In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will collapse into the sexual at a moment’s notice…And where does this leave men? Physically and emotionally isolated. Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self-esteem and create community. ~ Mark Greene, The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer
Mark Greene’s article in The Good Men Project haunted me all week. Read the whole piece here. I found so much truth in it based on my own observations and experiences with my sons and lovers.
According to Greene, in the U.S. it is common to stop showing a boy outward platonic physical affection when they reach puberty. I would go so far as to say it starts to lessen the day they go off to school. At that point it’s no longer acceptable to be attached to your mother, so boys buck up and find physical contact in rough-housing with their siblings or buddies. I read once that boys are like puppies. They need to play and bump into each other for their development.
The only time touching is sanctioned is when the male is in a relationship or years later when he has children of his own. This puts a lot of pressure on the partner of a boy or man. She (or he) is now likely the sole recipient and giver of life-enhancing touch for this male. The need for physical fulfillment is great and somewhat confusingly blended with sexuality.
I know my former husband ached for my touch. Sadly, for deep-seated reasons I could not supply him with that physical affection, that form of tenderness. It could have changed our relationship.
Even in relationships an element of gentleness is often foregone. Kissing the corners of a man’s eyes or softly holding his face in your hands are simple gestures that penetrate deeply. I’ve witnessed men’s faces transform and their bodies ease when they experience soft caring touches. Simply holding a man or letting him hold you releases bonding hormones and reduces stress according to CNN Health.
Gentle touches say, You are safe now. You are trusted. Stop fighting your natural inclinations and enjoy.
If you are very fortunate, in exchange for loving caresses, a man will offer equally beautiful touching and a reveal of his inner tenderness. The most lovely gifts ever.
Physically connecting with your son
My 13-year-old son declared a few months ago that he doesn’t like physical touch. I’ve reduced the number of hugs I give him in order to respect his boundaries but … it’s difficult. I don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation for either of us, so I abstain, but I miss that outlet for affection. I try to connect with him by listening and commenting on the funny stories he likes to share but it’s different than connecting with a hug or ruffling his hair with my hand.
I figured out that my son’s love language is Acts of Service so I sneak in physical touch under the guise of a back scratch or head scratch. We sit on the couch, watch one of our favorite shows and I scratch his head or back. We both get our fix.
My younger son is still huggable. I dread the day when he turns away. I already miss holding hands when we cross the street.
The evolution of man
I believe there is a movement toward outward sensitivity and emotional intelligence in men. Websites like, The Good Men Project, make it acceptable for men to be thoughtful, kind, compassionate, tender and openly affectionate. May the evolution continue, for as the male evolves so does the female. As the man engages in soothing touch and vulnerability he makes a safe space for the woman to trust him and reveal her true essence.
Men, do you feel you get enough physical touch? Women, have you witnessed a man starving for physical connection? One more for women — When was the last time you gently caressed a man?
Strong, Vulnerable Men (Danielle LaPorte)
Emotional Intimacy: An Introvert’s Ultimate Turn On? (space2live)
Sensual Renaissance: The Rise of Affection and Touch (space2live)
How Does Introversion Affect Your Sexuality? (space2live)