Much like the modern-day woman, the concept of intimacy is multifaceted and comes in many shapes and sizes. The term conjures up notions of sex, friendship, apparel, bodily processes, dating, relationships, and matters of self-esteem.
So how can we define such a broad and intangible concept? As things like Uber and Tinder are no longer new, and “disruptive” startups seem to be emerging every week, we’ve reached an inflection point. Studies say we’re marrying less, moving out less, slut shaming less, but hooking up more. So naturally, our ideas around what constitutes a traditional intimate relationship have (supposedly) been skewed. (There are countless articles from publications like Bustle, Vanity Fair, and Elite Daily about this). This is especially true for young Millennials and Generation Z-ers who are being exposed to adult content online at increasingly younger ages.
But intimacy isn’t just about your love life. When we’re living in a time where you can swipe through hundreds of potential lovers while sitting on your couch, order a friend with Ameego, and track your monthly cycles on your phone, how do we, as a generation, imagine and define the things (or people) that are closest to us and the processes (or platforms) that led us to them? With loneliness at a supposed all time high and technology keeping us apart rather than bringing us together, what does intimacy look like?
A look at some of the game changers in the intimacy space will give you some perspective.
Father-daughter team Jeffery and Meika Hollender founded Sustain in order to bring awareness to the eco issues involved in the sex industry and to support education around female sexual health. Sustain offers fair trade, non toxic, vegan condoms, lubricants, wipes, and accessories and is trying to change the ways we think about and enjoy safe sex.
Just as “athleisure” styles are sweeping the nation, so too are unstructured, untraditional lingerie options. According to FastCompany, women these days want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to their undergarments. Think the comfort of leggings with the style of of a classic LBD all wrapped together in a wireless bra. Mass market clothing brands like Forever 21, Aerie, and Aritzia are latching onto the trend, offering low cut tanks and cute, comfy bras to pair with them.
Following Your Flow
Period tracking apps have been all the rage recently. Women have a range of options to choose from—including Fertility Friend, My Pill, and the aptly named Period Tracker—all of which help you anticipate, analyze, and learn more about your monthly visitor. Despite several sources arguing that these apps are inaccurate and potentially unsafe, the trend towards understanding our bodies on a deeper level is undeniable.
Let’s Talk About Sex
…and other stuff. Women from all different walks of life are tackling the hard talks; they’re addressing the conversations that are often hidden, whispered, or wholly ignored. Leaders like Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Cindy Gallop of Make Love Not Porn, Jessica Ching of Eve Medical, and Brianna Rader of Juicebox—among many, many others—are opening up lines of communication, shutting down stigmas, and kicking butt with their innovative apps and products that provide women an outlet to discuss and address their most intimate needs.
So where are we at?
From condoms, to undies, to our personal health, the conversations around intimacy, whether personal, interpersonal, platonic, or otherwise, are finally being had—and oftentimes women are leading the way. Due to the overwhelming nature of the internet, the outrageous amount of content we are inundated with on a daily basis, and the facade of personalization and deep connection being purported as the output of the many apps we download daily, people are looking up from their phones and are exploring these issues IRL.
Perhaps we have become more casual and new-fashioned around institutions like home buying and marriage, but that’s not to say we’re any less thoughtful about them. Perhaps our office outfits (much like our lingerie) are less structured and less formal, and our perspective on things like gender and casual sex have become more fluid than generations past—but that doesn’t mean we’re less in tune with our minds and bodies or with our nearest and dearest.
Just as Hanna Rosin, writing goddess and the author of The End of Men says, “no one in human history will ever abandon intimacy. Who doesn’t want intimacy?” So, just because we look at the world through a new lens doesn’t mean our connections to each other are any less valid or intimate. We’re not indifferent to intimacy, we’re just thinking about it differently.
Mira Blumenthal is a writer, editor, and lover of Oxford commas who works at Idea Couture’s MISC Magazine. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mirablu!