Developing skill with touch is an important part of having successful relationships. Touch is critical to human beings.The love and support communicated through touch affirms our connection to others and has even been shown to contribute to the health of our immune systems. Many studies have shown that when infants are neglected and not held, they fail to thrive. Something similar seems true for us adults.
Too many men have limited skill when it comes to touch. Their experience with the way men make contact is limited -- a slap on the back from Dad, wrestling with friends growing up, the touch of a boyfriend during sex. For others, touch has too often been abusive -- being smacked around by schoolmates or parents, or uninvited and unwanted sexual touch.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a bar talking with a friend, only to find someone rubbing up against you. This can be fun and a turn-on or annoying and intrusive, depending on your frame of mind and how you feel about the person initiating the physical contact.
Unfortunately, some men have the opinion that if you’re a gay man and I’m a gay man, then I automatically have the right to touch or grope you if I want to. And even more unfortunately, others of us have never learned that we have the right to say “no” to unwelcome touch.
Have you ever gone to a movie with a date and found him stroking your arm over and over and over again in exactly the same way -- almost as if he was a robot? You suspected that he meant to be affectionate, but pretty soon you were ready to run screaming from your seat! Touch that doesn’t have presence and attention behind it can create the same sensation as fingernails raking down a black board.
Physical contact that works and is welcome can have just the opposite effect -- calming us, drawing us closer to the person with whom we are sharing touch.
To increase the quality of your touch, think of your hands as an extension of your heart. Instead of casually brushing your hand over someone, bring focus to your touching; you are touching them with your heart. Imagine that this is the only person in the world who exists right now. He has your undivided attention while you are in contact with him. Take your time.
Not all touch is sexual. If touch equals sex for you, you may need to slow down and explore a bit. Friendly, inviting contact between people can be reassuring, comforting and enjoyable in its own right and need not be an invitation to sex. Some people are uncomfortable with touch when they assume that the person initiating contact has an unspoken erotic agenda.
Touch which is repetitive or constant becomes boring and easy to ignore. Vary the intensity and pressure of your touch. This is true whether you are touching a friend to make a point during conversation or whether you are caressing your partner to bring him to orgasm. Touch can be with finger tips or the whole palm. It can be quick and invigorating -- think of a back rub -- or slow and soft.
Learning new ways to make physical contact increases our “touch vocabulary,” and helps us communicate with others.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. - www.bodymindsoul.org.