The intimacies of shower sex

Sex on Tuesday

Photo of Khristina Holterman

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Shower sex is the best kind of sex. 

Water running down bodies, kissing perfectly wet lips, not having to worry about cleaning up afterward — what could be better? 

The lead-up to shower sex is the best part: making out, standing or maybe sitting on the bathroom sink, ripping each other’s clothes off as the water runs in the background, eagerly trying to get in (or get it in) quicker. 

The actual showering, however, presents new challenges, positioning being the hardest of them all. Which angle works best? One leg straddled up? Usually not. Bent over? Maybe, but that definitely takes a certain level of flexibility. Probably my least favorite, and the way it always goes, is sitting on the floor: me, on top, knees aching from the continuous bouncing as they get bruised on the tiles. 

But there’s also a certain level of comfort required for shower sex. Showers are usually a space and time for you to be truly alone with yourself and your thoughts; the act of cleaning often comes as an afterthought to the comfort and solace provided by the warm water. When sharing such an experience, of course it’s going to feel intimate and vulnerable, as it’s not conventionally a group activity. 

Personally, I don’t want to let just anyone view my naked body in its entirety, standing in a shower with the harsh bathroom lighting accentuating my imperfections. This is why I tried to have shower sex only when I was in a relationship, with partners I was comfortable with and who had already seen everything they would with me in the shower. 

But soon after my second long-term relationship ended, I threw that idea out the window. I missed doing it in a shower, and so what if I wasn’t romantically invested in my fuck buddy? I could still have a good time. 

Well, yes and no. Yes, because shower sex is hot. No, because something about that heat makes it impossible to keep feelings out of the equation. 

I wasn’t looking for anything; in fact, quite the opposite. I was about to leave for college and was just trying to fuck. But on a hot summer night (like really, really hot) after having sex with this boy, we were both sweating profusely. Instead of continuing to cuddle in a sweaty mess, I suggested we take a shower together. It felt like the perfect idea and of course, he was all for it. 

We got in the shower and immediately it was 10 times more passionate than it was on the bed. Something about hot water and another person’s warm body unlocks a new level of intimacy, new parts of a person you’ve never fully taken in before. 

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that the intimacy I felt in having shower sex with a stranger felt a lot like it did with my boyfriend. And just like that, a few minutes later, when we were out of the shower, bundled in towels, I suddenly felt like I had a new boyfriend. Fuck

Maybe it was the steam of the shower, the vulnerability of standing in front of each other completely naked or the knowledge that whatever makeup I wore washed off under the water and he didn’t seem to notice. But soon after that night, I became excited every time he texted me, foolishly thinking about him, knowing I was leaving for college and wouldn’t see him again soon. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, so why did our situation suddenly feel like so much more?

Flash forward to my first night in Berkeley, and I’d just hooked up with a guy I’d met. It was still hot outside and he stood up post-fuck drenched in sweat. He confidently exclaimed, “I’m gonna go shower.” Not sure if he meant it as an invitation or a declaration, I surprised myself with my answer: “Do you want me to come with you?” 

“No, that’s too intimate,” he said.

Ouch. 

His quick refusal stung, but I realized I wasn’t necessarily offended. I actually felt a sense of relief. He was right. No one had ever put it in those words to me before, but it was true. As he left to shower on his own, I realized in that moment that I’d mistaken intimacy for actual emotional connection. 

Fucking a boyfriend or someone you’re in love with comes with an automatic set of emotions, a sense of closeness. Those feelings are there whether you’re in a shower or not. But the pure intimacy of sharing a shower can also bring a false kind of connection between two strangers — one that mimics the closeness felt in relationship sex but lacks the deep meaning partners might share. 

Lying in my bed, listening to the water running as my hookup took his solo shower, I knew I’d no longer be eager to text my old fuck buddy that I’d showered with. We simply shared an intimate, sexy experience — not to be confused with romance, and certainly not love. 

Khristina Holterman writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected]