“…one of the most joyful aspects of being a human and being alive, how our bodies can experience sensation and you have a right to go on a pleasure-hunt!”
There are many ways we might hide from touch, even at the very moment we are receiving it or giving it. Physical touch and intimacy can be so loaded and problematic for many people; our experiences as children, all sorts of abuse and trauma, sensory issues and autism and other neuro-diverse conditions, gender incongruence/dysphoria can make the likelihood of us having a tricky relationship with touch on our bodies.
No wonder we find all sorts of ways to manage the difficulties it brings up and regulate our responses to it. And the whole time we might be experiencing a whole loads of different, mixed feelings about touch and closeness, a push-pull effect, or a confusing painful equation of touch and affection equals sex, or a mess of semi-conscious beliefs that for various social and emotional reasons we should allow touch to happen to us to keep others happy and because we ‘should’.
Under these conditions, we might just withdraw all together from touch (easier if you stay out of close relationships and don’t show you have this basic human need). We might tense up our bodies when it happens (think stiff hugs), as a kind of armour against closeness we are not sure about and that doesn’t feel safe.
Or we might engage in touch anyway, but operate coping mechanisms and habits that distance ourselves from the act of giving or receiving touch and how that feels in our bodies. Perhaps we go on autopilot or ‘dissociate’; this could apply to a handshake or a hug through to a whole sexual encounter.
Maybe we get ultra touchy-feely so that everyone thinks we are really comfortable with affection (and maybe sex too), but in fact we are pretty disconnected from what is happening.
I believe that growing up in our culture, most of us learn some degree of disembodied touch, or some contact is happening outside of our conscious and empowered choice. We are in a social environment where children are coerced to kiss adult relatives they don’t want to, and where we are generally lacking in a robust and ethical consent culture.
Even if you disagree with me, and perhaps you aren’t actually hiding from touch, there is always something to be said for attending to it and becoming more mindful. Have you ever stopped, closed your eyes and touched your own hand for a few minutes, focussing on nothing but the sensation, first of the receiving hand and then on the giving hand? You probably haven’t, unless you attended a Tantra or Conscious Touch event. The simplest act of dropping into an experience like that can make you newly aware of your body’s capacity for pleasure and sensation. We are enhancing the mind-body connection, which when applied to our self-pleasuring, our relationships, our sexual encounters, even stroking a pet, or holding a baby.
This ability to stop and attend to something (breath, a sensation, a place in the body, a light pressure and presence of a finger in the Sexological Bodywork practice of Mapping,), is available to us pretty much all the time, but if you have ever tried to develop any kind of mindfulness or meditation practice you will know how challenging that can be. But it’s worth it, because it’s one of the most joyful aspects of being a human and being alive, how our bodies can experience sensation and you have a right to go on a pleasure-hunt!
A lot of people get started by attending a Conscious touch or Conscious sexuality event, or a workshop about embodied consent and boundaries. This is what my workshop attendees will be doing in a couple of weeks at the first workshop of The Quintimacy Series, which is aimed at the LGBTQ community and acknowledges the challenges that we face and offers a safe space to work with each other.
Interested? Submit a booking form through the website (deadline for bookings 5pm 25th January).
Thanks for reading,