Michille: Stages of Intimacy

By Eric Koch / Anefo - Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35672991With the recent spate of posts about sex and intimacy, I was reminded of an RWA session I attended with Linda Howard in which she presented Desmond Morris’s 12 stages of intimacy as a means to build sexual tension in a story. I believe it comes from his Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, but I can’t confirm that because it is out of print. I would love to get a copy of it.

I have it posted next to my desk on my writing bulletin board. The list is below:

  1. Eye to body. This is the first step in general awareness, when one person gets a good look of someone else. It’s more than a glance that allows a person to notice the height, weight, and dress of another and registers an overall impression. A man will never approach a woman without this step and readers love it when writers get that first glimpse onto the page.
  2. Eye to eye. It seems to me that this should be first, but I’ll admit that The Des probably knows more about the topic than I do. He says this is the second step, but the first step of active interaction between two people.
  3. Voice to voice. Okay, now we’re talking. Literally.
  4. Hand to hand (or arm). This is used to acknowledge a possible relationship. Nora Roberts uses this a lot. I remember in the McD Romance program, several of us had trouble with how touchy Nora’s characters are early in the story. I believe Jenny put it succinctly (as she usually does) with something like, “Touch me again pal and you’ll pull back a bloody stump.” Obviously some people are more okay with this than others.
  5. Arm to shoulder. This strikes me as the classic yawn-and-drop move at the movies. This is upping the intimacy stakes because bodies are getting closer together.
  6. Arm to waist, or back. This indicated a growing familiarity and comfort level in a relationship. I like the hero’s hand on the small of the heroine’s back. Why I think that is romantic, I have no idea.
  7. Mouth to mouth. It would seem that The Des doesn’t differentiate between the lip kiss and the tongue kiss. Once someone else’s body part has entered mine, a hand to my head is, to me, less intimate. Again, I guess he knows more.
  8. Hand to head. I keep picturing a pat on the head, but I do love it in a story when one of the members of the couple holds the other’s head while kissing.
  9. Hand to body. This is the beginning of foreplay, but still clean (see stage 11).
  10. Mouth to breast. And again, I’d put 11 before 10 because I lump sexual body parts together. A hand to the breast seems less intimate than a mouth. The Des must just mean the vagina or penis.
  11. Hand to genitals. We’re rounding the bases now. And if one follows the mores for writing romance fiction these days, this is when the participants are stone cold sober or they stop.
  12. Genitals to genitals. Home run, baby! A funny aside: when I was noodling around on the web looking for input for this post, I stumbled across one that uses these steps for business relationships. This step for a business relationship means the customer becomes an insider. Ha.

Do you use this in your writing of relationships? Or do you follow a different path?

2 thoughts on “Michille: Stages of Intimacy

  1. I think I do use these on an intuitive level, but I’ll skip steps. I definitely will have to rethink skipping step number one — checking someone out is definitely a thing, even if there isn’t anything sexual about it. It could be really useful to convey body language hints and just general diversity.

    I use a lot of eye-to-eye stuff.

    I just saw a video clip with Trevor Noah and Laverne Cox on James Corden. James was getting the guests to explain their flirting techniques, and the body language between Noah and Cox was really . . . interesting. Trevor looked like his space was being invaded, and then launched on a story about how he flirts better at the little voice box on the drive-through. Laverne made some comment and touched his thigh. Then Trevor turned the box thing into a sexual metaphor, and Laverne backed right off. I think Trevor asserting his straightness like that was very off-putting to her. Then, the other guest (Luke Wilson) and James suddenly demonstrated their flirting techniques, and they both committed to the acting scene — it turned quite homoerotic. Pretty much followed some a few of your steps — eye to eye, I think a voice-to-voice comment, hand to head (cradling the other’s face), and then a kiss (blocked by head and shoulders, so I don’t know if they went there, or just faked a kiss for the humor aspect).

    I think you are right that hand-to-head (cheeks, hair) is often a prelude to a kiss. It can be controlling, or it can be luring or it can be calming.

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth: You’re Wrong! – Eight Ladies Writing

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