“I forgot how many times that had been said to me. To touch people less. As I was a child I was told to stop hugging people as much.” –Zoe Mckinney.
One of the recent conversations I had with Zoe was about hugs. Touch. Intimacy. How important these things are. And how we have perverted such necessary parts of human life.
We teach kids at a young age that they have to keep their hands to themselves. Don’t hug your friends of the opposite gender too much because it’s considered flirting. We start sexualizing touch at a young age when we should really be teaching our children that touch is good and healthy, because it is. Touch is not sexual. Hugging, holding hands, physical intimacy is not sexual. Physical connection is a vital part of humanity. We need this connection with other humans. These things are not sexual acts. They are acts of intimacy and intimacy doesn’t have to be a sexual thing.
Now I want to make it clear that I realize sometimes touch is dangerous. We need to be aware of people we do not know that make us, or our children uncomfortable. I know touch has been perverted by people who don’t respect personal space. Sexual assault is all too real and by no means do I want to downplay that or pretend like it’s not a thing that plagues way too many people. I know it is present and real and that should be taken in consideration. We should never force children to hug people they don’t want to because we don’t personally know everyone, so I get that we need to be aware of this. But the point I’m trying to make here is that simple human interaction for kids should not be made into a big deal. I should be able to hug on my best friends neck without someone side-eyeing me.
I recently read an independent online novel that really captured this idea in an extreme way.
This boy grew up with distant parents. In the story, the mother and father were ‘important’ people with demanding jobs and shut off emotions. They didn’t deny their son simple words like ‘love’ or ‘care’ but they did deny him touch. He was never held by his mother, never rode on his father’s back pretending to be a knight on his trusty steed, never held his parents hands in public. He was deprived of the important key to growing up, touch. He did have a nanny that would touch him, but not enough and when she was no longer around, he had nothing. He didn’t attend a public school so he was home all the time with no one to touch him.
When he left home, moved on and went to college, a new world was opened to him. A world filled with feelings, touch and intimacy. He was overwhelmed but craved touch. He needed to feel something, anything. So he turned to drugs, alcohol, and anyone and everyone that would give him what he never got as a child. He became addicted to drugs that would enhance his feelings or shut them off completely. He allowed anyone to climb into his bed because he needed the intimacy. He needed the touch.
Now, of course the novel was centered around a love story but the big thing was this protagonist’s growth. His journey to realizing how he should handle these things and how he can feel. It was not a religious story so most of his healing came through the love interest, not God, but the author still tremendously captured the importance of touch and what happened to a child that was deprived of it.
Yes, this is an extreme, fictional example of what I’m trying to say, but oh well. The point is this.
Touch is important. Intimacy is vital. And we need to stop sexualizing it. We need to stop telling our children to stop hugging and touching. We need to stop turning such a human act into something bad and start treating it as it is. Natural, necessary, love. Humans need love. We need love. We need touch.