The journey is the destination.
In his book "Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marital Therapy," David Schnarch posits that sexual intercourse in America has become akin to mutual masturbation, that the way we approach recreational sex is too goal oriented, too focused on orgasm; thus, for some couples intercourse has become more like a business transaction than a mindful, loving, connective, passionate, intimate experience.
Esther Perel in her TED talk opines that passionate, intimate sex and marriage may unwittingly be mutually exclusive because "How can you desire what you already have?"
In general, sexual intercourse falls into two categories:
1. Procreational Sex, wherein the goal is to produce a baby
2. Non-procreational or Recreational Sex, wherein producing a baby is definitely not the goal
So what then is the purpose of sex when people are expressly trying to avoid making a baby?
And what is this ever-elusive thing called "passion" that we yearn for?
If aliens from another galaxy wanted to know how human beings procreate they would not have a problem. Procreative sex is primal, intuitive. However, if aliens typed "sex" into Google I think that they would be bemused by the sexual activities our species engages in when we are not procreating.
The first question the aliens might pose is, "Recreational sex seems to have become very athletic. Do some people consider it to be a form of calisthenics, a.k.a. 'sexercise'"?
Next they might query, "Why are so many humans spritzing each other with bodily fluids? Is this an expression of love? Or are they like dogs urinating on trees to mark their territories?"
Then the aliens would probably be befuddled by the multifarious usage of rectums, which - if I am not mistaken - were primarily designed as one-way streets and now, according to the Internet, are being employed as Transatlantic highways.
Then I believe that they would find the employment of masturbation as a sleep-aid, a meditation, a warm-up act, or a "release" from the daily stresses, disappointments and traumas of highly competitive capitalism to be somewhat bizarre, imprudent, and alarming.
Lastly, I believe, they would ponder if there are any concrete relationships between sex, intimacy and love? And what are the ideal circumstances and conditions that create lasting passion?
Let us assume that one of these aliens took a human form and we wanted to explain to him or her non-procreational sex as a mindful, loving, connective, passionate, intimate experience. What would we say?
We might say that there are infinite ways of having sex, infinite ways of showing love, and infinite ways of being intimate with another human being. However, the lexicon is rather dynamic so when two people (or three or four or five) want to be intimate, the best way to avoid problems is to have an open and honest conversation about the way each individual likes to explore, the pace each individual feels comfortable with, the boundaries each individual has, and some of the things in the past that the individual has found pleasing and displeasing.
AND THEN THEY NEED TO FORGET THAT THIS CONVERSATION EVER TOOK PLACE!
Because giving someone an instruction manual or road map to your body destroys the moment, destroys authenticity, destroys presence, destroys intimacy, destroys passion.
Recognize that your mind projects your own bodily pleasures onto your partners' bodies and this is completely misguided. Just because you enjoy having your neck kissed in a certain way or your arm stroked in a certain manner doesn't mean that anyone else does. Any assumptions regarding what pleases or displeases another human being are fallacious and the only way to bridge this chasm is through authentic communications and loving explorations.
Also recognize that your body and what pleases it will change over time and your partner's body and what pleases it will change over time. This could be referred to as personal "sexual evolution" and it is a good thing seeing as we are primed to crave novelty; as a species we get bored rather easily. Thus, activities that you once considered illicit or verboten will become more and more titillating as you evolve (mostly due to the fact that you considered them illicit or verboten) and you may eventually become drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Please forgive the mixed metaphor, but once you partake of the forbidden fruit you will most likely either become addicted or repulsed or both. This is how your mind functions. Thus, it is in your best interest to always expect the unexpected.
Acknowledge and try to supplant your ego and know that you probably won't succeed, especially if you fall into the category known here on planet earth as "teenager" when hormones and egos abound: for the female members of the species, please accept that subsequently telling a girlfriend about what a wonderful provider and protector you have inveigled is actually an integral part of having sex for your ego. For the male members of the species, please accept that subsequently telling a buddy about your latest seed-spreading conquest is actually an integral part of having sex for your ego. The joke goes like this: The most beautiful woman in the world and an average man are stranded on a desert island without any hope of ever being rescued. One day the beautiful woman turns to the man and says, "I'll let you have sex with me if you promise never to tell anyone."
The man thinks for a moment and then replies, "What would be the point???"
In summary, if you want to have a radically mindful, loving, connective, passionate, intimate experience that may or may not include non-procreative sex, you may want to:
1. Acknowledge that there is no inherent relationship between sex, intimacy, and love and that any assumptions you make will probably end up ruining whatever connection you are trying to create
2. Be invested in having an open conversation about what your partner considers to be loving and pleasurable signs of affection
3. Forget everything you have ever learned about sex and particularly anything you have ever seen on the Internet
4. Be committed to showing up authentically
5. Create the physical space so that you can be physically naked without distractions (such as nosy neighbors or police officers)
6. Create the mental space so that you can be mentally naked and present (and release fears from the past and expectations about the imminent future)
7. Create the emotional space to be emotionally naked (and vulnerable)
8. For non-atheists, create the spiritual space to be spiritually open to connecting with and being intimate with a fellow human being (and having whatever is divine in you touch whatever is divine in them)
9. Disregard any techniques or anything you ever learned from any other human body including your own
10. Have a sense of wonder and explore with unbiased curiosity. Or more precisely, be as present as humanly possible and do your utmost to attune to how your partner is breathing and moving and feeling at that very moment. If you catch your mind wandering forwards or backwards or sideways gently guide it back into focusing on the sensations on your hands, lips and other sensitive body parts.