Search Me (My Blog)

Sep 19, 2011

Men 101: Touch

I realized something very interesting.

The way I know that I like a woman, I mean really like her, is when I get constant thoughts about touching her. The impulse isn't necessarily always sexual, but in a strong way, that's how my desire to connect with a woman manifests.

Funny thing about guys -touch is often really important to us, and yet we tend not to have very touchy-feely connections (by and large). The best we have, stereotypically speaking, is a high-five and a smack on the behind. Even that, in more conservative or religious settings, is not appropriate.

Think about it for a moment. Society really isolates men in terms of touch. How often do single guys get touched, massaged, or physical contact (outside of contact sports). Even when we hug, it's a half-hug with one arm and a shoulder-bump. Not much physical contact. The fascinating thing is that we humans are wired to need touch. It's one of the things that drives me nuts sometimes. It's so clearly damaging (to me at least), and yet there's no question that Shmiral Negiyah is equally -or more -important.

Everyone appreciates affection, and I think touch is a very important type of physical affection. Clearly I'm a very touchy-feely guy, though, so perhaps I'm one of the few that is bothered by the minimal physical contact.


  1. Women in my part of the world (a french ashkenaze orthodox community) don't touch either.

    I am also bothered by this lack of warmth and at the same time I don't feel comfortable when approched. It 's like I can't appreciate anymore something I need.

  2. I am a very touchy person, and I am very physically affectionate with my female friends. My inability to touch my male friends (and men I date) becomes increasingly frustrating.

    I think that in non-Orthodox circles, men are often more touchy overall, not just romantically. They hug their male and female friends, and verbal communication is often paired with a physical gesture as well (whether it be a touch on the back or the arm, or a playful punch or fist bump). Frankly, I think it's healthier. I know all the arguments for being shomer negiah, but at a certain age, I don't think it's good for a young man or woman to live so without touch. After living in this society for so long, many of my female friends even get squeamish about affectionate touch from fellow women.

  3. If the girl who is dating you read this, I think she would freak out.

  4. @ Lilette:

    I hear that, and from what I understand, some people here also have that same difficulty (even after getting married, they have to get used to being touched).

    Frustrating indeed! I'm not sure, though being super-sensitive (since I don't touch) it sticks out to me. Since I notice it more, I may think they're just more tactile. Maybe they are.

    What you think, I know. It isn't good. I noted in an earlier post that there were several Halachot dictating a maximum age for marriage. I believe a good chunk of the reason was touch (and, of course, sexuality). Nowadays we've more or less let go of those, but we're living with the consequences.

    If a woman I'm dating would freak out that I relate to the world through touch and think about touching her... I'm not so sure I'd want to date her. I'd rather she's someone who is understanding and accepting of the way I am and my manhood/masculinity.

    It's one of those things I won't apologize for or cover up, and a woman who doesn't understand, accept and appreciate it... well, maybe she's just not for me.

  5. I kind of agree with Tania. As another guy, I'm not sure I quite understand this. Yes, we are all wired for touch, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around feeling closer to someone a guy is dating and the desire to touch her.

    I don't mean to point fingers or suggest anything negative about you, but it sounds vaguely reminiscent of the more left-wing (IE Modern Orthodox Maykil) guys who write in their SYAS profile that they need to be touchy feely and don't deal well with shomer negiah girls because they simply must have a goodnight kiss. Inherent in this is that they've made touch a part of their lives already, and they've become addicted to it - not just the physical sensation, but the level of sensual thrill that accompanies it, and even the notion that what they are doing is halachically questionable.

    Again, I don't want to imply that about you whatsoever. You might just be more of a touchy-feely guy, and thus closer relationships lead to more informal friendly touching like a guy friend's shoulder etc - which you wouldn't do to a business associate you were just introduced to. As another guy, I can understand the struggle, but I don't quite comprehend the nature of what you're talking about.

    Could you elaborate further?

  6. Perhaps I should start from the other side of the fence, so to speak. A woman I'm not interested in touching is a woman I'm not interested in (this is regarding physical attraction). It's also one way I connect to the world around me; I'm a very tactile person. When I go places, the textures, smoothness, roughness, the sensations of touch connect me to things.

    There may be a cultural component to it as well. In many Sefardic cultures (mine included), a hug and kiss on each cheek is standard modus operandum for greeting and showing affection. Gender, in this instance, is irrelevant regarding the custom. A person that does not hug and kiss (x2) is considered colder, further, in some ways even offensive.

    In my world, we touch the people we're closer to. My parents, siblings, grandparents... we all express affection through hugs, kisses on the cheek, and other kinds of affectionate (non-sexual) touch show that we are here, we care and we feel connected to one another.

    For me, connection and touch are closely related and connected. Not simply sexual and not just affectionate, though the two can be separate. In dating, if I feel connected or want to connect with the person, that's just an impulse I get.

    Still, there is no doubt in my mind that dedication to Halachah is paramount. I maintain that dedication, regardless of what thoughts or impulses I get. It's just an indicator for me.

  7. @lillette: My background i also french ashkenazi and i dont identify to the same experience. the touch there is simply different than the american touch
    and Ish, I understand you would want to date someone who can appreciate what you write about and like to express, on the other hand, i am not a big believer in expressing everything you think and that might scare some away...

  8. All Ish is trying to say here is that the way he knows if he is really into a woman is if he has a desire to touch her. I don't get why that is such a shocking idea. You should be physically attracted to the person you are dating.

    Being a part of the modern orthodox world I guess I'm just more comfortable with it. Its not to say that I don't understand and appreciate the importance of not touching. However, I think its probably very scary for a newlywed couple to go from never ever touching at all.

    Its interesting to see everyone's opinions on these topics.

  9. @ Yedid:

    I agree. I don't act on them and I certainly don't divulge every impulse as it comes to me. Just because I lay out more of my inner thoughts or feelings here and y'all are privy to them, doesn't mean I share them with everyone all the time (or with someone on a first, second third or any date).

    I'm pretty sure that if someone y'all were dating read your blog, some of the personal or private thoughts you write about may be met with strong reactions too. And I'm pretty sure those of you who are dating don't always discuss all of your thoughts (and specifically the ones you post) with them.

    Still, when it comes to accepting my manly impulses, I'd rather be with someone who understands and accepts, the same as every other part of me.

    I don't show a person on a first date every side of me all at once (generally, that doesn't work out for the vast majority of people), but I do want her to accept every side of me. I imagine most people feel that way.

    In the words of 'Hitch,' "She may not want all of you all at once, but she does want the real you." I believe that though it may not be appropriate, a woman DOES want a guy she's dating and into... to want to touch her, to connect with her, to be with her. If not, what DOES she want from him?

  10. @umcheckplease:

    Thanks! It's nice to see someone understands. I really appreciate the simple succinctness of the way you expressed the idea.

  11. I don't think that you expressed anything inappropriate by saying that when you date someone you really like you think about touching them. You should feel like you would want to even if you may not be acting on it. Why on earth would someone want to marry someone that they would not want to touch? And you expressed this thought in the most honest and adult way possible.

  12. I think that the need to touch and be touched is a healthy thing. (To what extent is definitely cultural.) Touch is powerful. This is one of the biggest reasons why shomer negiah is of paramount importance.

    I agree that if a woman would know the thoughts going through the guy's head are all about touching her, it would probably freak her out. But that's the difference between men and women. Stereotypically, women want to first get emotionally close to guy before it gets physical, while for men, the way they express closeness and get close to a woman is physically. Obviously, in a shomer negiah relationship this physical piece isn't possible, thus I think it may make a guy who is touch-oriented (for lack of a better term) even more stuck on the thought of wanting to touch a woman he finds attractive.