Unfortunately, this common use or misuse can mask the important distinction between these two activities. This is not to proclaim the moral , or prudential, superiority of making love.
Indeed some would prefer to just have sex. Of course, making love as distinct from being in love necessarily involves having sex. But having sex, even great sex, is not necessarily making love—just as a nice cool beer is not a glass of wine. Truly, some may prefer the taste of the one to the other, and a beer may be the drink of choice on a given occasion say, at a Knicks game ; but it would indeed be unfortunate if one ordered a glass of Merlot in an intimate setting and was served a Budd.
So are you making love or just having sex? Are you getting what you really want? And if not, how can you get it? The first of these three questions can be answered only if one knows the difference between having sex versus making love. But this, in turn, requires pinning down the meanings of each. According to philosopher Alan Goldman, sexual desire is desire for contact with another person's body and for the pleasure which such contact produces; sexual activity is activity which tends to fulfill such desire of the agent.
Goldman claims that sexual activity is not necessarily a means to any further end. For example, procreation is not the essential purpose of having sex; so you are not doing anything wrong that is, misusing your body if you are having sex without trying to get pregnant. Rubbing, touching, caressing, kissing, sucking, biting, and, of course, intercourse, as fulfillments of a desire for physical contact, are all sexual activities in this sense.
Per se, they are self-regarding. They seek self-gratification—fulfillment of a purely self-interested desire. However, for Kant, it is in the transformation from self-regarding to other-regarding sexual activity that sex partners begin to see each other as persons rather than as mere objects or things.
But while this mutual sexual agreement whether inside or outside the context of marriage may be a precursor to love-making, the latter takes more than mutual consent to let each other satisfy a sexual desire.
So what else besides mutuality is involved in love-making? Instead, in love-making there is the mutual consciousness of unbounded unity without partition. The titillations of mine are yours also, and conversely. My past, present, and future; my hopes, dreams , and expectation; and yours, coalesce as one--not two--persons. There is resignation of separateness to inclusion of the other. It is an ecstatic resonance that defies any breach in Oneness. It takes two to Tango, and so too does it take at least two to make love.
Unreciprocated love-making is unsuccessful love-making. The flames of love-making are quick to die when one gives oneself, body and soul, only to be turned away. Where the other seeks only a body, wanting only sex, love-making is squandered even if it is not at least at first apparent to the one attempting to make love.
It is a counterfeit if based on pretense because there is duality, not unity, and there is manipulation and objectification, not authentic, mutual respect. Here there is a sort of delicate, momentary analysis and deliberate targeting of a body part.
But instantaneously each becomes Thou again with co-mingling of not just body but soul. In making love, there is thus a virtually seamless reciprocity between I-It and I-Thou.
There is also powerful symbolism in love-making as depicted. Foreplay gradually builds to climax as in the unfolding of a life of two living as one. As such, making love is inspirational, for it signifies and embodies two mutually living as one.
However, the mutuality of love-making as depicted here guards again domination, for the goal is not to control the other but instead to lose oneself in the other as the other in oneself. This has implications for the cognitive , perceptual, and symbolic aspects of love-making. When one merely has sex, one perceives the other as an object of pleasure, as Kant describes. In mere sexual activity one may seek to dominate, control, and even humiliate in order to elicit sexual pleasure.
But, love-making is unifying whereas these cognitions are relational and assume logically distinct beings. In contrast, the language of love-making involves thoughts and perceptions that unite rather than separate, divide, or alienate. They can reflect tenderness; an adoring or adorable look; or the instant when you knew you wanted to be together for an eternity. They can be ineffable and unspoken; simply expressed; or set into poetic verse.
In contrast, compare the dis-unifying, objectifying nature of the four-letter language of just having sex. Adapting a metaphor gleaned from the neo-Platonist philosopher Plotinus, the unity experienced in love-making may be compared to an axiomatic system. Each axiom is essential to the system and cannot be understood apart from it; but the system itself is over and above and distinct from any of its axioms.
Similarly, the unity of love-making is not possible without the two lovers, but it is over and above and distinct from them. So, in this sense, there is still distinctness in unity.
But it is the Oneness of love-making that itself admits of no division. Accordingly, it is essentially this unifying aspect of the activity of love-making that largely distinguishes it from mere sex. Surrender yourself to the other; sensually coalesce; and trust that the other reciprocates.
For, like religious experience, love-making has an element of faith. If you attempt to have sex without such faith, then you will only have sex. So, do you have to be in love in order to make love? To get a handle on an answer to this question you might consider what I have had to say in my blog on How good are you at making love?
In any event, my considered judgment is that it can help to be in love. For I suspect that many people make love well before if ever they are actually in love. Given its powerful symbolism, building a loving sexual relationship, as here described, may even pave the way to a more loving relationship beyond the bedroom. The taste of wine is what you may crave. But sometimes one may also want a tall, cold one.