Does Sex With the Lights on Build Stronger Relationships?
Hookups happen in the dark. That's what we're told in stories on television and in movies. You've seen the scene(s) before: Two strangers meet by chance at a bar, and a few drinks later they're bursting through the front door of an apartment, ripping each other's clothes off as they move toward the bed.
They don't stop to turn the lights on, because why would they?
For many people, this is typical. They prefer sex with the lights off, for reasons ranging from insecurity to mystery, romance and fantasy. Some people find the darkness to be sexy and exhilarating, while others are simply happy to hide their flaws. Even Tupac once rapped about cutting off the lights.
Though you might not be in search of a deep, meaningful connection with someone you shared a bed with for one night, what happens when you are in a long-term romantic relationship and you still can't seem to come into the light?
How intimacy and vulnerability affect your sex life
Intimacy is not sex, and not all sex is intimate, but there is a strong link between the two. There are actually four types of intimacy: emotional, experiential, physical and intellectual. When we think about sex, our minds naturally go to physical, but emotional intimacy can play just as big a role.
Emotional intimacy describes when you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with someone. For many people, achieving this can be terrifying because it involves being vulnerable, and being vulnerable can open us up to hurt and emotional damage. At the same time, being vulnerable with someone and feeling accepted, despite your flaws, can be immensely fulfilling.
When it comes to your sex life, a lack of emotional intimacy—and by the same token, a lack of vulnerability—can lead to a fear of rejection and being hurt that can linger. It's why you might choose to keep the lights off: You're afraid your partner will find something about you they dislike and lose interest.
There's an argument to be made for the pleasures of sensory deprivation, but a willful act of blocking out a sense—for example, by using a blindfold—and emotionally distancing by not being vulnerable are two entirely different things.
Sex with the lights on leads to deeper emotional intimacy
In an interview with Women's Health magazine, Dana Weiser, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human development and family studies, acknowledges having sex with the lights on can build more trust and a better understanding between partners. She is also quick to point out the ability to see your partner's body and expressions during sex can be more of a turn-on.
But what if we're still deeply insecure about our bodies? What if being exposed makes it harder to feel sexy because our flaws are laid bare?
There have been numerous studies conducted on the link between sexuality and body image, and the general consensus is, yes, having a poor body image can make you less likely to experience sexual satisfaction. But let's be honest: If you're in a long-term romantic/sexual relationship with someone, they likely find you attractive. Having a conversation with them about what they find specifically attractive about your body might help you feel more comfortable showing it off. Ask yourself, "Why am I afraid of being seen naked?" and talk to your partner about those insecurities.
Remember, you don't have to go all-in right away. No one is suggesting you rent studio photography lights or go at it in broad daylight. Start by lighting some candles or turning on a dimmed lamp—just enough light to see each other while maintaining the romantic mood.
What to remember
Being vulnerable and intimate can be scary, but it can also help you move past your insecurities and find true confidence and happiness. If you find yourself having difficulty with intimacy in the bedroom, talk to your partner honestly and open up a dialogue.
Doing so may lead to a new question when it comes to being intimate: Sex with the lights on or off?
The best thing you can do in any relationship is be honest, and if someone really cares for you, they'll listen.