When I was a teenager, my mom told me that you don’t have to have an emotional connection with someone in order to have sex with them — but that it’s better sex if you do. That advice came back to me continuously as I navigated my own, new sex life and figured out what sex with different types of partners felt like. I wondered, "Does having a connection really make sex better?" And while my mom is obviously very wise, what do sex experts say?
"Connection is a sense that the person you're with is present with you in a way that makes you feel seen and felt," Irene Fehr, a sex and intimacy coach based in Denver, Colorado, tells Bustle. “In sex, it is that place where your partner feels you, which can look like you're synchronized: Their touch feels exactly right or at the right time, or they say something that penetrates to your heart. When partners feel connected, the experience feels fluid and natural, rather than orchestrated. It's a deep resonance with your partner, as if you're traveling along the same wavelength.”
I mean, that sounds pretty excellent to me. Fehr’s interpretation of “connection” almost sounds like a secular form of a spiritual connection; the merging of two people into one. It’s the kind of sex I like to strive for but, admittedly, don’t hit 100% of the time.
“In that moment of connection, you are focusing on each other, rather than being in your heads, worrying or figuring out what to do next,” Fehr says. “It's a place where you lose touch with the context and feel like it's just you and your partner.”
"When you feel connected in sex, you also feel safe. You get a sense that your partner is paying attention to you and they care about what's happening for you."
In addition to staying out of our own heads and merging together, Fehr believes that connection in sex leads to a greater sense of safety. In her practice, she’s seen women in particular have trouble with sex that doesn’t include connection, because it makes it hard to feel safe. It makes them wonder, “does my partner see and feel me and will they therefore respect my boundaries and keep me safe?”
“When you feel connected in sex, you also feel safe,” Fehr says. “You get a sense that your partner is paying attention to you and they care about what's happening for you — and that creates safety to be able to open up with each other. If there is no connection, there is no sense of whether the partner is there for you. And if you do not feel safe or can't open up, your partner will not enjoy the experience fully either.”
But is sex with connection better? According to Fehr: Yes.
"Sex with connection is being with each other."
“Without connection, sex is having two bodies rub against each other and create pleasurable sensations,” Fehr says. “That can be good, just like a massage from a massage therapist can be intensely pleasurable. Sex without connection is a set of movements against each other, as if doing something onto each other. Sex with connection is being with each other.”
So, yeah — it looks like my mom was probably right: Sex without connection can totally feel great, but sex with connection takes things to another level. However, Fehr points out that you can’t have a great connection (and the associated great sex) without first being vulnerable.
“Connection and intimacy are intense for most people,” Fehr says. “Intimacy requires putting down barriers to allow the other person see what's truly going on for you: That you may be scared, or unsure of yourself, or don't know what to do. That leaves us feeling vulnerable, which can be an intense experience both in sensation and emotionally.”
But if you’re willing to let your walls down and be truly vulnerable, you’re in for an excellent time. Because, as Fehr says, “when we allow ourselves to be this open and vulnerable, we can bring our sexual experience to the next level of satisfaction.” I’m with it.
Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach
This article was originally published on