Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Introduction

I’m hosting the December 2014 Carnival of Aces; the theme is ‘Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy’ – learn more here. This is my submission.

I’ve only hung out in corners of the asexual community where it is okay to not be having sex, and not having romance is mostly okay in these corners as well. However, there are some people who are very vocal about how much they love cuddling and touch and all that, and though I know there are at least a few people who actually don’t like touching other people very much, they tend to be so discreet about their non-enthusiasm that I had to pay attention to notice them.

I think this emphasis on sensual activity partially comes from a desire to validate our intimate relationships. If sex is not happening, how can we *prove* that these are important relationships? CUDDLING, of course!

It’s not just the asexual community which heavily emphasizes hugging, cuddling, and other forms of non-sexual sensual interaction – in fact, I have felt this emphasis far stronger in the schools I have attended (except middle school) and in my family than I ever have in ace spaces.

The result of having a set of people being very vocal about how much they are into touching people, with much less discussion of *not* wanting that kind of activity, has given me the impression that ace/aro-spectrum people are very cuddly, even though I know that is sometimes not true. And I have found very little discussion of bad experiences with touch or not wanting touch.

Speaking of bad experiences, I recently travelled in South Korea, and many Koreans who I didn’t know touched me without warning, let alone with my permission. All of this felt non-sexual to me. But being non-sexual did not make this touch okay. I did not have these kinds of experiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Japan, so I conclude that Korean culture has something to do with this. All of the Koreans who touched me without permission were middle-aged and older, so this might be a generational thing. None of them seemed to understand why I objected to what I did, and sometimes they would touch me again even after I had expressed my displeasure.

It got to the point that I became very guarded around Koreans over the age of 35.

I’m fine with the vocal people being vocal – if they love hugging, cuddling, caressing, and so forth, why not talk about it? I don’t want them to be less vocal. I do want to open a discussion about non-sexual touch which is not entirely good, so that people who have negative feelings about touch know they are not alone. In particular, I want to affirm that physical intimacy is no more required than sexual or romantic intimacy.

An evil fairy will make a guest appearance in the next post.


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12 thoughts on “Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Introduction

  1. I think that only seeing very simple opinions on a subject makes it harder to express complex ones – you don’t really feel invited to speak when what you have to say doesn’t fit the established format and there’s fewer analytic tools already present in the discussion to help frame your thoughts – so it’s easier just to say “I like cuddling a lot, too.” Even if you say something simple like, “Really not into people touching me,” or “I’m perfectly happy hugging strangers, but I have this friend I hug and I sometimes feel pressured into it,” it feels like you need to explain why you don’t feel the same.

    I find that touch is often dominance-coded; the more powerful reaches out to the less. I suspect that the reason that all the Koreans that touched you uninvited were older is that their age meant they sufficiently socially trumped you to the extent that they felt they didn’t need an invitation. Or, reversed, the younger people didn’t have sufficient social power that they thought you’d find their touch reassuring.

    • Yeah, it is hard to figure this stuff out, let alone write it down in a way which is coherent, as I am discovering as I work on other posts in this series.

      I think you’re onto something when you say that touch is often dominance coded. Other ways dominance plays a role is that the less powerful party might ‘initiate’ in order to appease.

  2. I admit, I’m not enough a part of forums and other discussion based communities to really know what gets talked about, but I’m venturing a guess to say that what isn’t talked about a lot is this: exceptions to the rule. For example, I might say that my girlfriend and I are very physically affectionate; we cuddle, kiss, hold hands, etc. However, that doesn’t put me in the “loves cuddling” camp. She is the exception to the rule that in general I DON’T like being touched, and even platonic physical intimacy is very difficult for me. But that weird in-between is hard to discuss when you have so many people saying they’re firmly one way or another, so I could see viewpoints like that getting lost in the greater discussion.

    Just a thought.

    • Yeah, discussing nuance can be tough.

      This is all part of why I decided on this theme for the carnival. These carnivals sometimes allow a topic to be discussed in greater complexity and depth.

  3. Pingback: Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Hugging Is … Good? Maybe I don’t want a hug? | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  4. Pingback: Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Hugging is for Others, Not for Me | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  5. Pingback: Touch Is a Touchy Topic: the Idea [if man + woman, then touch is sexual] Is Damaging | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  6. Pingback: Touch is a Touchy Topic: Do I Crave Physical Touch? | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  7. Pingback: Touch is a Touchy Topic: Touchiness and Asexuality | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  8. Pingback: Touch is a Touchy Topic: Conclusion | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  9. Pingback: December 2014 Carnival of Aces Roundup | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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