Here’s the Thing about Touch
Touch is oversexualized. We’ve received all kinds of strange messaging around touch, in part because touch is framed as inherently sexual.
In reality, touch is as inherently sexual as the English language – you can say some extremely erotic things with a touch, sure, but you can also make small talk and have heartfelt conversations.
When you don’t get much regular practice with touch, it’s possible to build up anxiety around touch in general.
What do you touch most in an average day? Think about it. For many people, a cell phone is at the top of the list. If that’s you, it means you spend more time touching cool, smooth, unresponsive glass, rather than skin.
Touch is best contextualized as a language. Learning a foreign language and learning touch communication are very similar. Once you start you feel enabled and empowered to use touch, even if it’s a little awkward at first, you will make progress as you would with any spoken language.
Just like other avenues of interaction, touch can be misinterpreted, so preface your touch with verbal clarity. When you’re a pro, using words, touch, and body language to communicate on multiple levels will come together effortlessly to you.
Types of Touch
“Foreplay can happen at any point along the continuum, with or without erotic touch.”– Dr. Patti Britton
Touch will typically send one of the following five messages. Pay attention – which message would you like to send with touch?
- Healing – Healing touch is often attributed to nurses, physiotherapists, or others in healthcare. This is the kind of touch you’d want when you are sick or in pain. A gentle, slow stroke.
- Affectionate – Affectionate touch has joyful energy! It’s a pat on the back, high five, or bunny ears. Playful, light, and silly.
- Sensual – Indulge with sensual touch by allowing the hot water to grace your back for an extra moment in your morning shower. Sensual touch is touch for the sake of itself, for the simple pleasure it brings. Caress, tickle and slow down.
- Erotic – Erotic touch is all about anticipation. The energy is intimate but has yet to become sexual. For example, running your fingers through someone’s hair as you approach for a kiss or grinding while making out. The energy is anticipatory. Practicing with erotic touch, and being able to stop while still wanting more, is a challenging skill to master. Increased speed and pressure.
- Sexual – Sexual touch has intent driving towards sexual pleasure. Its desire is to escalate toward orgasm or other peak sexual sensations.
When considering these types of touch, it’s important to know that many activities can send more than one of these messages. Take massage, for instance, which can send every one of the five touch messages listed above.
The key to touch is intent.
Touch conversation generally work best when they begin with a greeting lower on the touch spectrum, before you move up to higher levels of intimacy. Hands and arms are a great place to make a greeting. Remember, it’s a good idea to involve the other person and bring words into the communication to make intentions and desires clear.
Instead of guessing, take time to work on your touch communication by:
- Practicing self-awareness. Take time to think about the messages you’ve received around touch and how you feel about touch.
- Refine sensory awareness. Make a point to seek out new sensory experiences.
- Desexualize touch. Work on involving touch in all communication, instead of just with people you want to have sex with.
- Get bodywork done. This could include massage therapy, hair cuts with full wash and shampoo, reflexology, etc. Body work gives you the opportunity to just receive and enjoy touch, without the expectation of providing touch in return.