What’s the difference between sex and love?

Disclaimer: James is not a real person. 

James had sex with a young woman called Tumi. They were both 18, and it happened after a few  months of kissing, flirting and WhatsApping. It wasn’t his first time. He didn’t think of himself a sex expert either. He felt attracted to Tumi. And when he thought about having sex with her, he felt horny and sexually excited. He also had a few butterflies in his tummy. He had never been in love before. Was this love?

James went online to find out, and was connected to a loveLife contact center counsellor, Thami. This was their conversation…

James: Eish, I’m not sure if this is love. I feel funny bra. Please help me out here. What is the difference between sex and love? 

Thami: Great question James. Firstly congrats on being man enough to talk about your feelings. Being open about your emotions is a sign of strength.

James: Thanks bro.

Thami: Secondly, as you know, sex is the physical part. It’s when two people touch each other to feel pleasure. You have sex to feel good.

James: It did feel good Thami.

Thami: That’s great James. When we have sex, it’s intimate. You’re naked, or have your pants down, and you are connecting with someone. Sex means different things to different people. Some people feel like sex is just to let off steam. It’s purely physical. They don’t connect it to their emotions. They feel in control. Some people feel like sex is really sacred or something special to do with someone they love. They feel emotionally connected to someone before, during and after sex.

James: True Thami. So is this emotion that I feel right now called love?

Thami: I don’t know James. Only you will be able to answer that. And I can’t tell you one way or the other how you should or shouldn’t feel about this. All I can tell you is to be honest with Tumi about how you are feeling, and what your boundaries are. Only you can say what you will and won’t do. Like if you’ll have a relationship or if this is just for fun. And give her the opportunity to be honest with you and explain what her boundaries are.

James: That sounds hard.

Thami: Well, here’s a way to figure this out. If you feel ready to have sex, you must check first if you’re ready to talk to your sexual partner about it. Because there are so many things to consider when you decide to have sex. Even if it’s not your first time. Like, is this just for fun, or is this about love? And, what is the risk of unplanned pregnancies, and what can we do to prevent this? And have you both tested for HIV and screened for other STIs, and what is the best way to make sure you can prevent infections? So having sex is part of a bigger conversation.

James: Thanks Thami, that makes sense. I guess the next step is to talk to Tumi about all these things. You’ve been a real help. I don’t know the answer to my question about if this is sex or love. What I do know is that it’s time to get real.

Thami: Good luck James

If you need help with questions about sex, love, relationships or how you are feeling, contact loveLife by clicking here. A trained counsellor is waiting to help you out!

Sex can be fun and pleasurable but only if everyone involved agrees to do it. Find out more about consent in this article: Understanding consent.

Do you feel safe in your relationship? Check out this article to see which red flags to watch out for

Being in a relationship with someone older can make it difficult to know whether you are in love or if it’s all about sex. Read this article for guidance

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