The words we use and our physical language of love define our love experience.
Penetration is the word often used to describe the culminating act of sex. It’s a word I often use when describing the best use of a good lubricant. But it was just this week after using the word in conjunction with the act that I wondered what I was saying. The verb to penetrate has six different definitions in the dictionary and as in the power of any metaphor, the meaning one attaches to the term may deeply influence our relationship to the act.
A lesbian friend of mine once told me that it is not uncommon for many of her friends to maintain a no penetration relationship, and among my heterosexual friends, it is not a small minority who avoid penetration with their spouses. I never asked them, but I wonder if for them the meaning of penetration feels like a military force entering into enemy territory or a projectile into a target.
Certainly the idea of women as targets for men is rampant, and so the need to protect oneself is also deeply held.
To penetrate also means to have an effect throughout, spread through; permeate, move deeply, or imbue. Applied again as a metaphor for sexuality, this penetration is an act that transforms, that has the potential of changing everything.
This sexual act can have the force of inspiration, the possibility of being completely saturated with love.
The act of penetration is a force of nature that is loaded with meaning and mystery. Not surprisingly, to penetrate also means to gain insight and to have a marked effect on the mind and emotions. Our language about our sexuality is as layered as the act itself, and knowing what you mean when you speak about love and sex can only be helpful.
Sexuality is a metaphor for many things in life. Those things that we share in our sexual encounters, like language, attitudes and openness with one another, have a long reach into the depth and intimacy of our day-to-day relationships.
Consider your relationship to penetration: the word, the idea and the act. Penetration means all of these things all at once. But if I were to make a leap, in the name of making love sustainable, it would be that couples who build a strong and consensual relationship with the meaning and act of penetration are much more likely to have a strong and consensual relationship to each other.