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How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men

By Mark Greene on Saturday January 28th, 2017

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Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives

In preparing to write about the lack of gentle touch in men’s lives, I right away thought, “I feel confident I can do platonic touch, but I don’t necessarily trust other men to do it. Some guy will do something creepy. They always do”. Quickly on the heels of that thought, I wondered, “Wait a minute, why do I distrust men in particular?” The little voice in my head didn’t say, “I don’t necessarily trust people to not be creepy”, it said, “I don’t trust men”.

In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will revert to the sexual at a moment’s notice. That men don’t know how to physically connect otherwise. That men can’t control themselves. That men are dogs.

There is no corresponding narrative about women.

Men have a lack of platonic touch in their livesMen need gentle platonic touch in their lives just as much as women do.

Touch Isolation

Accordingly, it has become every man’s job to prove they can be trusted, in each and every interaction, day by day and case by case. In part, because so many men have behaved poorly. And so, we prove our trustworthiness by foregoing physical touch completely in any context in which even the slightest doubt about our intentions might arise. Which, sadly, is pretty much every context we encounter.

We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation.

And where does this leave men? Physically and emotionally isolated. Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self esteem and create community. Instead, we walk in the vast crowds of our cities alone in a desert of disconnection. Starving for physical connection.

We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation.

Men experience touch isolationMen crave touch but are cut off from it and experience touch isolation.

The Comfort of Contact

How often do men actually get the opportunity to express affection through lasting platonic touch? How often does it happen between men? Or between men and women? Not a hand shake or a hug, but lasting physical contact between two people that is comforting and personal, but not sexual. Between persons who are not lovers and never will be. Think holding hands. Or leaning on each other. Sitting together. That sort of thing. Just the comfort of contact. And if you are a man, imagine five minutes of contact with another man. How quickly does that idea raise the ugly specter of homophobia? And why?

While women are much freer to engage in physical contact with each other, men remain suspect when they touch others. There is only one space in our culture where long-term platonic physical contact is condoned for men, and that is between fathers and their very young children.

Physical contact that is not sexualHow often do men experience physical contact without it being sexual?

The Transformative Effect of Fatherhood

I found this kind of physical connection when my son was born. As a stay at home dad, I spent years with my son. Day after day, he sat in the crook of my arm, his little arm across my shoulder, his hand on the back of my neck. As he surveyed the world from on high, I came to know a level of contentment and calm that had previously been missing in my life.

The physical connection between us was so transformative that it changed my view of who I am and what my role is in the world. Yet it took having a child to bring this calming experience to me because so few other opportunities are possible to teach men the value and power of gentle loving touch.

Fatherhood transforms touch for menFatherhood has the potential to transform the way men think about touch.

A Lack of Physical Connection

As a young child and as a teenager, contact between myself and others simply didn’t happen unless it came in the form of rough housing or unwelcome bullying. My mother backed off from contact with me very early on, in part, I think, due to her upbringing. I can only guess that in her parent’s house physical touch was something for toddlers, but not for children past a certain age. Add to that, the fact that my father was absent due to my parent’s divorce and years of work overseas, and it meant I grew up without being held or touched.

This left me with huge insecurities about human contact. I was well into my twenties before I could put my arm around a girl I was dating without first getting drunk. To this day, I remain uncertain about where and how to approach contact with people, even those I consider close friends. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that it remains awkward, odd. As if we all feel like we’re doing something slightly…off?

Contact with male friends is always brief; a handshake, or a pat on the back. Hugs with men or women are a ballet of the awkward, a comedic choreography in which we turn our groins this way or that. Shoulders in, butts out, seeking to broadcast to anyone within line of sight that we are most certainly not having a sexual moment. We’re working so hard to be seen as sexually neutral that we take no joy in these moments of physical connection.

Lack of physical contact from a young ageMen often experience a lack of gentle touch from others from a young age.

The Sexualising of Touch

Not only do we men distrust others in this muddled realm of physical touch, but years of shaming and judgement have left us distrusting ourselves. Did I enjoy that too much? Am I having taboo thoughts? This distrust leaves us uncertain about touching another human being unless we have established very clear rules of engagement. Often we give up and simply reduce those rules to being in a relationship. We allow ourselves long-lasting comforting touch with our girlfriends or boyfriends. The vast universe of platonic human touch is suddenly reduced to the exclusive domain of one person and is blended into the sexual. That’s a lot of need to put on one person, however loving and generous they might be.

Which leads to the question, how do we teach our sons to understand how touch works? How to parse out the sexual from the platonic? Is the pleasure of human contact inherently sexual to some degree? I doubt it’s a question the average Italian man would ever ask himself. But here in America, generations of puritanical sexual shaming have made it a central question. By putting the fear of the sexual first in all our interactions, we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, avoiding all contact rather than risk even the hint of unwanted sexual touch.

The sexualising of touchThe sexualising of touch means that physical contact can be uncomfortable for men.

Giving up Human Contact

Many parents step back from physical contact with boys when their sons approach puberty. The contact these boys seek is often deemed confusing or even sexually suspect. And, most unbelievable of all, all opportunity for potential physical touch is abruptly handed over to young girls, who are suddenly expected to act as gatekeepers to touch, and who are no more prepared to take on this responsibility than boys are to hand it over.

And so boys are cast adrift with two unspoken lessons:

  1. All touch is sexually suspect
  2. Find a girlfriend or give up human contact

A particularly damning message to boys who are gay.

American culture leaves boys few options. While aggression on the basketball court or bullying in the locker room often results in sporadic moments of human contact, gentleness likely does not. And young men, whose need for touch is channeled into physically rough interactions with other boys or fumbling sexual contact with girls, lose conscious awareness of the gentle, platonic contact of their own childhoods. Sometimes it’s not until their children are born that they rediscover gentle platonic touch; the holding and caring contact that is free from the drumbeat of sex, sex, sex that pervades our culture, even as we simultaneously condemn it.

Gentle touch is not manlyThe message is that gentle touch is not part of being a man in our society.

Craving Real Connection

Is it any wonder that sexual relationships in our culture are so loaded with anger and fear? Boys are dumped on a desert island of physical isolation, and the only way they can find any comfort is to enter the blended space of sexual contact to get the connection they need.

This makes sexual relations a vastly more high stakes experience than it already should be. We encourage aggressive physical contact as an appropriate mode of contact for boys and turn a blind eye to bullying, even as we then expect them to work out some gentler mode of sexual contact in their romantic lives.


If men could diffuse their need for physical connection across a much wider set of platonic relationships, it would do wonders for our sense of connection in the world. As it is, we can’t even manage a proper hug because we can’t model what was never modeled for us.

Platonic relationship modelingThere needs to be more modeling for men of a range of platonic relationships.

The Value of Touch

We have seniors in retirement homes who are visited by dogs they can hold and pet. This helps to improve their health and emotional state of mind. It is due to the power of contact between living creatures. Why are good-hearted people driving around town, taking dogs to old folks homes? Because no one is touching these elderly people.

We know the value of touch, even as we do everything we can to shield ourselves from it.

They should have grandchildren in their laps every day, or a warm human hand to hold, not Pomeranians who come once a week. And yet, we put a dog in their laps instead of giving them human touch, because we remain a culture that holds human contact highly suspect. We know the value of touch, even as we do everything we can to shield ourselves from it.

Animals help to alleviate loneliness for old peopleOlder people are brought therapy animals to alleviate the lack of touch in their lives.

Fear of Judgement

We American men have a tragic laundry list of reasons why we are not comfortable with touch:

  1. We fear being labeled as sexually inappropriate by women.
  2. We live in a virulently homophobic culture so all contact between men is suspect.
  3. We don’t want to risk any hint of being sexual toward children.
  4. We don’t want to risk our status as macho or authoritative by being physically gentle.
  5. We don’t ever want to deal with rejection when we reach out.

But at the root of all these flawed rationalizations is the fact that most American men are never taught to do gentle non-sexual touch. We are not typically taught that we can touch and be touched as a platonic expression of joyful human contact. Accordingly, the very inappropriate over-sexualized touch our society fears runs rampant, reinforcing our culture’s self fulfilling prophecy against men and touch. Meanwhile, this inability to comfortably connect via touch has left men emotionally isolated, contributing to rampant rates of alcoholism, depression and abuse.

The fear around touch leads to isolationThe fear that surrounds physical connection results in men becoming isolated.

The Prohibition Against Platonic Touch

And what if the lack of platonic touch is causing some men to be far too aggressive toward women, who, as the exclusive gatekeepers for gentle touch are carrying a burden they could never hope to fully manage? Women, who are arguably both victims of and, in partnership with men, enforcers of the prohibition against platonic touch in American culture? The impact of our collective touch phobia is felt across our society by every single man, woman and child.

Brené Brown, in her ground breaking TED Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability talks at length about the limitations men face when attempting to express vulnerability in our culture. She notes the degree to which men are boxed in by our culture’s expectations about what a man is or is not allowed to do. I would suggest that the limitations placed on men extend to their physical expression though touch. And are just as damaging in that realm.

Men are unable to express their vulnerabilityMen are limited in their attempts to express their vulnerability.

The Awakening of Touch

But here’s the good news.

There are many reasons why full-time stay at home dads are proving to be such a transformative force in American culture. One powerful reason is the awakening of touch. As full-time dads, we are presented with the absolute necessity to hold our own wonderful children. We are learning about touch in the most powerful and life-affirming way. In ways that previous generations of men simply were not immersed in.

Once you have held your sleeping child night after night or walked for years with their hand in yours, you are a changed person. You gain a fluency and confidence in touch that you will never lose. It is a gift to us men from our children that literally has the capacity to transform American culture.

The awakening of touch is possibleThe awakening of touch is possible for men who let go of their fear and reach out.

How to Reach Out

Accordingly, now, when I am with a friend I do reach out. I do make contact. And I do so with confidence and joy. And I have my own clear path forward.

The patterns in my life may be somewhat set but I intend to do everything I can to remain in contact with my son in hopes that he will have a different view of touch in his life. I hug him and kiss him. We hold hands or I put my arm around him when we watch TV or walk on the street. I will not back off from him because someone somewhere might take issue with our physical connection. I will not back off because somehow there is an unspoken rule that I must cut him loose in the world to fend for himself. I hope we can hold hands even when he is a man. I hope we continue to hold hands until the day I die.

Ultimately, we will unlearn our fear of touch in the context of our personal lives and in our day-to-day interactions. Learning how to express platonic love and affection through touch is a vast and remarkable change that has to be lived. But it is so important that we do it. Because it is central to having a rich and full life.

Touch is life.

Like Mark Green’s Facebook Page Remaking Manhood for article updates and more!

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Words By Mark Greene

Originally posted on , Good Men Project

 

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  • Prudence Page

    This is such an important discussion. As a preschool teacher I was dismayed by adult efforts to make boys “tough” while they were still little more than babies. A cuddly nap time animal was replaced by a hard plastic action figure when a boy was 20 months old, because his parents were afraid that he was too soft. This fear came from the fact that he loved putting lotion on his cheeks. The stories go on and on. I have often wondered (like the author it seems) to what degree adolescent and adult males were motivated to have sex simply because it was the only way they could have physical contact with another human being.

    As a kindergarten teacher, I noticed that when a little girl was lonely or upset she would sidle up against me, lean into my hip, put her arms around my waist, while boys who were upset would frequently end up throwing punches. It was difficult for them to find solace.

    There was a lovely man who ran an after school program at one of the schools I worked at. He played with the boys physically – rolling them over his shoulders etc. The boys loved him and couldn’t get enough of it, they were always crawling all over him. Many of these boys didn’t have fathers at home, so it was even more important for them to have that contact. But parents starting getting nervous -so strange – who was this man and why was he playing with their boys that way? The after school teacher was told he couldn’t touch the boys. I think that human beings can become mentally and physically ill from being deprived of touch.

    • Brian Edwards

      Sex has ruined alot of people’s connections. Love has nothing to do with sex. What a sad time for humanity were in. Love will set us free!

    • Hi Prudence, a couple in Adelaide (Australia) have conducted a program for women for over 25 years. At the end, the women are blindfolded under the guise that someone is to feed them various delicacies, in a sensual way, and they have to work out what the food is.

      What the women don’t know is that specific men, some their husbands or partners, have been secretly invited and briefed that they’re to feed the woman in front of them, and not make any sound or indication that they’re men.

      So the blindfolded women think they’re being fed strawberries, chocolate, grapes etc by other women. When the blindfolds are finally removed and the women see the men, the response is off the charts!

      I’m sharing this because afterward, the female Elder facilitator asks the men a simple question: how many men in the room have had sex when all they wanted was a hug?

      Every single hand goes up … followed by a shocked intake of breath from the women.

      When the men are invited to explain, without fail the responses are that when ‘sex’ is on offer from our spouses or partners, we believe we’re not entitled to say ‘no’ and simply ask for a hug.

      Sad times indeed …

    • Wolves in sheep’s clothing have ruined it for all the genuine lambs out there.

      • InkedUpMarketing

        Or perhaps the assumption of wolves in sheeps clothing… not that they aren’t out there but it seems everyone is so afraid of “what if” that ppl are too afraid to live their lives to full potential… we live under a cloud of fear-mongering…

      • Grey Keetan

        Ditto!

  • Brian Edwards

    Excellent article!

  • Very well written Mark and I completely agree that my approach to ‘touch’ has profoundly changed since becoming a father to two sons. My youngest is 8yo and so we still have the physical contact you mention, and your writing has put me on notice to not back off from my 14yo son, even though he may find it a bit awkward. Thanks for a very insightful view.

    • Mark Greene

      Thank you. Wow. Its that committment to not “back off.” That’s the fierce committment our kids need and want from us.

    • Robert van Lieshout-Hendrix

      Mark did you ask me if I had any kids of my own? The answer is no. And to make sure: I was not talking about physical contact between father and son. Sorry for being not totally clear on that score…

  • Robert van Lieshout-Hendrix

    This article is very confusing. Talking about physical contact between a father and son, about adult men and men and women. Any contact between human beings could involve sexual arrousement. We men can avoid them or go for it and just deal with being sexually arroused, a perfectly natural reaction of the body as well as the mind. To me it seem to prove that American men are without a doubt scared about their own natural inclanations. Trying to have platonic physical contact is a contradiction in itself. Hugging or touching a man or any human being for that matter means you are being vulnerable and there is no saying what feeling might come up as a result. We either accept to be vulnerable beings and start seeing this as being part of a whole human being. Platonic physical contact means you are avoiding experiencing emotions which in itself is proving the existinging prejudice of society right! I would rather be adventurous and start exploring my whole being. We might learn something about ourselves. There is a whole world to be gained behind these scary sexual and emotional stuff which we will never find hugging or touching our male friends with our butts stuck way out. That is not a real hug, it is deceiving yourself and the other man saying he can only feel half of our touch…and that we don’t for the life trust him….

    • sara_ahoy

      If vulnerability or fear makes you aroused, then the first time you hug a friend might make you aroused, yes. But if you get used to it, it will no longer cause sexual excitement, and become a normal part of everyday life. It’s worth overcoming the first hurdle.

    • Mark Greene

      Hi Robert, I’m curious to ask, do you have children of your own?

    • Hi Robert, being a parent puts one on notice in regard to touch and teaches how to discern between truly platonic touch (which kids absolutely need) and sensual touch (which relationships need). After recently leaving a 21yr relationship where in the latter years, any form of physical contact was ‘off the menu’ and I felt starved. I found nurture from deep, relaxing massage from a professional person where I knew the boundaries.

      I also visited a tantric teacher for a session on tantric touch, where one’s awareness moves between being the ‘toucher’ to being the ‘touchee’, and learning how to ask for and receive what I needed. It was very confronting, and profound, especially after years of constantly being told ‘no’.

      I would suggest that if touch mostly arouses you and it seems as you say you ‘cannot control’ your response, then engaging in platonic touch with someone will moderate your arousal, help you become mindful and allow you to save your arousal for a suitable time.

      • Robert van Lieshout-Hendrix

        Hello dear man unplugged, I am sorry to have been the source of this confusion, I should have added I was talking about physical touch between adult men and the consequence of it, not of a man touching a child!
        I have been visiting tantric teachers for many session and I still do. The emotions emurging lead to new ones and their was clearly a developement in this. More than 2 years have seriously changed my life after being able to let go of what I thought I needed. In fact my body and inner self showed me the way! Not the other way around. Indeed very confronting as almost all men are educated in the west to be on top of things and we tend to think that is what it means to be a man. Not controling your arousal does not lead to ’emotional anarchy’, which I feared would happen, but instead to being real and authentic, a very liberating experience. This change in perception(inner self) and perspective(outer circumstances) had a huge impact and indeed still has as I am still aboard this adventure. A very enriched life because of it and people, both men and women notice the change in me, without knowing what caused it. It takes considerable courage for a man to let go of the controle and trust what will show up next. But boy, it is worth it!

        • HI Robert, thank you for your very clear response! Yes, it takes courage to unravel the patterning of our past, which as you say, despite the pain it can cause as we let go, is worth every step. I go under the name of Man Unplugged because that’s the name of the book I published, about the inner world of men. It is a combination of my own journey, coupled with the supporting work of various men who’ve trodden the path before me, such as Robert Bly, Steven Biddulph, Carl Jung, Robert A Johnson .. without which I would not have had a framework to share it within. I’m happy to hear that your tantric journey has opened you up to new possibilities and journeys! Safe travels …

    • Roi

      I understand Robert’s point to be that we shouldn’t be afraid that touch may very well be accompanied by some degree of sexual feeling. That doesn’t mean we need to follow through or proceed along that line. It just means to be accepting, natural, and not fearful. It’s a call for honesty while maintaining whatever boundaries are appropriate for the situation. I agree with you, Robert.

    • pranic Roger

      Robert, platonic physical touch between adult men is not inappropriate, sexual arousal is a possible consequence of this activity however when this happens it is more a sign that your sexual release is not happening frequently enough, either through self-gratification or with a sexual partner.
      As a massage therapist I have physical touch with adult men and women and am not aroused sexually. The focus of the mind directs the physical response. Intent will often direct the outcome. I’m not making reference here to spontaneous arousal which sometimes accompanies initial touch without there being any conscious sexual intent. This physical sexual arousal can be diminished by mental focus and redirection of thought.
      With regards to arousal and touch I also belong to a men’s group where we meet monthly and exchange greetings before and after group with hugs, long hugs, with bellies touching. I do not experience sexual arousal, nor fear, nor shame. You can feel the other’s heartbeat and breath, without fear or shame. The connection removes the isolation which adult men experience from lack of physical touch. The aspect of vulnerability you talk about speaks to your possible fear and uncertainty around your sexual functioning. Security, identity, and self-esteem are aspects which perhaps are involved. I recommend “Championing your inner child” by John Bradshaw, dealing with archetypes, championing our lover, magician, king, and warrior energies.

  • msm

    Thank you for bringing this issue forward.

  • iamnotbubba

    This is a brilliant article. Thank you so much for having the courage to write it. After my father died when I was 11 years old. I went into such a deep isolation of human contact that really didn’t end until I met my wife when I was 26 years old. Even now as a 45 yo man, I feel anxiety if I go more than a day without non-sexual human touch. Touch is so much more important than I could possibly describe. For me, it calms my fearful and anxious soul.

    I too am a stay-at-home father, sometimes I wonder if I touch my children too much. Sometimes, its a pat on the head, a stroke of the hair, or simply holding hands while watching tv. Its never inappropriate. While waiting in line at the pharmacist the other day, I put my hands on my sons shoulders and began to massage his neck. Under his breath, I heard him say. “I love you too daddy.” Touch is love.

    iamnotbubba
    http://www.perpetuallyhealing.com

    • Mark Greene

      Thanks for this, iamnotbubba. Its a confirmation of how good life can be.

    • Alexander Rey

      Thanks for adding your opinion. Its so lovely to know they are fathers like that. Touch is love exactly < Thanks

  • Kanga 13

    There is a simple solution: square dancing and contra dancing. These traditional dance forms are inclusive, inter-generational and incproporate a great deal of touch. http://www.wheresthedance.com will provide information on where to find a place that practices these dance forms, which are a huge amount of fun, and create happiness: https://youtu.be/NI9NHlqpXPg

    • sara_ahoy

      Or just hugging each other.

    • Maryanne Slater

      You know, that’s a pretty darned good idea. I do English country dancing which is quite similar (but usually slower, thank goodness) and there are even some dances where the men have to hold a high-five while doing a few steps.

    • Lady Poet Lawyerette

      love the dancing idea! Dancing has been so important to every generation. My grandma and her brothers danced at a dance hall on Woodward in Detroit starting in 1922– that’s where she met my British Grandpa, who called the dances. My parents danced at Wayne State University in the 50s. My in-laws were square dancers. My husband (a stay at home dad) and I took lessons at a Fred Astaire— so fun– they have a similar trade off of partners during a “dance party” that typically is on Friday night.

  • In my opinion, this is the key antidote to this dilemma, “If men could diffuse their need for physical connection across a much wider set of platonic relationships, it would do wonders for our sense of connection in the world. As it is, we can’t even manage a proper hug because we can’t model what was never modeled for us.”

    As a same sex oriented cis-male (with a healthy dose of bi-curiosity) this has been a key dilemma to my growth and healing as I have gone searching for the answer to my intimacy needs and one of those answers has been the “Human Awareness Institute” (www.hai.org). For those men, gay, bi, straight or other, who are willing to step into the ring of authenticity, HAI is an incredible space to explore your edges, to have real conversations and encounters with a group of diverse and caring people, and to delve into the realm of love, intimacy and sexuality and learn how to touch and be touched in a way that honors the dignity of all parties involved.

  • mesieu

    Thanks!
    This is such a needed discussion.
    I believe that men are more likely to become violent simply because they suffer more while having less opportunity to say so and get help.
    This is not to take away the light that’s being shed on the many issues women face, quite the opposite; whatever is a problem for us is also a problem for them, and vice-versa. We all live together after all, don’t we…

  • Benjamin

    Thank you for writing this. It’s almost as though you could feel what I feel. Very well put

  • Rochelle

    This article is a refection of what I have seen my whole life with men. Having raised 3 boys, They hug each other all the time. If not that, there is always the little smack on the face just to get a wrestling match going. I think the stigma of society stating men should be tough, not have feelings carries over as to not let outsiders believe you have feelings. Amazing article.

  • Lindy Ariff, MSW

    When I lived in California and offered my Inner Peace at SOBA Recovery Center, we would discuss our love languages and many of the men in the group found that their top love language (http://lindyariff.com/the-5-love-languages/) was touch. We were able to openly discuss the challenge that men face where platonic touch is important and powerful in helping men feel safe and loved, yet platonic touch is also such cultural taboo for men in our society. Even little boys stop wanting their mother’s hugs and touch as they leave for school in the morning. Thank you for sharing about this very important topic!!

    Lindy Ariff, LCSW
    http://www.LindyAriff.com

  • This was really darn good.

    I saw “Moonlight” last year (it’s phenomenal–go see it), and the thing that got me in this movie was how much the lack of touch led to so much pain. Almost nothing in that movie matches my life–and yet that lack of touch is what touched me the most (no pun intended, I think).

    We’re taught as men, for some reason, that we need to be untouched to be manly. Maybe.

    Maybe being manly is really being in touch with our own needs, untroubled by that need, and able to be touched and to touch.

    • Mario Freire

      I couldn’t agree more. Although “Moonlight” displays sexual contact (or something so unique that doesn’t fit this characterization), I think pain and most of prejudices are formed as described by Mark Greene. We are certainly with a field to be explored. It seems to me that touch requires self-knowledge and sensitivity, faculties that may be unveiled so that the old shell can be replaced by a softer one. I see “Moonlight” as being sensible to this cause.

  • Thank you for writing this! So needed and so well written, wow. I’d never considered that young girls become the gatekeepers of touch for boy entering into puberty. Very good point.

    I was left wanting more solutions to touch isolation for men than having a child. Other commenters have suggested dancing, and group awareness/touch encounters. I would also suggest massage and cuddle parties. As people recognize the power and value of touch, it has given rise to facilitated cuddle gatherings as well as individual cuddle sessions.

    As a ‘Cuddlist’ in training, I can’t begin to thank you enough for sharing this with such clarity and eloquence.

    • Leona

      Dancing, for sure. I’m part of the swing dance community, and one of the best things about it is that any gender can follow or lead. So you have women dancing with women, and men dancing with men, and no one’s masculinity or motivations are called into question. It’s a wonderful, positive atmosphere.

      • Grey Keetan

        I have been an insider in the dance community for years. What you say is true. It is not true of new students who take lessons at studios, however. Some have so many man-woman hang-ups. And social dance teachers exacerbate the problem with their “followers just follow” mantra. This causes some males who lead to become controllers instead of partners. “What do you know, you just follow”? “What! Are you leading now”? Dance is full of kind touch. But if I taught social dance, I would teach it as a partnership. I have taken lessons with some great performers over the years and when I dance with less accomplished social dance males, they ruin the fun we could have when they need to be “in control”. Their touch suddenly becomes the lousy lead that it really is!

  • Reagan Jackson

    Thank you for writing this! Really great read. I work with young women, but whenever I’m around young men, they seem to be searching for more answers than I can provide about what it means to be a man in this day in age. Your article brings up a necessary conversation and points to some solutions on how we can begin to help young men find their footing.

    • Mark Greene

      Thanks for the kind words Reagan. And yes, the solution to all of this is in the conversations we can intentionally choose to have about emotions and the ways we express them. Its a conversation few boys are invited to even begin, much less take a deep dive into over a period of years. We should be offering boys a lifetime of ongoing conversations that evolve as they grow, learn and change.

  • normankelley

    I think there is something quite ahistorical about this article. I remember seeing pre- and post-Civil War photos of men in close proximity to one another–on sports teams, comradely embraces, slouching into each other–touching one another. There’s even talk about Abraham Lincoln sharing a bed with a friend in a non-sexual relationship and how that friend (his name escapes me) helped Lincoln deal with depression re a lost loved one. I would argues this the lack of touch a recent development, post-WWI. The article doesn’t make any attempt to put this issue re contact into any historical context.

  • Timothy Fry

    Interesting article!

    I don’t know about the narrative described as being promoted in our culture about men (that many or most people hold the perspective that men cannot be trusted because men turn everything sexual). That hasn’t been my experience, it doesn’t sound right to me, and it certainly doesn’t resonate with me. Also, I’m absolutely certain ‎that the women I know struggle at least as much with intrasexual physical touch as most of the men I know. Not five minutes before reading this article my wife and I were talking about how she’s working to get over feeling her own discomfort when other women hug her or touch her. This is a story echoed by most women I know.

    I struggle trusting men, but for me this has nothing to do with anything sexual. It has to do with what I judge as most men being fake or unintentional caricatures of‎ what they perceive men “should be like”. I look at the “culture” adopted by most contemporary western men I know and I find nothing rewarding or appealing in any of it. The vigor with which most of my fellow men throw themselves into this culture belies what I judge as a sort of profound desperation behind which, I’m guessing, is a desire for acceptance. For instance:

    * What, to me, is an enigmatic desire in other men to know all about sportsball, watch it, obsess over it, etc.,
    * A desire to do “manly”, visceral things,‎ seemingly to prove manliness,
    * Grab-assing‎ and other posturing through ostentatiousness,
    * Other forms behaviour I judge as compensating for insecurities or compensating for a fear of authentic self-expression (driving a big ol’ smoky/loud truck or street racer with annoying muffler, booming bass stereo, driving aggressively, ‎etc.).

    Seeing these things makes me feel sad for these men. I judge them as lost, hurt, and in need of support in being themselves. :'(

    The men who I trust most typically don’t even know the rules to most sporting games (clearly there are exceptions), but would rather talk for hours about deeper issues: fears about business and finance, questions surrounding death and what’s valuable in life. We also discuss other, more superficial matters: whether or not Thomas Hobbes neglected to properly establish his premises prior to setting forth his argument in Leviathan, or whether Oscar Wilde was a genius or a pervert. In my estimation, “men” value wrestling with profound issues and deep questions over engaging in meaningless distractions or building elaborate façades of “manliness”: this is what truly being a man means to me. On the other hand, what this culture values as “manly”, and what I see reflected as “manliness” by many of the men I know, is just a sort of sad window dressing; a hiding behind what’s safe.

    As a man, I fully honor my sexuality, but I also don’t want to cuddle in another man’s arms. It’s not that I judge it as taboo or unacceptable, and I certainly don’t judge others for getting what they need in this way: there’s just nothing in it for me. I have children and a wonderful wife, and I value the physical touch in our relationships, but that’s not what I need from the men in my life.

    Also, the physical touch I value with my family is no compromise meant to replace physical touch I’m missing in my relationships with the men around me, nor does not having that touch by a man “raise the stakes” in my other relationships: if I had neither a wife nor children, I’m confident that no man could replace that form of non-sexual intimacy for me. I feel joy when I see a man I love, and I enjoy a warm embrace for that reason (I have never considered where my genitals were in relationship to those of the man I’m hugging), but that’s a fundamentally different relationship from the one I have with my family: for that reason the physical touch is necessarily different, and having it different is what it looks like for me to get what I need.

    So, in summary, I think the article missed the mark in getting to the root of the problem (a lack of physical touch and fear of perceptions around sexuality vs. a lack of authenticity), at least from my perspective, given my experiences.

    Anyway, thanks again for posting it! I enjoy considering these things, even when I disagree. 🙂

    • Gush Gosh

      So, you suffer from the same problem, and in the end show the same facade of strength.
      “I’m not like these weak fake men” I’m, not in the same way, but just as weak and insecure.
      I’m not afraid of being branded gay, or as I’d say “not completely and utterly dependent on women” but I’m afraid of the responsibility that comes with being more loving with a guy than his 8year long boyfriend/girlfriend.
      But for some reason I do take this kind of responsibilities with female friends, gosh, I even overlook abuse, but that’s how I was raised, blame mom, blame sis, blame grandma for it.
      But it’s not my responsibility.

      • Timothy Fry

        I can understand how you’d come to your judgment of me, Gush Gosh, but that’s not an accurate description of how I feel. I’m happy to hear that you’re able to stand in your own power despite hearing what I perceive as your judgement that you’re differently “branded”. 🙂

  • Jeffery Anderson

    At one point the article mentions homophobia within men’s friendship groups as a reason men are “deprived of touch”, but then later it claims women are “the exclusive gatekeepers of platonic touch”. That’s contradictory. Before men even begin to think about violating social norms and touching women in ways that make them feel threatened and uncomfortable, they need to learn to touch each other without feeling “gay”.

    • Mark Greene

      Hi Jeffrey,
      I am in complete agreement with you that women should be free from unwelcome and unwanted touch, as, for that matter, should men. Our culture has a long list of bad reasons why men do not embrace each other, homophobia being one of the most poisonous. Accordingly, women have the responsibility for men’s need for touch dumped on them. Its is neither advisable nor healthy for either. The challenge is many boys and men are growing up devoid and touch and so, fail to understand how to touch, or when.

  • Neil Campbell

    “Accordingly, it has become every man’s job to prove they can be trusted, in each and every interaction, day by day and case by case. In part, because so many men have behaved poorly” this is some sexist ass bullshit you help to reaffirm the very prejudice you are trying to eliminate

  • Jason Hodes

    “Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self esteem and create community.” Evidence for this proof? Sure would be useful to have a citation.

  • J. Ruby

    This is a cause I could get behind, especially for men who are single and in need of positive, affirmative, non-sexual touch, like myself. I’m open to this, but what about the other 8,000 men in my lonely North Dakota town, who are most likely not interested in seeking out the companionship of early twenty-something men, and would prefer the intimacy of family? Also, as a new teacher, where do I draw the line between those people who have or are family members of students in the school system? Am I encouraged to remain touchless for security? Do I abandon my convictions to pursue a same-sex relationship (which might not happen for the same reasons other bachelors do not marry), or adopt an unharmonious heterosexual marriage (also, not certain, and length of commitment pending on pressure), and, thus, abandon this cause all together? I have been thinking about this article the last few days, and I think I want to push forward as a bachelor, as I think on the necessity for platonic touch, not just for gay men, but also for common straight dudes too. Why should we always push for relationships for all people? There doesn’t have to be “someone for everyone”. I certainly think that I will most likely not have a someone. And honestly, I would rather commit to several special, platonic relationships with dear friends in this place, than have to commit to one. Dear author, I accept your challenge.

  • Zach Webb

    This is a feeling I’ve known, all too well, for far too long.

    And sure, homophobia plays a role- but why? That only makes sense if male touch is presumed to be sexual in nature.

    And I think that’s the problem. We assume male touch is aggressive or sexual… and unless that’s specifically what you want from a man, either of those taints his touch… makes it possessive, presumptive, oppressive… turns it into an assault of one kind or another.

    The isolation becomes self-abuse as a sign of respect.
    At least… that’s what it’s always been for me.

  • chuck sirron

    (It is sad that) this is profound.
    (It is a sign that this culture is broken and should be abandoned and) this needs to be read by all.

  • topoignaz

    Really interesting, though I don’t agree with this: “Is the pleasure of human contact inherently sexual to some degree? I doubt it’s a question the average Italian man would ever ask himself”. Yes, we didn’t have puritanism and some quick hugs are allowed in friendship, as greetings. But long-lasting touch with anyone, men or women, is not considered sexually neutral, as much here as in the USA, and would bring along the same suspects and distrust.

  • YeahNope

    The biggest problem I see concerning men is that the ideological sociopolitical movements generating demands that men be allowed to express themselves without shame, are quite frequently the very same groups doing most of the shaming.

    Nothing will cause men to retreat and/or lash out in confusion faster than to tell them it’s okay to open up, to be vulnerable, to express their needs, then when they do inform them that they are part of a privileged demographic, and therefore their needs are irrelevant. I have lost count of the times I have seen a group advocating for men to engage in activity X, and then demonize men because they did not engage in activity X in accordance with that group’s ideology.

    If we as a society want to help men, we need to address those groups that are most egregiously guilty of this, and then address society in general, because this has become integral to western cultures. It’s almost universal at this point that the moment men speak up or reach out they will be told that group X matters more, or that they is doing it wrong, or even that they are bad people because they spoke up or reached out at the wrong time or to the wrong people.

    If we continue to tell men that they matter, but show them that they do not, then men will continue to retreat, to the detriment of society as a whole.

  • 4skin4life

    infant circumcision starts the discomfort with touch. Trust and bonds are damaged. It needs to end.

  • Everything’s Ungodly

    if this is so factual, how come in the ancient empires the most brutal and violent armies were men who not just openly engaged in tough but also were bisexual were so prevalent. Specifically, Rome, Greece and Japan?? IDK, I’m a bisexual male (just in case your read this and want to scream “HOMOPHOBIAAAAA!!!”) and 36 so I am secure about that and gay and straight men are the right and left arm of misogyny and homophobia. This is a recent cultural phenomenon.

    I wouldn’t say this is going to “make men so sappy and peaceful” as I demonstrated above with the ancient world showing more brutality and dominance from more intimate male contact. I think there is a passive aggressive homophobic undertone to this article that will push men away because gay and straight men both are conforming to homophobic norms.

  • Troels Rasmussen

    In addition, I feel that a guy going to cuddle parties can easily evoke the reaction that he is a loser who can’t get laid.

  • Josh Sweeden

    I’ve been all over the world, from the Midwest, U.S. to the desert and India and as far North as the North Pole. I personally understand foreign cultures and religion though vaguely. I understand war, fraudulent and honest economics, various mechanical work amongst diving, submarining, and commercial/industrial electrical at the age of 29. Asked a girl for her number today after more than a year of not even approaching a woman out of being fed up. She gave me the “fuck eyes” for about 2 months or so and I get a “nice try.” I kept my mouth shut, however, all I can think right now is “Thank you for reenforcing my plan to leave this country in 1.5 years to make a shitload of money.” Simply walked away because I’m just a fucking creep. Fuck this shit. I’m gone. Guess I just needed to remind myself of why I decided what I did. At this age, we come to see time and effort as money with a shortened patience for b.s. while we watch jackasses repopulate the earth with a growing number of single mothers and undisciplined children who are expected to carry this country.

  • Beverly Evans

    This article is AMAZING! It said everything I felt, but couldn’t quite explain. We are a huggy, touchy family. My sons hug me and each other every time we greet each other. Growing up, I hugged them and their friends because a lot of them didn’t get that at home. When I run into any of their friends now, they still hug me – without hesitation. I hug men all the time and it is amazing that they seem to appreciate so much, knowing that I don’t view it in any sexual way, but just to add that missing part of their lives. It is terrible that the “judgmental eye” is always there to determine what your intentions are. I see them all the time. I don’t care because I know how important touch is and how sad it is to see that people are afraid to show friendly affection by hugging, touching, holding hands, etc. I feel like I’m gushing over this article, but it is so accurate and so well written that I just want to share it with the world. It’s like a big hug! Well done!

  • Jim Preston

    This is, without a doubt, one of the most man-hating articles I have ever read.

    This author needs to stop projecting his self-loathing and mental illness on to other men.

  • Gush Gosh

    I do avoid touching men, not because of fear of society, but fear of the responsibility it brings.
    They are so starved of affection that it can quickly become a responsibility too big to bear.

    And gosh, gay men, the fucking gay men, the amount of times I had to tell a guy “you don’t want to fuck me, you want to feel loved” straight men are taught that any contact is sexual (or oughta be, how dare you tease a woman and let her dry) and gay men learn that any affection between men means sex or sexual tension. And this isn’t healthy for their relationships when a guy is more intimate with his asshole female friend than with his 8 year long boyfriend.
    Not saying it’s bad for how long they last, it’s bad for their psychy, because it certainly reduces friction but would make anyone feel alone.

    And yes, most of this weight is on mom’s shoulders, no doubt about it, almost all the rest is on the weakling of a dad who bends in to mom’s jealousy and society.
    And girlfriends don’t help with being jealous of the guy’s male friends and going psycho and even violent over it.
    Gosh, the guy can’t even game or fix his bike on his own.
    And even with their girlfriends, love and affection received is reduced to sex and only sex, not much different from gay relationships between guys.
    Gosh, guys are so devoid of a notion of being love that they take being sexually assaulted by a woman as affection, even brutal physical violence.

    • Rodney Doe

      I’ve been starved of affection all my life, when the last girlfriend I had died of alcoholism and my Grandmother soon after I have given up on just about everything, especially dating. I am so needy I think I could only be a burden, so I just isolate and wait to die.

      Try and stay momentarily distracted for brief instances in the mean time

      • Damien Foor

        It is great you have emoted on line, but hopefully you’ll find another way to connect that’s close on hand. It’s okay to be overwhelmed in feelings from past difficulties. But, you gotta look to yourself or a higher power/prayer now to come to terms. Desperation can make people avoid you, and vulnerability can bring out the mean-spirited. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Like the song goes, “it’s better to be blue than be over it.” Give yourself room.

  • Rogmary Perez

    This article is truly something that must be shared. Thank you very much.

  • aff4366

    Gay.

  • Big Bessie

    Wonderful article that pried my brain wide open. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in being a bit confused about something that should be so natural but, as you point out, simply isn’t for many people, and for many reasons.

  • Warren Preiss

    This is a surprising and much needed opening of discussion. It is refreshing to read an article that speaks to the experiences of men and boys as sociable human beings, as opposed to presuming innate flaws and wrongness (toxic masculinity etc) that has to be educated out of men.

    I especially appreciate how you mentioned Italian culture, in which touch is more naturally and freely enjoyed by, and between, men. I’ve noticed this myself and it reflects how culture is flexible, not that men (in this case) are biologically predisposed to avoid physical closeness and touch.

    Along similar lines people often say men are naturally more competitive than women, which I experience as more competition with the problem, not my peers! And I see this every time I pass a gang of linesmen, road workers, sewerage or construction workers shoulder to shoulder co-operatively overcoming a task at hand – for the most part not trying to push past and over each other to be the ‘winner’ – unless in playful jest.

    Where I disagree is the second sentence here: “Accordingly, it has become every man’s job to prove they can be trusted, in each and every interaction, day by day and case by case. In part, because so many men have behaved poorly.”

    I believe men try to prove they can be trusted largely because the stereotype that ‘so many men have behaved poorly’ has become a core part of our culture. And this narrative is a big part of why many men no longer become primary teachers or youth workers or scout leaders or sit near children on airplanes and so on. The risk of false accusation is significant in a culture that already suspects you to be likely to ‘behave poorly’. And those men who do brave the risks and enter these professions now tend to avoid touching children (healthy touch, sitting close, hugs, comforting etc) which in turn furthers the touch deficit.

    Female teachers also – in a culture of fear toward anything that could be perceived in the slightest way as sexual – are becoming less physically close to the children, perhaps especially boys for risk of physical contact being deemed inappropriate.

    And all this means less touch, less holding, less contact, less relaxed ease of physical affection and warmth between grown ups and children.

    Countering these narratives (any way we can) seems a good start to a solution to me. Thanks for writing this article.

    • Grey Keetan

      Your response is well-expressed. I have been around long enough to have observed American culture come out of it’s backwoods traditions with regard to the interactions of men and women. It was not long ago that women were blamed for everything with regard to male touch. It was embedded in our culture. This is the key. Cultural edicts have made females operate in a defensive manner in their life spans with regard to interactions with males. As you can imagine, bad males would take advantage of this. Today violators are considered criminals. Because of various freedom social movements in the sixties and seventies, we no longer embed bad “that’s the way men are” behaviors into our modern culture. Unfortunately, we have many new Americans that now live here who bring their embedded oppressive cultures with them. And while we may like the way that the males touch and bond in groups, the women are segregated and touch means something totally different. We can look to these traditional cultures to understand ourselves from the past and our problems with touch with regard to men and women. TY

  • An excellent article, thank you Mark Greene! I have two teenage sons and you have given me pause for thought, saying that I try to hug each of my children at least once a day, whether they wriggle out of it or not. Recently, I was also intrigued to see two French business partners kiss and hug each other in greeting every morning on going to the office or when meeting off site (both in the 40 – 50 year age group) – we are not used to seeing it happen in society and certainly not in business here in South Africa.

  • PeaCat

    Your essay reminds me of a classic book from the late seventies called “The Hazards of Being Male” https://www.amazon.com/Hazards-Being-Male-Surviving-Masculine/dp/0965762874

    I was in my early twenties when that book came out and left me very angry. Men were being denied their right to be human! Your article is an excellent 21st century follow up! Sadly your article shows how little progress has been made in allowing men in our culture the opportunity to be fully human. So sad.

    My husband and I still have a copy of “The Hazards of Being Male” on our bookshelf after all these years.

    I think it, along with your essay should be required reading for everyone, male or female.

  • Bhawna Shetty

    Thank you for writing this! It’s an eye-opener to me, to say the least. I’m an Indian woman aged 46, went to an all-girls school and college, met my husband and married him at 24. I now have four children aged 16,13,11, & 7. My 13 year old is a boy named Aaron, and even though he’s taller than me, he enjoys cuddling up with me. Since he has three sisters, and a dad who hugs anyone and everyone who happens to be in front of him, Aaron is truly blessed. I pray he would never have to experience this painful reality.

    I’m grateful, too, for my Indian culture, as my in-laws live with us, and have their grandchildren around then everyday.

    I’m gonna pray for men, especially in America, to be set free from this unspoken pain that you have so eloquently described in the above article.

    Once again, thank you and God bless you.

  • Shelly Hillman

    This is fascinating! How can we women respond and help? I know it gets tricky because many women don’t want to lead a man on, but we also don’t know how much platonic physical touch men are ok with.

    It also doesn’t help that we are taught by the media and culture that attention from a man usually equates with ‘more than friends’ interest, so then there is confusion. So then some of us (ahem, myself included) are more apt to back right off rather than send the wrong signals. In reality, we want platonic touch too, but, as you noted, we go to our female friends for it – but the need for platonic contact with men is there too. How should we help men address that?

    • Victor

      Hi Shelly…it is kind for you to reach out in this discussion. As a man in a community which does promote non-sexual touch between men, I would say that we men need to deal with this ourselves before asking women to come in and help. As men we spend far too much time looking for women to give us “permission” to do things which we should be dealing with on our own. I think the most beneficial thing a woman ally could do is to not become part of the narrative of shaming which so many women partake in with regard to male/male touching. If you have sons, encourage non-violent touching between them and their friends. If you have men in your life and they open up to you in vulnerable way, encourage that and don’t judge. At the end of the day, however, this is an issue which we men need to address on our own. Thanks for caring. xoxox

  • Michael C Kovarik

    Absolutely fabulous article, thank you very much for addressing this. One thing that did leave me dismayed a bit was the only solution you posited was men having children. I’m 47 years old single and childless. I am very well aware of the fact that I suffer from touch deprivation but at my age I’m not sure if having a child would be the smartest thing to do especially since it would be basically financially impossible to do so. What is a man and my position to do?

  • John Gabriel

    If boys were taught to be more affectionate with each other, they might not be so eager to bash each others brains out when they are adults. Less violence and wars.

  • Mark, great article. I think you’re correct in drawing a connection between this unfortunate phenomenon (of men not getting enough Platonic touch) and homosexuality, but I think you miss the mark when you narrow the scope to homophobia specifically. Even setting aside homophobia and assuming everyone in a society were completely accepting of homosexual behavior, a prominence of homosexuality would still tend to contribute to this phenomenon.

    It makes sense when you think about it. When homosexuality is not open and prevalent in a society, there is far less confusion about what man-to-man touch is intended to convey. On the Platonic-sexual continuum, most degrees of touching are pretty much assumed to be Platonic. But as homosexuality becomes more mainstream and prevalent, previously clear physical expressions can now have more meanings, and so people will tend toward those that are less ambiguous, decreasing the kinds of touch that people use.

    Likewise, in your article you point out the understandable fear men have that a physical expression toward a woman will be misinterpreted as sexual. That’s not because they’re heterophobic, or hate heterosexual women; it’s because they don’t want to be misunderstood. Well, it’s the same phenomenon when they’re touching men. It’s not necessarily homophobia. You can be fine with homosexual lifestyles and still not want to communicate that you’re interested in having one.

    Whether one favors the increasing acceptance of homosexuality or doesn’t, this general contraction-to-the-unambiguous in physical communication seems to be an inherent byproduct of this new direction in society. We can’t just chalk it up to homophobia.

  • Malcolm Burgin

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece… a heartfelt clarion call for us to reawaken to the innate need to be touched, held, supported and comforted. As a teacher of Biodanza I have the deep privilege to witness groups rediscovering the simple joy of human contact, to see the long held barriers and armours dissolving under the gentlest of caresses, often releasing pent up torrents of emotion which serve to bring us closer and closer… when I take these sessions into nursing homes, especially dementia care settings, the yearning for touch is almost heart breaking but the beauty to be found in these simple platonic moments of reconnection is stunning… stay in touch! X

  • bchristian85

    Like it or not, we are in a post-Freudian society and touch is inherently considered sexual. I think touch between men is increasing, but it’s almost always done with the intent of making fun of or mocking gay people or female/female friendships. If a guy sits down on the couch next to another guy and puts his arm around him as a sign of platonic affection, that isn’t going to end well most of the time. Ideally it shouldn’t be this way, but this is how it is. Most guys who are touchy-feely with each other do it for laughs and to draw attention to themselves, not to show platonic love to each other. As for homophobia, I don’t think acceptance of homosexuality is a factor as much as internalized homophobia; guys are afraid to be close with each other because it might look gay, unless of course that is what they are trying to do for a laugh.

  • Christopher Dean

    Thankfully I live in a community (Byron Shire) filled with loving caring touchy feely people of both sexes where open hugging and warm physical touch is welcomed in many situations. It is not perfect but it is way better than the average community where nearly all touch by males is viewed with suspicion. It has been scientifically demonstrated that being part of a warm affectionate community is a valuable indicator of good health and longevity – way more important than another blood pressure drug. Our bubble should grow to become the norm – it is such a blessing to be here.

  • Christopher Hardwick

    Beaut article Mark Greene, one of the reasons I currently live in Tanzania is to observe/participate in a culture where non-sexualised touch between males is ‘the norm’. I also observed this in Bali where the physical connection between males is lovely to see. One of the common denominators between these two cultures is, they are family/village/tribal cultures where historically the child is raised by the whole village and are fairly constantly being touched, caressed, fondled from birth. There is a lot of evidence emerging that this type of child raising develops neural pathways strong in socialisation and physicality. There are of course many other ‘problems’ occurring in the societies but I have found the non-sexual physical connections between males heartening.

  • Judith McLean

    this sense has been denied too long

  • Teens in Europe touch each other a lot more. Lots of arms round the shoulders and huddling together. Male and female. They are also a lot less cliquey. There are no ‘popular’ groups and ‘losers’ in Euro schools. Just a lot of kids running about together.

    American teens touch each other about 60% less, and the touch THEMSELVES 60% more. And no, I mean nervous touching: self-hugging, rocking, rubbing and scratching. It’s an animal deprivation. Plus in US schools, there are ‘losers’: kids who are outcast or forced into isolated groups based on privilege or looks or popularity.

    This is a sick society.

  • Tony Hammitt

    I have custody of my kids every other week. We have physical contact a lot, they sit right next to me on the couch, I give them a hug to wake them up in the morning, etc. They’re the only people I ever come into physical contact with.
    I’m single, I work from home, I rarely meet with friends and when I do, we might shake hands, that’s about it. But it’s not much different now as opposed to when I worked around others. I was married for a long time and we literally grew apart because we had no common interests. So I never come into contact with anyone. It’s probably affecting my outlook on life, but there’s nothing I can do about that. American men get the impression, or are outright told, that if they touch anyone for any reason, that can be considered harassment. It can get you fired or thrown in jail, unless you’re rich, apparently… So we just don’t touch anyone. Is that an overreaction? Could be, but the consequences are so severe that we don’t risk it.

  • Janice Cleare

    Wow, thank you for such a much needed conversation about this topic…I will definitely share this article with as many people as I can.
    Blessings!!!

  • Lee PriceJohnson

    Very well written, and well said. I think another side affects of this is that it has made it easier to disassociate choices and actions from the impact – or harm – such decisions make on others. We as a whole have left aside ‘caring’ for those outside our circle, because we are no longer socialized by common, comforting interaction as human beings.

  • TammyDavis

    This post touched me so deeply. I cried hard because of the immense pain that so many continue to suffer, and I cried because I am so very grateful that there are men who are finding the strength and courage to take on, first their own self-discovery work, and then sharing their healing experience with the world.

    It seems to me that there are more men and women today who are suffering from a severe deficit of genuine human connection, one that must include physical touch. Seven or eight years ago, I spoke with a woman who was distraught over a
    notice that her daughter brought home from elementary school that
    informed parents of a new policy banning the students from holding hands
    and hugging each other. I was in disbelief… I mean, how could that be
    acceptable to anyone?

    Our culture of fear and separatism, us and them, cannot survive if we are truly connected with one another. Thank you Mark for this post and your Remaking Manhood facebook page. Charles Eisenstein offers what he calls “self-guided learning journeys,” one of which is called “Masculinity: A New Story” – https://charleseisenstein.net/courses/. Also, there is a TED Talk by a man named Jackson Katz that is also phenomenal.

    Thank you again, for being a Brave Edge-Walker!

  • pranic Roger

    The issues which surround the process of adult men touching other adult men are many and include identity, security, boundaries, desire, vulnerability, shame, fear, self-esteem, sexual orientation, social conditioning, and gender identification. This is to list only a few of the issues which affects the discussion on male touching in non-sexual context. I want men to hear that they are not alone, Of course physical touch is tied to emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of expression and experience. What I want to share is the importance of developing a balanced sense of yin/yang energies within harmonizing the masculine/feminine dimensions of our being through touch, meditation, tantric exercises, regular touching in moderation.

  • Akash

    THIS ARTICLE IS THE BEST THING I HAVE SEEN IN A LONG TIME. Thanks a lot for writing it up and expressing it in such a beautiful yet a simple manner. I could not agree more. The ideas of love, sex, physical touch have become so messed up in our mind and in our society, that it’s really unsettling and sad. Physical touch is really very much underrated. This post helped me to identify certain answers to certain questions which i had been wondering since a long time now but couldn’t really find a proper answer. This did it. Thanks a lot for writing this up, for having the courage to do so in this stereotyped macho-man world. 🙂

  • Mannik

    I just don’t like germs.

  • Scott

    Hi Mark. Thank you so much for writing this article. It falls closely into a discussion I am involved with among a number of male friends of mine. We are discussing the changing role of men in society and how there seems to be s growing disconnect between men and society.

    As a father of 4 boys, I can remember poignantly, with one son in particular who at 14 wanted to hug and be close to me, that I would push him away and tell him that he was becoming a grown man and that men didn’t do this. I’m not sure if this was out of some homophobic fear or what, but I have always regretted that. He is now a grown man with a beautiful daughter whom he cherishes and is planning to stay at home with. I have shared this article with him and shared my regrets for pushing him away especially now that he lives at a distance and contact is periodic at best.

  • tarek hattar

    in the netherlands its the same kind of culture,and since age 3 or 4 no more touch from my parents,i wasnt even comfortableanymore hugging my mom,i had a big need for animals as u could caress them and allready very young very interested in girl,fur sure for the same reason,at 20 i tarted living in italy,it was such a big difference for me because there ,especially in the south its still normal that people touch each other often,also men,and men7woman,think that was an important reason of going to live there,my own country felt so coooold,am convinced its very important,and yes all u told was the same,they’re very homofobic allready when small,though it slowly starts changing.sadly i still dont feel comfortable hugging my mom,even while i love hugging others

  • Malcolm Rae

    There’s lots of hugging and touching in hockey (especially in goal celebrations). I can say from own experience that playing this sport has helped me socially. https://youtu.be/0E6TOEK61Is

  • Ryan Cekander

    Yes, this needs to be addressed. Thanks Mark Greene! In pondering the deeper roots, why and how this unfortunate arrangement came about, a few thoughts come to mind. The connectedness, or lack there-of of community in the modern western world, particularly U.S., seems to tell this story of the need to be independent as a household. Of course buy everything and pay your taxes, make sure your relationships with commerce and government are good and strong, and make sure you work your tail off to keep these relationships healthy, lest you be a failure as an individual and citizen. And this all comes at the cost of sacrificing the relationships with your neighbor, etc. There simply isn’t enough time. If we spend what little free time we have, going “out of our way” to emotionally and physically intertwine with our neighbors, it just seems a little contrived. However, if our lives were arranged to naturally spend more time in community and find ourselves sharing in more activities where physical touch were more convenient and happenstance, I imagine there would be a much different scenario playing out.

  • Piyush Gangwani

    i can say my whole life’ struggle is here nicely written,with girls,womens,and my friends, yes i fear the touch and it feels guilt inside,and have bad relationships.

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