This is a difficult topic to navigate because so many people have been affected by inappropriate touch. I want to make it clear that in no way does this article condone or support the act. I do try to cast some light on the issues and potential causes that underlie this occurrence.
Believe it or not the act of inappropriate touch is not the problem. The actual problem is the underlying reasons why touch is sought and why it is sought without communication or consent.
Part of the mistake that we as a culture make far too often is to ban the apparent result of problems, instead of educate. In this case, Touch deprivation is both the result and part of the cyclical problem.
What I mean by that is that due to the chance or possibility of inappropriate touch we commonly ban physical contact (seen in many schools, workplaces and generally where people gather).
This is a terrible mistake, because by perpetuating a rule of non-contact, we feed part of the problem to begin with. Touch deprivation produces a lack of empathy and a lack of touch vocabulary. Both of which are part of the reason why the touch is inappropriate in the first place – we don’t know how to express empathy skillfully.
Without adequate exposure to empathetic touch or without touch being commonly used as an expressive and detailed dialogue, we cannot automatically acquire these skills. It would be akin to asking someone who only speaks English to start conversing in any other language without even having heard or seen it before (let alone been educated in it formally).
And the thing is, we are all part of a touch deprived culture.
That’s one part of the problem. Touch deprivation leads to touch deprivation in a cycle that creates a poor touch vocabulary. The reason the avoidance of touch doesn’t work as an approach to reducing inappropriate touch scenarios is because we are hard-wired for touch. Touch is part of our deepest biology and it is not something we can actually live without.
Our tactile sense is the first of our five senses to develop as we’re a growing foetus. It also happens to be the only one we cannot live without.
To attempt to deny such a fundamental part of our biology is an ill-conceived idea that only has the potential to create outbursts of touch that are made in an effort to satisfy the deepest need for human contact, yet without the touch vocabulary (and the word vocabulary) to execute it skillfully.
So what’s the Solution?
We need to teach people about verbal consent, the use of touch to accent other forms of communication, the use of touch as its own communication tool, the skillful application of touch.
How do we do that? Start here, start today.
If you have an aversion to touch or are uncertain about this idea, begin here with: “I Don’t Like To Be Touched – What Can I Do?“.
When you’re ready for more, read this: “Developing Fluency in the Language of Touch” for three top tips to developing greater touch vocabulary.