Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-r5zm4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-22T12:22:38.421Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

What Is Sexual Intimacy?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 March 2024

Sascha Settegast*
Philosophy Department, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg
*Corresponding author. Email:
Get access


What is the role of intimacy in sex? The two culturally dominant views on this matter both share the implicit assumption that sex is genuinely intimate only when connected to romance, and hence that sex and intimacy stand in a contingent relationship: it is possible to have good sex without it. Liberals embrace this possibility and affirm the value of casual sex, while conservatives attempt to safeguard intimacy by insisting on romantic exclusivity. I reject their shared assumption and argue for a necessary connection between intimacy and sex, in that sexual activity as such aims at a specific form of intimacy, irrespective of whether it takes place in casual encounters or romantic relationships, and the difference between good and bad sex consists in whether this end is attained. To defend this view, I develop a general account of intimacy and apply it to isolate its specifically sexual form.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Royal Institute of Philosophy

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)