Saturday, 10 March 2018


I have been thinging about this a lot recently in a variety of contexts.

I am sure I have written on here before about the importance of touch. I have been thinking about it recently and discussing it with friends partly in relation to the variety of discussion that has led from the #metoo movement and consequences in the UK at least where allegations of inappropriate touching - interpreted as sexual harassment or assault - have led to serious consequences for the people concerned, I am not wanting to get into that debate in this post. However I think it has made people more concious of the way they touch others and the appropriateness of that.

There is a positive side to that in that men in particular need to understand that there are occasions where physical contact is not welcome or appropriate and may be extremely unwelcome. However there is a negative side where touching can become forbidden in many contexts as a way of ensuring that no physical contact is inappropriate.

This has been developing in the UK for decades - and much of it for very good reasons. Where one is working in a professional context with children, vulnerable people or with the opposite sex on a one to one basis there has been a focus on such issues. Though truly it refers to any human reaction with another - though where there is a power relationship it becomes more of an issue.

Last year I had to have a slightly uncomfortable medical procedure. Whilst it took place a nurse placed her hand on my shoulder and I found that very comforting. Fortified by the medication coursing through my system I made a point of telling her that as I was aware that in some contexts that might have been thought of as inappropriate - perhaps especially if it had been a male nurse and a female patient. The nurse asked me to repeat my thoughts in the comments form I would receive to fill in later as she had already had discussions with the doctor about this.

Perhaps the issue about touching is where it is inappropriate because of a power relationship...

But I will leave that for now. I have gone on far more than intended. I think physical contact between people is important. It is comforting and supportive. I recognise that many women in particular may have had experiences where such hugs have become too intimate and inappropriate. However I think it is important that we find ways of working round that and recognising the value of touch. Hugs are good.

Do read this article that prompted me to write again about this issue:

No hugging: are we living through a crisis of touch?


Jz said...

I keep trying to comment on this but I'm having trouble wrapping up my "yes but no but yes but no..."s into any sort of coherent statement and I keep hitting "delete, delete, delete".
So I'm going to say, "I AGREE! Except for the parts where I disagree!" and then go away and think about it some more. I'll either come back here or do my own post from it. (Depending on how the coherency thing goes...)

Pygar said...

I will be interested to see your final thoughts Jz. I'm kind of guessing that you agree in principle but in practice can in some circumstances feel uncomfortable about being touched? But if it was that simple you wouldn't have had to... keep hitting "delete, delete, delete".

If you do write your own post about it please let me know and I will link to it from here.

P xx

Jen P. said...

Interesting point -- when is something worthwhile taken too far and therefore into a realm that is unhealthy? I'm highly tactile, and touch reinforces my empathetic nature as well as my pension for recognizing humor among colleagues (e.g., a sharp tap on the forearm following my quip). I would die if I thought anyone ever mistook it as inappropriate. Conversely, the "creepy" feeling I get from perceived inappropriate touch is intuitive; when described in black and white, it seems innocent enough but in the moment it occurs, I know without a doubt the man had a nefarious agenda...and to date, I've never been wrong (as evidenced by subsequent circumstances that revealed his agenda).

So how do men (and women, of course) in authority positions characterize the boundary between appropriate touch, such as empathetic or humorous, and inappropriate touch... I honestly do not know. But I think it's an excellent first step getting people to talk about it and voice their perceptions -- both those doing the touching and those receiving it.

Side Kicker said...

A soft touch is always better than a hard blow.

julie said...

I can't imagine a world where a nurse, male or female (I am a nurse) can't lay a hand on a patient's hand or shoulder for reassurance during a procedure. I know there are people who prefer not to be touched by any stranger in any situation but in general I would say we are barking up the wrong tree here.

Touch is an important human sense and it would be awful if we were scared to touch others at all. Of course, it would be preferable in all circumstances to obtain consent.

Pygar said...

Thanks Jen P. It is interesting isn't it. What exactly is it that makes a certain touch feel creepy and inappropriate when the touch described in abstract might seem so innocent - and indeed might be accepted or even welcomes when done by someone else.

It has got me wondering whether it is the person doing the touching rather than the nature of the touch that is key?

Though sometimes it can be the person receiving it - where some appreciate physical contact other shun it. Perhaps that can be the issue in the situations julie talks about in her comment. Just who can one touch innocently and how will it be received?

Thank you for your thoughts.


Pygar said...

In most circumstances you may be right Side Kicker. However there are many subs who may not wish to accept a soft touch from someone they do not know or who the dislike or do not trust.

They may though relish a hard blow in appropriate circumstances as part of a play situation.


Pygar said...

Thank you julie. Yes I do agree with you about the touch issue. However it can be so artificial to have to always ask permission to give a touch in an innocent way. Indeed it may draw attention to it in a way that almost causes it to be creepy or unacceptable.

I think in the UK there has been growing concern about the appropriateness of touching in some of the caring professions because of publicity of cases of abuse and what I think may be hysterical fears generalised from such cases.

I wonder if you have found this at all in your own situation in terms of any professional advice given to you?

P xx