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Defining Penetration

“Penetration has a spice of divination in it, which tickles our vanity more than any other quality of the mind.” –Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Penetration is a word that is often used to describe the culminating act of sexuality. It’s a word I often use when describing the best use of good lubricant. But recently, after using the word in conjunction with the act, I began to wonder what I was actually saying.  So I went on a search, only to find that the verb “to penetrate” actually has eight different dictionary definitions. Thus, it occurred to me that the meaning you attach to the verb may well deeply influence your relationship to the sexual act.

Sadly for many people, the definition of penetration as a military force entering into enemy territory or a projectile hitting a target might well be their first association. It is not uncommon to associate sexual penetration with feelings of inadequacy, pain and even violation.  Whether from a history of sexual abuse or an inability to experience pleasure within the act, intercourse that doesn’t happen in the context of a safe, consensual space is easily interpreted as an invasion.


A second, and perhaps more sexually meaningful definition for the verb “to penetrate,” is “to permeate and to have an effect throughout.”  By applying this thinking to your sexual acts, you can have a transformative experience, which has the potential to heal and connect you at the deepest levels.  This kind of penetration has reverence in it for both partners; welcoming someone inside of you and wanting to enter inside of someone is sharing a prayer.  Respecting the power and sanctity of this space presumes that it is a journey to arrive here.  This takes the time and full attention to exploring the mystery of arousal.

Finally, “to penetrate” also means “to grasp the significance and see through, by piercing the consciousness or emotions.” When we truly understand what it means to open ourselves completely to being loved, held and physically filled with someone else’s life force, the sexual act of penetration holds the secrets of our deepest pleasure, as well as a loving bond that is unique in the world. Not many achieve this level of penetration in their lives, although most everyone I have ever spoken with about their sexuality long to know what it is to be steeped in sexual passion.

Know this- the act of sexual penetration is a force of nature that is both the mechanism of our procreation and the source of our most divine creativity. Don’t take it lightly and don’t rush it. Instead, imbue your penetrative acts with all of the insights of your heart and mind. Our language about penetration is as layered with meaning as the act itself. Knowing what you mean when you approach the penetration conversation can only be helpful.

Realize that our sexuality is a metaphor the rest of our life. How we think and speak about our sexual encounters reflects deeply in the intimacy we find in our days. Couples who build a strong and consensual relationship with the meaning and act of penetration are likely to have a strong and consensual relationship to each other.