I’ve been mulling this one over a lot.
And it’s a big one. The subject of this email is not only eye-catching, it’s exactly what the world would benefit from on many levels.
Before I tell you why, I’d actually be interested to know your initial response to the title of this article – that initial feeling you had, because I think it speaks volumes to our societal programming, and it’s something that is going to come up below.
For years now I’ve been preaching the benefits of touch and developing our touch vocabulary (whether we practice massage or not). And this discussion is only becoming more and more relevant as each day passes. In particular it’s becoming increasingly relevant for men, as we see case after case of sexual assault.
Touch is an intimate thing. Regardless of the intent behind physical contact, it’s intimate. I’ve previously written an article about this called “Massage & Intimacy“, where the first point addressed is that most of us (men, in particular) don’t know what intimacy actually is (reference). Most often it’s equated to sexuality, and that’s a mistake that misses an entire spectrum of what intimacy can be.
You could liken it to saying that a car is a car is a car – which entirely misses that there are some 50 car brands available worldwide and then thousands of makes and models within those brands. And whilst you might be thinking “yes, but it’s still a car” (much as I think that way too), that answer would be coming from either a lack of interest, a lack of study/education in this area, or both.
So touch is intimate. Period. And more importantly there is a huge spectrum of intimacy that has nothing to do with sex.
And yet, when reading the email heading, that’s probably at least a small portion of where your mind went. Right? I was actually going to make the title something else more “universally palatable” and then I realized that this exact urge proved the need to leave it, and challenge our collective programming around the idea of two men touching one another.
If more men were to be making regular physical contact, they would soon learn that there is a full spectrum of closeness and intimacy that has nothing to do with sex. That learning would be profound. And the effects of it would ripple outwards to EVERYONE in that man’s sphere.
The effects of men getting more familiar with touch would include:
- A realization that physical contact is not an invitation for anything sexual.
The knowledge that touch can be used to express many, many emotions and it can be trained like any other language.
- First-hand experience that teaches the unique power of touch, which highlights the necessity of permission.
- A deeper understanding of the appropriate ways to connect with other people around us.
- The ability to develop healthier bonds and relationships with all people (including at work), creating healthier, happier and more communicative environments.
But, why are we just talking about men? It’s true that all people could use this education and training. It’s also true that out of all the instances of inappropriate touch, it’s mostly men delivering that contact (reference). Another truth is that young boys are often taught that it’s “gross” to touch other men, and therefore we grow up with a significantly underdeveloped touch vocabulary, stunted by social shaming practices (lead by these kinds of rules). This is also why women tend to have a more refined ability to sense when and why an instance of physical contact is uncomfortable.
Touch is something that we are so deeply hardwired for that we cannot live without it (the only sense that we can’t live without, actually) (read this for more on that). It is also the language through which we develop compassion and bonds with one another (reference).
In other words, we have a deep biological need for physical contact that is amplified by the lack of touch we get as men from other men. It also means then that our capacity for compassion doesn’t grow, and those two things combined often result in inappropriate touch, or worse.
When we have compassion for and bonds with one another, it is far more difficult to hurt someone. And this effect expands beyond the relationship with that one person.
The world needs more connection and more compassion. We need more safety, understanding and we need a more refined ability to communicate on all levels about all things.
And we could get all of this. If men touched more men.
I hope this sparks a few thoughts and maybe even fuels you to share this message with the men in your life.
If this sparks your interest, so too might this post “The Power of Touch for Mothers of Premature Babies: A Personal Account“.