What is intimacy? For me, intimacy is feeling free to share who I am; my feelings, thoughts, dreams, responses, needs, and desires with another who is respectful of that vulnerability. Another who values that trust as a precious resource.
I'm a pretty open person in general, as you may have already guessed reading through these posts, so there aren't a lot of things that fall under the category of "too intimate" for me to share with someone, which just makes the things that do fit under that umbrella even more significant. Part of intimacy is sharing the pieces of self that aren't totally shiny, perhaps the things that have been damaged in the past, or areas that I desire growth in myself. It's being able to say, "Look, I know I don't have this down just yet, and I want to work that through. I'll need your support and love to hold me up when it would feel safer to just revert to what I know." and know that the weak spot will be treated with respect, and that my partner will nudge me gently if I am falling down on something. It is not enabling, but it is reinforcing.
Intimacy means that I don't have to be perfect all the time, that I can let down my guard and drop the facades that are part of daily life, the things that protect me from the outside world. It means that I can delve into my inside world, and have company on that journey. It means that I am safe being hurt, or being pleasured; being submissive, egalitarian, or dominant.
Intimacy is reciprocal. It only works well if all parties concerned are putting into the pot, if everyone desires to be close, to be real and unvarnished with each other. Just listening, while not giving of self, can feel intimate, but it lacks the give and take of a shared experience to back it up.
Recently, Z was sharing that she used to have prospective partners read her live journal before delving into relationship with them, but started to notice that it was leading to preconceived notions, based on feelings or experiences that were well into the past for her, rather than building the intimacy that she desired. The new person would feel like they already knew her, without doing the "giving of self" that is part of reciprocal intimacy.
For me, intimacy is best grown in an inclusive environment of conscious choice and desire to share. It is shared experiences, shared thoughts, shared pain, and shared joys. It is a beautiful thing to have with others, and I am blessed with several "intimates" in my life. Let's hear it for poly!