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Ace Of Hugs

A Touch, A Touch, I Do Confess't

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There is a concept I came across several years ago that I truly believe has had a large effect on my psyche, not just in terms of orientation, but also some of my other emotional issues.    That concept is called "touch hunger" (also known as "skin hunger", but I will be speaking more on that below).

 

In brief, it refers to the idea that human beings require a certain amount of affectionate touch in order to thrive… and in the West, they aren't always getting it.  Oh, when a baby is born, in most cultures, it spends much of its time in close proximity to its mother.  And, for the first couple of years or so, a child only has to wobble over to a parent, arms outstretched,  to be picked up and held.  But after a while, that activity ceases.  Kids are expected to socialize with their peers, primarily in a school setting.  At least at the beginning, affectionate physical contact is acceptable, if occasionally unexpected.

[True story: On my very first day of kindergarten, a boy walked up and hugged me hello.  This actually freaked me out a bit, because my own upbringing was a bit more standoffish than most, despite my Italian-American upbringing.  (My parents weren't huggers, and while I did have an aunt or two who were, it wasn't so much affectionate as smothering.  Seriously... bears could have taken lessons. :) )  ]

 

This does not last.  As youngsters become pre-teens, the idea of touching your peers with anything more than a handshake or a slap on the back slowly but surely becomes socially awkward, especially with boys.  They are expected to be tough, and self-reliant.  Showing tenderness to a peer would be construed as a sign of weakness at best... and as they aged, a signifier of their possible orientation. 

 

And touching a girl?  By the time they even admit girls exist, practically any sort of contact, affectionate or otherwise, is construed romantically.  Do you remember "$BOY and $GIRL sitting in a tree..."?  I will confess that I do not know whether girls are allowed to hug other girls, or at what age it becomes coded as a romantic or sexual signal.  But I would suspect that the transition happens later than with boys.

Meanwhile, any other role models they may have are pretty much exclusively hands-off.  I don't believe I need to explain why.

They don't get touch from their parents.  They don't get it from their peers.   And they CAN'T get it from other adults.  So they get older, and the hormones kick in, and suddenly, they are expected to pair up with a peer of the opposite gender (or, more progressive areas, any gender) and enter into a romantic relationship... which is expected to turn sexual after a certain age.  At this point, affectionate touch is hardwired as a form of foreplay.

 

But what is an aro/ace to do?   Stay at home, starving for a tender touch.  After a while, at least for me, it transitions into a need for skin-to-skin contact beyond handshakes.  I tend to call this skin hunger, as it's a degree beyond clothed hugs and the like.  Of course, this is nearly impossible to experience in any relationship, same-gender or otherwise, without it being interpreted as a prelude to something else... and I must confess, the last "romantic" relationship I had, approximately 2 decades ago, was basically an excuse to achieve the touch I really needed.  

It did not end well, which may be part of the reason why my preference these days has switched to those of my own gender.  Impossible to say, at this juncture.

 

There are glimmers of hope, however.  There are other cultures, primarily Japanese & South Korean, where the idea of older teens showing affection is more acceptable.  And I've also seen younger actors & performers show affection to each other in public, something which would almost certainly have been controversial when I was their age.  But as things stand now, we have generations of children, male, female, or other, who are not getting the affection they need... and that can turn them into broken folks like me….
 

Requested/suggested by @Coyote.


 

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Interesting thread!

I think I finally get why I like to hug my parents and brother so much... it must seem weird to them but I'm glad I have this. When I won't live with my parents I will not have this kind of touch again I guess. It's true that it sucks that we can't show affection for our friends without it being coded as "romantic" or "sexual". I can't be touching with people I don't know but with close friends I can; I do it with one because I know she is a touching person, but with another it is more difficult, maybe because he is of the opposite gender. Though I don't think he would be bother, he know I'm aro, and he is as weird as me.

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47 minutes ago, nonmerci said:

Interesting thread!

I think I finally get why I like to hug my parents and brother so much... it must seem weird to them but I'm glad I have this. When I won't live with my parents I will not have this kind of touch again I guess. It's true that it sucks that we can't show affection for our friends without it being coded as "romantic" or "sexual". I can't be touching with people I don't know but with close friends I can; I do it with one because I know she is a touching person, but with another it is more difficult, maybe because he is of the opposite gender. Though I don't think he would be bother, he know I'm aro, and he is as weird as me.

 

I'm glad you've found it thought-provoking... I am quite interested in hearing the perspective of folks of different genders, cultures, and orientations. 

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Some research articles related to this, if anyone's interested:

  • Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1032–1039. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x
  • Field, T. (2010). Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review. Developmental review, 30(4), 367-383.
  • Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological psychology, 69(1), 5-21.
  • Kory Floyd (2014) Relational and Health Correlates of Affection Deprivation,Western Journal of Communication, 78:4, 383-403, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10570314.2014.927071
  • Field, T. M. (1998). Touch therapy effects on development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 22(4), 779-797.
  • Krahe ́C, Drabek MM,Paloyelis Y, Fotopoulou A. 2016 Affective touch and attachment style modulate pain:a laser-evoked potentials study.Phil.Trans. R. Soc. B371: 20160009.http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0009
  • von Mohr, M., Kirsch, L. P., & Fotopoulou, A. (2017). The soothing function of touch: affective touch reduces feelings of social exclusion. Scientific reports, 7(1), 13516.
  • Liljencrantz, J., Strigo, I., Ellingsen, D. M., Krämer, H. H., Lundblad, L. C., Nagi, S. S., ... & Olausson, H. (2017). Slow brushing reduces heat pain in humans. European Journal of Pain, 21(7), 1173-1185.
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@Coyote apparently it's not possible to read most of the articles you posted (paywalls :() but I was intrigued where it mentions in one of the abstracts that

 

Affection deprivation shows no correlation with age and no relationship with ethnicity, but men report significantly higher average affection deprivation than women. 

 

Do they go into more detail as to why that is?

 

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Hmm. This is interresting.

 

as for me...

 

For some context , i am belgian. We have handshake and all, but we also have a kind of kiss ( it's just cheek to cheek ) and it's kind of custom (it's also the case in France, not sure about other countries . Like, i really don't know ). I usually do it with friends and familly, or peoples who are friendly and open to me. Well, peoples who are not complete strangers at least.

 

Still, i can't say we are really fan of touching. Yeah sometime i see friends hug each others, but i also see boys we refuse to touch each other because "they are not gay ! ".

 

 

I am not  fan of hug. I tend to flee them. I also don't want to feel traped for… reasons.  But sometime… peoples touch me and i am not sure i hate it. It can be a friend doing something with my hair, or someone showing me some trick. Definitively nothing sexual or romantic. I am not even sure i am sensually attracted to anyone.

 

I think i am "touch adverse" and slighty "in need of touch".

 

No idea if it interest you that- being said.

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22 hours ago, Cristal Gris said:

For some context , i am belgian.

I thought you were French! I must be to French-centered to think everybody who speaks French is French lol. But I enjoy seeing a Belgian cousin here!

Yep "faire la bise" (cheek to cheek) is common in France. Depending of the region, there is more or less "kissing" in the process. It's less common to hug, except if someone needs support because he's sad, or with people I don't see for a very long time to say hello.

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22 minutes ago, nonmerci said:

I thought you were French! I must be to French-centered to think everybody who speaks French is French lol. But I enjoy seeing a Belgian cousin here!

Yep "faire la bise" (cheek to cheek) is common in France. Depending of the region, there is more or less "kissing" in the process. It's less common to hug, except if someone needs support because he's sad, or with people I don't see for a very long time to say hello.

 

Haha, you're not the first one to think that ;) It's fine ^^

 

I have some french familly that being said, they sometime kiss me twice or more (well, when i used to visit them). We only do it once here. Some peoples refuse to "faire la bise" at all (which is perfectly fine, they have various reasons )

 

Even then, i am used to have contact with peoples. I... think it's important? But this is only a "slight" contact.

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On 8/2/2019 at 4:32 PM, NullVector said:

Do they go into more detail as to why that is?

 

You mean in the Flyod article? There's this, as speculation:

 

Quote

As hypothesized, affection deprivation was significantly associated with a host of deficits related to general well-being, social well-being, mental health, and physical health. Affection deprivation was also related to insecure patterns of interpersonal attachment. Consistent with Floyd’s (2002; Floyd et al., 2005) studies illustrating the benefits of affectionate communication, this study demonstrated that the absence of affectionate communicationspecifically, tactile affectionis detrimental. That affection deprivation was higher for men than for women is consistent with research showing that both sexes prefer to be touched by women more than by men, which may result in greater deprivation for men (see, e.g., Crawford, 1994; Willis & Rawdon, 1994).

 

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@Coyote thanks. It's not explicitly stated, but I guess that to work as an explanation, that hypothesis would be assuming that (per heteronormative social conventions/codes) :

 

1. female-to-female touching = ok

2. male-to-female touching = prohibited outside the context of (heterosexual) romantic relationships

3. male-to-male touching = prohibited outside the context of (homosexual) romantic relationships

 

i.e women can get their tactile needs (at least partially) met outside of the context of romantic relationships (via friendships) but most men can't.  

 

Either that,  or men just tend to have disproportionately more male friends and women more female friends? (in which case, perhaps 2. is not 'prohibited' per se, but most men just lack the social networks to access it?)

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5 hours ago, NullVector said:

i.e women can get their tactile needs (at least partially) met outside of the context of romantic relationships (via friendships) but most men can't.  

 

Either that,  or men just tend to have disproportionately more male friends and women more female friends? (in which case, perhaps 2. is not 'prohibited' per se, but most men just lack the social networks to access it?)

 

Both of those sound like what I think they were saying there -- there's different social standards applied to same-gender touching for women vs. men, and I think it may be standard for people to befriend more people of their own gender, while also (if they're straight) only ever getting romantically/sexually involved with men (as women) or women (as men).

 

However, I think there's an additional consideration here, because I was also interested in the part mentioning "both sexes prefer to be touched by women more than by men." That part seems to be attributed to these two citations:

  • Crawford, C. B. (1994). Effects of sex and sex roles on same-sex touch. Perceptual and Motor Skills,78, 391–394. doi:10.2466=pms.1994.78.2.391
  • Willis, F. N., & Rawdon, V. A. (1994). Gender and national differences in attitudes toward same-gender touch. Perceptual and Motor Skills,78, 1027–1034. doi:10.2466=pms.1994.78.3.1027

I don't have access to these, although it's possible to look up their abstracts. They're probably light on explanation anyway. But if left to guess, I'd figure that in the U.S., even straight women prefer same-gender touch because generally speaking, men don't bother to make themselves seem as safe or approachable.

 

Also who knows how any of these results would look if they bothered to invite or account for nonbinary participants.

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23 hours ago, NullVector said:

 thanks. It's not explicitly stated, but I guess that to work as an explanation, that hypothesis would be assuming that (per heteronormative social conventions/codes) :

Cisnormative as much as heteronormative, probably with mononormativity thrown into the mix.

 

23 hours ago, NullVector said:

1. female-to-female touching = ok

2. male-to-female touching = prohibited outside the context of (heterosexual) romantic relationships

3. male-to-male touching = prohibited outside the context of (homosexual) romantic relationships

I suspect that in the case of 2 it matters quite a lot who does the initiating.
Thus 2a: male-to-female touching can be viewed differently from 2b: female-to-male touching.
There are situations, such as in certain "contact sports" where 3 can be perfectly acceptable. Though, of course, these are only going to appeal to some men.

 

Other possible factors would be if the people involved are coupled, single and looking or single and not looking.



 

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I was thinking about this sort of thing today, actually. I found myself sort of sitting and putting hands on my face, trying to pretend it was someone else's.

 

I was a really touchy kid growing up. Being raised socially as a female, it was fine. (except with boys.) Even when I began socially transitioning in high school, I held my friends' hands, I hugged them, I tried to give affection in plenty of ways.

 

Due to my work life, I got really desensitized to touch, and it became something I wanted to control. Who, what, where, when. I wanted some sort of autonomy over it, and in the act of choosing I took it away from myself. Deprived myself of it, as if that made it better.

 

Another thing I discovered about being out, in more ways than one, was how people viewed my touches. In my self-discovery, I hurt a lot of people being in relationships I shouldn't have. The concern above all else came from being afraid of sending the wrong signals. It wasn't about being "straight" or "gay" or not, it was a matter of fearing that someone saw it as romantic attraction, and the steps I took to prevent that have left me more closed off than I've ever been.

 

OP kinda hits it in the head of like, everything being hardwired as a prelude to other things.

 

I don't know, the only people I've talked about this sort of thing with (thankfully) has been one (1) also aromantic person. They sort of carved out the way I want other relationships I have in my life. But we both understand the context in which we talk about filling needs of skin hunger- as OP put it- so there's no fear of that.
I feel like the only way I'd be able to do that with someone else is in those parameters. Ideally with someone aro, or someone who would understand. Sometimes I think irrationally about putting myself out there sexually to satisfy that need, but I know the thing that comes with skin hunger, at least for me, is wanting to share that physical intimate space with someone I care about. Unless hookups get a.) asexual and b.) really focused on caring for each other rather than goal-centered intercourse, focused on a persons own pleasure rather than the person you're with... I'm sorta SOL. We make do, and mostly that's just hoping that communities I'm reaching out to in college have a strong a-presence right now.

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I will periodically get a massage as the closest thing to this that is easily available. 

I'm not ace, and would greatly prefer cuddling with someone I found physically attractive, but for now, massage is the best I can easily do...

But I definitely experience this as well.

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Maybe that's just my inner hippie speaking but I find it scary how we are raised and then as adults, we can only get touch under (very) specific circumstances. If you do not want to meet the requirements, too bad. I mean, yeah, it's clear you should not touch someone randomly who does not want to be touched (basic respect for others and their personal space) but reading all of your entries, all these social conventions are making my head spin!
I guess...touch should be and feel natural. I was affected by all of this too; I felt weird as I cuddled with a friend for the first time. After that, it got better and now I can gradually hug my friends just like that, stroke their hand when we sit together, etc. (only do that with the friends of whom I know they like and want it). I really grew to like touching others, even strangers, and it does not have to be a very big or long lasting touch. To give a silly example: Few weeks ago, I was on a train ride and talked to an elderly woman about the situation in the train (it was crowded and very hot that day and the personnel overchallenged). We stood in the middle of it. The brakes got activated and I touched her shoulder lightly to indicate I would hold her if she couldn't find something to hold on to. She smiled and laughed a little at me and it made me smile just as much. It created a small moment of warmth.
I think it's really important to give this topic a voice because it's often overlooked in our strange society, where people are so distanced to each other.

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