Help! I Like My Partner But Don’t Want to Have Sex

Photo: Francisco Navarro |

As a teenager, I remember watching rom coms with friends and not understanding why they all seemed exactly the same to me. Guy and girl meet, fall in love, kiss or have sex, DRAMA, resolution, live happily ever after (with kissing or sex.)

I remember thinking, “Dang, it must be really boring to be in a relationship where the end goal is to kiss or have sex, rather than build strong communication, find mutual interests, and explore ways to feel safe and secure with one another.”

I’m probably not unusual in thinking something along those lines, but I was also not super into the idea of “having sex” as the end goal of physical intimacy. I was sure there had to be alternative forms of physical intimacy that had lower risks for sexually transmitted infections or risks for HIV.


So, being the science nerd I am, I started researching what you can do to express intimacy that has virtually no risk of HIV transmission …. And found a really neat set of blog posts on The Wordsmith’s Forge listing alternative intimate activities to “standard sex.” And then, a few years ago, I did some more research once I learned about Scarleteen, which is now my new favorite sex, sexuality, gender, and relationship resource guide!


The obvious alternatives are kissing, holding hands, or cuddling a partner – things you might do with a friend or a romantic interest.

Here are a few of my other favorite activities from the Wordsmith’s Forge:

Photo: Israel Papillon |
  • Brushing or cutting hair
  • Massage
  • Touching body parts like the face or feet (think stroking a cheek or rubbing feet)
  • Sharing a secret with someone
  • Listening to someone’s heartbeat or breathing
  • Sharing clothes or jewelry

And here are a few more things that I’ve found are awesome from personal experience:

  • Dancing with someone (to any type of music; swing, hip-hop, ballroom waltzes, etc.)
  • Hugging while walking (be careful you could run into people OR trip on your person’s feet)
  • Cooking a meal together
  • Creating artwork or music together

It’s also important to know that building emotional intimacy can increase enjoyment of other activities, which means taking time to talk to people and be closely connected.

Scarleteens articles on non-sexual physical intimacy are not super specific, but here are some articles that look in depth at cuddling and kissing, as well as intimacy. And once you get to Scarleteen you can explore as much as your little heart desires.



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