Why doesn’t having many sexual partners lead to more emotional intimacy?

Working within the sexual health psychology service we often meet gay and bisexual men who report that they have active sex lives, but rarely talk about a lasting emotional connection with the men they meet.

Emotional intimacy is not restricted to sex: doing things together, such as cooking a meal, listening to music, or even talking about a relationship, can all be intimate interactions. Being intimate with another person involves being oneself with someone with no facades or defences and feeling safe and open to communication and sharing.

Being your authentic self can be compromised by growing up as a gay man in a heteronormative society, as gay men are often influenced by messages about feeling different and inadequate. This may lead to inexperience with intimacy and avoidance of sharing feelings, resulting in not being open with another person.
While there are many positives to having an active sex life and exploring sexual preferences with different partners, the modes of achieving this (e.g. through sex apps and cruising) can limit and pose barriers to emotional intimacy.  For example, interactions on Grindr (and other dating apps) often lead to the sexual objectification of gay and bisexual men, placing high value on good looks, youth, masculinity etc.

Men we see often find it difficult to pursue intimacy with other men they meet through sex apps for fear of being rejected or ridiculed. Therefore, this context does not lend itself well to exploring other aspects of intimate and social interactions, which would help to build intimacy.

Dr Mirjana Jovanovic