In the end when he refused to cooperate in fabricating a story that might have helped her keep her job she said, “I am upset by his betrayal.”
Words like naked, vulnerable, exposed, intimate, personal, private, personhood and human dignity are all terms we understand and might find useful in teaching a child about sexual behavior, even if it would be hard for us to give the child clear explicit definitions of some them. With several of them, we would likely resort to giving definition by pointing to an example as in when we point to the sky on a clear day and say to a child: “The sky is blue.” It’s hard to imagine, however, anyone using the encounter between the actor and stewardess at 35,000 feet as a good example of “making love.”
Using euphemisms (substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive) to describe sexual intercourse is not new. The ancient scriptures frequently use the verb “to know” in lieu of something more explicit to recount the occurrence of sexual relations. But this euphemism, though somewhat vague, is nevertheless laden with meaning. It points to the fact that sexual intercourse is a means to an extremely intimate private knowledge of our personhood. In intercourse, the raw unadorned animal side of our humanity is exposed whether little or all clothing is removed. Logically we know that the sexual part of our nature is universal; but each individual’s personhood is unique and at some level intensely private. Hence, we find that being revealed to another individual through intimate sexual contact is one of life’s moments of greatest vulnerability. We couldn’t feel more exposed if we stood before an audience of thousands naked, having forgotten to don our costume and not knowing our lines.
When the cloak of our rationality is pushed aside and our intellect no longer provides a covering, it is then most important that both partners be clothed in love and the certainty of a permanent commitment to each other: In a word, married. Then the couple can progress to a state of being totally liberated from their inhibitions and the innate fear we all have of being exposed: to wit, of being known. What would under other circumstances be rape (a despicable violation of personhood), is now a physical expression of the union of two hearts in tender devotion and passionate desire.
This union is the only experience that genuinely warrants the term “making love.” Anything short of this, no matter how it is spoken of, is a counterfeit, fake experience of intimacy.