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Why "Intimacy" is an Outcast

The question: Why is "intimacy" an outcast in coversations about veteran wellness? Why, instead, are matters of intimacy ignored altogether or otherwise couched strictly in medicalized terms? (For some background on what is meant by "the medicalization of sexuality," a good resource is Leonore Tierfer's The Medicalization of Sexuality: Conceptual, Normative, and Professional Issues.) The answer: The word "intimacy" makes little sense in a Cartesian paradigm (the Western medical model), because "intimate" is imprecise, obscure, emergent in nature, and transcends the boundaries of “knowable” information upon which the biomedical system of power is built. A doctor cannot diagnose an "intimacy disorder," or write a prescription for a pill to enhance "intimate performance." Therefore, the concept of intimacy is disregarded, discounted, or otherwise delegitimized and replaced by the medicalization of sexuality.

As more entities jump on the bandwagon to address the “sexual” concerns of wounded warriors, they’re not addressing what most needs to be addressed: by medicalizing sexuality issues so they can be treated, they’re leaving out the intimacy issues that have a far deeper impact on the lives of veterans.

Certainly there is a place for sexual medicine in the treatment of sexuality concerns, because a number of sexuality concerns do emerge as byproducts of physical traumas and conditions; but to reduce sexuality to the form and function of the body is to lose the essence of sexual well-being, which incorporates holistic wellness. That is to say, there is a need for sexual medicine, but it not the only (and certainly not always the best) approach.

Warrior Intimacy Institute is trying to change that. There is an incredible need to address concerns about intimacy for wounded veterans, not just hand out (yet another) prescription for a little blue pill. But as I've discovered recently, bureaucracy and hegemonic modes of legitimization run deep in our culture, making it challenge to do this work without pandering to the publicly conservative powers-that-be (those who fund projects).

I remain hopeful. I have spoken with so many veterans who are fed up with the V.A. healthcare system, the authoritarian power structure that it represents, and having to trade their own personal agency for "care," and I know this well because I am one of them. I am resolved to give veteran intimacy the voice it deserves, without focusing the conversation solely on "sexual dysfunction."

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