As I explained in another article, many scholars and laypeople equate sex, sexual love, and erotic love. However, I believe researchers should distinguish between these concepts because they mean somewhat different things (Karandashev, 2022). Sexual love is
- intense feelings of sexual desire, interest, and attraction;
- various sexual emotions and feelings;
- various sexual acts between two individuals.
Sexual love is biologically rooted and, therefore, cross-culturally universal. Nevertheless, its cultural understanding can be specific. People in different societies deem sexual love in their cultural contexts.
What Does “Coitus” Mean for Sexual Love?
The roots of the word “coitus” convey the meaning of “a coming together.” So, the broader meaning of coitus extends beyond physical satisfaction. For men and women, the intimacy of intercourse is more important than the intensity of masturbation (Hite, 1976/2004, pp. 61-78; 1981/1987, pp. 485-502).
The Greek and Latin Origins of the Western Lexicon of Sexual Love
The Latin word “libido” and the Greek word “epithymia” conveyed the meaning of sexual love in Western cultures. Their meanings include yearning, longing, and the desire for sensual self-fulfillment. The sexual love in the words “epithymia” and “libido” conveys the meaning of the desire for sensual pleasure of the body and the gratifying release of sexual energy. All other feelings and emotions of love are of secondary importance in the case of sexual love (Tillich, 1954; Larson, 1983).
What Is the Greek “Epithymia”?
The term “epithymia” refers to “the longing for coitus, the hungering and thirsting for sexual closeness and union with a partner” (Karandashev, 2022). The general physical attraction to a partner is essential in this case. A lover centers his or her emotions not only on sexual desire and the partner’s body but also on the person as a whole. Coitus gives not only physical but also emotional satisfaction (Larson, 1983; Lomas, 2018; Tillich, 1954).
The Sexual Love of “Epithymia” in Other Cultures
Many other cultures of the world express the term “sexual love” in a way that is similar to the Greek word “epithymia.” For instance, Eastern cultures have their own lexical equivalents for sex and sexual love. Some of them appear surprisingly similar.
The Arabic Origins of the Sexual Lexicon
Professor of Linguistics Zaidan Ali Jassem discovered that the “love and sexual terms” in English, French, German, Greek, and Latin could have Arabic origins (Jassem, 2013). For example,
“English, French, Greek and Latin erotic (Eros) comes from Arabic ‘arr ‘intercourse, making love’; English, French, and Latin abhor obtains from Arabic kariha/’akrah, kurh (n) ‘hate’ via /k & h/-merger; English and German love/lieben derives from Arabic labba (‘alabba) ‘to love, live/stay’, turning /b/ into /v/; English hope (hobby) and German hoffen is from Arabic 2ubb ‘love, hope’, turning /2/ into /h/ and /b/ into /f/ in the latter”.(Jassem, 2013, p. 97).
The modern Arabic terms for sex and sexual love are الجنس والحب الجنسي (aljins walhubu aljinsiu).
The Sexual Love Lexicon from Other Cultures of the World
Here are several other examples from other cultures around the world.
In the Philippines, the word “kilig” refers to the subjective experience of butterflies in the stomach when a person thinks of or interacts with someone sexually attractive and desired.
In the indigenous language of Yagán (Chile), the term “mamihlapinatapai” refers to the way people express unspoken mutual desire through their appearance.
According to American historian and ethnologist Daniel Brinton (1837–1899), several American languages have their own special lexicon of sexual love, which is different from the words for sex and other forms of love (Brinton, 1886).