To answer your question here from my perspective - no, this is not intimacy. It’d be easy to assume that is because there is no physical component. Many would dismiss it as qualifying simply on that aspect alone. But yet it’s still "open and vulnerable" - I would guess you are actually being exceptionally honest here.
You’ve also already indicated that you believe sex can happen - and even in a chosen, enjoyable interchange - without intimacy.
So what makes the difference? What IS the core component to intimacy?
Vulnerability. The degree of vulnerability.
Certainly vulnerability is a component, but I wouldn't label it as core as it shifts based on the circumstance. It also may be a difference between men and women. I don't always feel vulnerable when I'm being intimate, though there are plenty of times I do. If my wife asked to peg me tonight, and for whatever reason I went along with it, I'd feel REALLY vulnerable in that moment lol. But if we're just having a typical tryst, I'm more likely to experience feelings of love, lust, pleasure, etc.
I think the core component to physical intimacy is an emotional connection--and that connection has a wide spectrum. Maybe you just meet someone for a first date and discuss a cafe you both once visited in Rome--you feel drawn to each other as you each reflect on a joyful memory. There's a spark, an attraction; you sneak off to an alley and have a passionate fuck. It's raw, intimate.
Alternatively, perhaps I have no idea what I'm writing about right now. I'm really off the main road here and engaging with this as a mental exercise.
In that regard, would it be fair to say that vulnerability (or more so, the fear of) can actually make true/real intimacy harder to achieve?
I agree with that--I think the fear of being vulnerable can prevent you from achieving deeper levels of intimacy. I can relate to that and I wrote about it early on in my first thread. As I discovered my sexual kinks at the age of 20-21, I was hesitant to play them out with very attractive girls or girls I liked--I felt like it could scare them off and I'd be seen as a loser. I'd instead explore them with girls I had control over; girls who liked me more than I liked them--so they'd be willing to cut me more slack, and if they didn't, nothing would be lost if they were scared off.
Once I started seriously dating my wife, I began to open up more with her--fairly quickly (age 22~) I was entirely honest with her. It's a trait that largely comes natural to me--it's probably the core tenet of my personality. As a very young man, I was on shaky ground with my sexuality--I sexually developed late, kissing my first girl at 18--but by 22, I had no issue being honest with what I wanted, in and out of the bedroom.
My wife is the opposite, walled off in all aspects of her life, terrified of being vulnerable; because she's terrified of being judged. In some ways I think I welcome judgement--just do it to my face. (I've enjoyed the brief conflicts with my CT in that regard.)
Would it also be fair to say that limiting real vulnerability would make it easier to engage in acts that would appear to be intimate (but in reality, can’t possibly be because they lack the core component)? As an example, is it not your anonymity here that actually allows you to be more open and "vulnerable"?
Yes, I agree with you and that fits my example above, but I disagree with your example. It's not my anonymity here that allows me to be honest; it's the expectation that none of you are directly involved with my life. You could swing by my house this afternoon and I'd happily show you my driver's license and be equally open with you without you even telling me your name (you seem like a swell person, so I'd even cook you dinner!).
I don't fear honesty; but I fear potential consequences to my life: children, wife, etc. It's why I wouldn't go to the community pool right now and broadcast my wife's affair as it would have a direct affect on the people in my life. Zero concerns with talking to any of you though.