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Human Touch

August 28, AD2013

Foxfier - Touch

When you have a child, one of the popular phrases is “skin to skin contact.” Basically, as much as possible you’re supposed to hold your new baby so that he’s actually touching your skin. This goes along with the holding, cuddling, cheek-pinching and snuggling that happens pretty much by instinct. (Think not? Watch a group of kids around a baby, even if they haven’t been exposed to babies before– even pre-verbal kids will want to pat the baby or “snuggle” their head on the baby’s belly, usually with excessive force, but that’s neither here nor there.) Fathers are encouraged to take off their shirts, lay down and have the baby lay on their chest in a diaper to help with bonding.

At the other end of the spectrum, the least touchy-feely folks I can think of are businessmen. Those I know tend towards either agriculture or military, but they are similar to those technology businessmen I know in that they are not prone to casual contact with those they deal with. A handshake means a personal assurance. They may not all offer it, but when they do, they don’t offer it lightly.

Touch is incredibly important, usually more for young than old, usually more for female than male, usually more for ill than those at the peak of health, but “more” doesn’t mean “only” or it shouldn’t.

People have a basic need for physical contact of one sort or another.

I think that’s part of our current problem.

I don’t know why, I don’t know when it started, but at some point the culture started to reduce physical contact to sexual contact in all but the most basic of cases. I’ve even heard of parents that feel “strange” changing the diaper of their opposite sex child. I know girls who have decided they’re “really” lesbians because they like hugging girls. Or bisexual, because they like hugs from anybody.

Being a woman, most of my examples are from females– one of the saddest refrains I’ve picked up on is “it’s better than being alone.” Girls drink themselves silly so they can stand to go “home” with whatever guy is willing, because it’s better than being alone. Sticking with guys who use them, because it’s better than being alone. They’re looking for love, but only get sex. Still, it’s powerful enough that they keep searching.

I have far fewer confidants who are male, but their stories are somewhat similar– they put up with obvious abuse from women they don’t even especially like, because they get contact out of it. Sometimes it’s sex, but sometimes it’s just someone to be with.

I’ve got theories, of course. Some of them I got from others, some I came up with myself. Is it because families are so much smaller? Because we’re more scattered, few children living near their parents or siblings as adults? More broken families? Larger communities, so there are more victimized children, meaning a higher alertness to the risk, making casual human contact less acceptable?

I don’t know.

I just know that the human touch was important enough that Jesus became one of us, and that at a time when we really need to be turning to God, the human touch is being reduced to only one aspect– a very important one, but that reduction also damages sexual contact by removing it from its rightful place.

I don’t have a solution, but maybe this is part of it: be aware, please, of the human need for contact.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

Filed in: Social Justice

About the Author:

Wife, mother, cradle Catholic; former naval aviation technician and life-long geek who wants to help others find out how much really cool stuff the Catholic Church has to share, especially in terms of pop culture and misconceptions. A millennial who graduated in '01, former raid tank, raid healer and raid leader for a fairly casual raiding guild in the second and third WoW expansions, a Star Trek fan and fell in love with the X-Men from her uncle's comics, and even with kids a low-level MMO and sandbox gamer.

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  • Phil Dzialo

    I believe in the power of human touch as a way of communication among primate and as a vital force of transmitting the energy of care. A plethora of studies have demonstrated that children in orphanages who were not regularly held either died or failed to thrive. Reactive Attachment Disorders among kids are often a result of a failure to bond, to be touch. Non-human primates do a better job at touch and sustenance of life than human primates, at least since the 70’s.

    The problem: the unbridled sex abuse of children since the 70’s through today. While the RCC clergy played a primary role in abuse in cover-up, the blame extends to other public school teachers, boy scout leaders, evangelical ministers, ultraporthodoxood Jews, extremist Islamists, and on to family members. The abuse of children has resulted in policies and programs which emphasize good touch and bad touch, mandatory reporting of suspicion, repressed memories and on and on. The reactions to protect children have made and prohibited good people from showing affection to children. The hullabaloo about the disordered nature of homosexuality has tainted shows of affection to people of the same sex. We have robbed our children of normalcy and we have infused adults and children with fear….WE have left a legacy of a troubled generation…hopefully we can re-learn touch from our lower primate brothers and sisters. Touch is care and life, simple.

    • While I obviously agree about the great importance, I have to ask– a PRIMARY role? Teacher sexual abuse is much more common, and much less spoken about.

      I would also say it’s not so much the discussion about the disordered nature of homosexuality, it’s the growing push for public acceptance and thus open expression of it– which means that previously “safe” contact becomes questionable.

      I would not suggest modeling child care on primates any more than we currently do; the biggest risk to young children’s lives are the unrelated mates of their mothers.

    • Phil Dzialo

      There is no argument that more public school teachers have been involved in sexual abuse of minors than clergy….the reason that the clergy abuse scandal was more in the media was (1) clergy are presented as Christ’s representatives on earth and (2) the massive cover-ups by bishops and cardinals…laws mandated the report of teachers to authorities so they ended up in jail with teacher licenses revoked.
      You’re reasoning about homosexuality is convoluted; as it is accepted by most Americans and the majority of Catholics, expressions of affection and touch are not treated with disgust. by the general populace It is primarily the RCC and fundamentalists which convey the “touch” revulsion not mainstream America.
      Primates below homo sapiens on the evolutionary scale do not generally rape their children; predators in human primate species are usually family related: ie grand parents, uncles, older nephews, etc and sometimes unrelated mates of mothers, but biological relatives are far more frequent. I think we can learn from chimps and great apes. Touch is a biological and evolutionary mechanism to survive and thrive.

    • I highly suggest you look into the coverups still going on about teachers abusing students.

      I’m afraid your claim that homosexuality and expressions of it are not treated with “disgust” is inaccurate; a darkly amusing example is the way that accusations of homosexuality are commonly thrown at those thought to be conservative or traditionally religious.

      Likewise, your claim that only the RCC and “Fundamentalists” treat possibly homosexual seeming contact with disgust can’t survive exposure to the average high school, VMA award show or night club– three places unlikely to be stuffed with either group!

    • Phil Dzialo

      I was a high school principal in Massachusetts for 30 years ’till I retired in 2006. Any teacher who hit upon a student, I fired….I also made sure they lost their teaching license. Maybe cover-ups? Possible but not me nor anyone I associated with with. We reported each suspicion to the DA as required by law…unfortunately the Archdiocese of Boston did not as was noted in grand jury reports. Likewise I can attest to affection, GSA’s and the expression of touch in public schools…agin I pit my experience against you allegations. So that we are aware of my original thesis….the problem, more than the clergy of many faiths, public school teachers, boy scout leaders, etc are RELATIVES of the child. I would suggest a bit more research about the family, relatives and child abuse!!!

    • You aren’t pitting your experience against my allegations, but against the objective fact that teachers can and do molest children for YEARS and that is covered up– and when it’s discovered, as in the case of Neal Erickson, other teachers will COME FORWARD IN SUPPORT of the abuser.

    • Phil Dzialo

      OK, I give !!! Present me the objective data…not just one instance. If you want to research all faith clergy coverup go to…..provide the data please

    • I have no problem with that argument, just the characterization of “primary role.”

      Wish there was some way to identify who is seeking authority so they have access to vulnerable children.

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