Eroticism Needs Mystery, Not Bare Skin, To Thrive

Eroticism is not in what’s shown but in what’s hidden.

By Megha Verma2 min read

The naked body is not the subject of eroticism, but rather desire — the distance between the admirer and the admired, which sparks longing.

Social Media Damages the Space between Us

Our generation shows and documents everything, so of course, modern courtships have consequently become gaudy and unromantic. We text all day and Facetime when we’re not near, so where is the space where you long to hear your lover’s voice? We document our entire lives online, so where is the space left to tell our story with our own mouths, and not through the filtered lens of a staged Instagram photo?

Where is the space to wonder about the other person? 

We eagerly wait for our crush to watch our Instagram story rather than interacting in person, making real eye contact instead of flirting with the phone camera. Where is the space to wonder about the other person? To satisfy curiosity in person? 

Progress Honestly, but Don’t Erase the Mystery

Being honest in a relationship is not about laying everything out, like a cold body opened on an operating table, each trauma and insecurity labeled, the skin overexposed in clinical light. Being honest means not lying about who you are and your intentions; it means not having to ask, “Is this cheating?”

Savor the process of getting to know someone authentically. 

Worry less about what’s on your social media, about stalking, or about finding out every detail. It instantly removes a great deal of intrigue, which would otherwise give you emotional satisfaction. Instead, savor the process of getting to know someone authentically. Savor the feelings evoked by a glance, a gesture, a fragrance, or a word. Patience is often seen as boring, but in this case, patience is the key to anticipation, which is anything but boring. 

The Remedy

There is an alternative to the extremes of puritanical conservatism and promiscuous lasciviousness in relationships, and this is romance. Romance is something we think we know, but its true nature has been forgotten, its artful practice abandoned. 

Romance is fed by eroticism. 

The word comes from the Greek god Eros, the son of Aphrodite and Ares, the gods of love and war. This means that eroticism requires both love and conflict to exist together, and in fact, is best when they’re combined. 

The harmony of love and conflict. 

I’m not referring to the toxic relationships that are perversely framed with such mythology today, neither to the alternative — a loveless, dry, and clinical relationship. I’m referring to the conflict where you’re with someone who is challenging you to be a better version of yourself. 

There’s no such thing as anyone accepting you as you are because you’re constantly changing. 

There’s no such thing as anyone accepting you as you are because you’re constantly changing. In order to make our relationships erotic, therefore, we need someone who challenges us, emotionally, spiritually, and physically so that we grow in the right way. Not someone who will lay down and do whatever it takes to please us. 

Don’t Share Your Intimate Relationship with the World

To reveal too much about the relationship to our friends is also to rob the relationship of its erotic qualities. When we describe the special moments we share with a lover, we want to relive them in the retelling, in the documentation through social media, in the constant gushing on the phone to your best friend. But then you don’t walk around with a lovely secret. It’s lost from you. 

The poet WB Yeats talked about the significance of using a symbol in poetry. The symbol, which roughly meant a divine thought or idea, is immortal, but when it’s put into poetry it becomes finite and thus mortal. It has been doomed to death. A similar thing happens when we document or reveal too much about our relationships to others. Those intimate moments lose their immortal and magical quality. We should document some of it, but never give up the whole thing. Keep some of the magic just between the two of you.