years old, I’m deeply in love (maybe for the first time), and I’ve almost said “make love” to my girlfriend a few times. It just seems like a better name for what we’re doing. “Having sex” doesn’t really capture all the heart and soul that goes into our sexytimes, and “fucking” seems downright disrespectful now. I’ve been thinking about this so much and I really want to know if there’s an inherent difference between “having sex” and “making love.”

Evolving Lover

Dear Evolving,

I love words, and I love all the things we can do with them. Words are important tools we use every day to share information and experiences, and to form connections with other people. But words can be kind of sloppy too. The meaning of a word can change over time. Or sometimes the meaning stays the same, but our relationship to the word changes based on our experiences. Words are more than their definition. They are also the emotional connotation we attach to them. For instance, “damp” and “moist” have the same meaning, but you’d never say, “Oh that was such a delicious, damp cake!”

There are definitely lots of folks out there who feel like you do—that having sex and making love are not the same things. For those people, having sex implies something more casual, or less emotionally involved. And making love is something you do with a person with whom you love and share a deep connection. But there are also folks out there who would never say “make love,” no matter how they felt about their partner. Of course, the same is true for “have sex.” And then there are people who will pick totally different words to describe their sexual encounters. Just as the Inuit probably have 50 words for snow, there are literally hundreds of words for sex!

Sex is often such a deeply personal expression of who we are. Sex that is consensually shared with a partner can be a lot of different things: a fun romp, a way to let off steam, an intimate form of communication, a tool for pain relief, an escape from reality, an act that connects people, a deep spiritual journey, and so many others. So while there is no inherent difference between having sex and making love in a literal sense, it’s normal that your brain (and maybe your heart) would differentiate between the types of sex you have with different people and at different stages in your life.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at [email protected] and she’ll get back to you with an answer.

About The Author

Avatar photo

Lucky Tomaszek, LM, CPM, is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee's only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Most mornings you can find her balancing her cat and her keyboard in her lap, working to make the world a smarter, safer place for people of all genders and orientations.