My, Grandpa, You are So Sensuous: Wholistic Hope for the Haptic Sense
When my dad was bed ridden just before he died, we had a great time, he was such a tease. It was hard to tease him back, but my niece sure did. It makes for such wonderful memories. She had just gotten out of her seat next to his bed to go do something and he said, “Sonja, since you was getting up, would you mind getting me some ice cream.” My niece seized the opportunity and came back with, “My, Grandpa, I didn’t realize you were so sensuous.” His bright red face and confusion indicated that he like many people really do not know what that word means.
Do you? It’s not a dirty word. In fact it is rather wholesome. Yet in the world today many wholesome words get hijacked. Let me explain.
- 1. perceived by or affecting the senses: the sensuous qualities of music.
- 2. readily affected through the senses: a sensuous temperament.
- 3. of or pertaining to sensible objects or to the senses.
- 1. pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
- 2. lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
- 3. arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
- 4. worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
- 5. of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.
We were sent here to Earth to gain bodies of flesh and bones and to be tested. These bodies are a gift and are referred to as a temple. I remember as a very young kid being told that I was not to allowed to touch myself or let others touch me and that “that was ugly”. Again was the touching ugly or was my body ugly. How could my body be ugly and be a temple. When I was a kid, I was touched by someone older than me, and it felt good. Of course, I found out that being touched in that way was wrong, eventually I built walls around touch that made it taboo. So much confusion, so many mixed messages. In this post, I want to explore the concept of touch, the dark, taboo and ugly vs. the healthy, nurturing and wholesome, and try and clear up some of the misconceptions around this issue.
The Haptic Body
Being one of the major sensory inputs to this magnificent creation of the Body, the Sense of touch is so complex and yet is often taken for granted. In preparing for this posting I researched several professional and lay texts and the body of literature is available. There are books, societies, and scholarly presentations everything from technical to taboo. The following is a listing of the books to which I will refer. Feel free to do the research on your own. The Handbook of Touch, The Power of Touch, Touch Attachment and the Body, Boundaries of Touch, Touch Papers, and more. The major consensus of these writings is that touch is important even vital.
To summarize, There is the neurological sensation of touch and the psycho-social perception of touch, and each of these changes based on if you are the giver or receiver of touch. There is a variety of factors that come into play with the physiological aspects of touch, such as light versus deep pressure, direct contact versus mediated contact, and the integration of the other senses with touch. There is also a variety of factors that come into play regarding the psycho-social perception of touch, such as power differentiation, expectation of the giver, gender/ethnic/family/professional norms, to name a few. I focus on the touch in relation to my own healing.
I remember right after my mission coming home and dating. I would date a girl and the further into the relationship, the more I would physically pull away. They would feel hurt and I would be overcome with a unpleasant burning sensation from their touch. Then I met Mary Jo. The burning sensation was gone. Then MJ died unexpectedly (a story for another post). I dated others, but the burning sensation continued. Then I attended a Journey into Manhood weekend and met a man, Bruce R. Gold, a counselor at the Collegeville Healing Center, who works with men and women with various issues including survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
He taught me about boundaries and creating safe touch experiences. He said “Rubbing, stroking or patting could “trigger” a person who has been sexually abused back to a previous abuse incident or memory. I recommend steady, consistent touch, holding or pressure to increase the sense of support and comfort. It is the movement during the touch that could re-traumatize or trigger recalling old tramatization.”
MJ was a survivor of childhood abuse as well, and had spent many years in therapy to recover from that trauma. MJ knew what could trigger me, and she didn’t create that response, because she herself knew what that was like. Later, I attended a weekend seminar with Cliff Barry the founder of Shadow Work Seminars. He was there to credential the presenters in Shadow Work. In my private conversations with him, I was given some great insight into my touch condition and it inspired a Wholistic perspective of touch of which I over-lay onto the Shadow Work Model.
Warrior Touch – Hitting, Punching, Grabbing, Pushing, Pulling, High 5s, Wrestling, Knuckles.
I think the video speaks for itself in regards to the energy and spirit behind warrior touch. Touch that sets boundaries and that brings people into competition is warrior touch. This is the kind of touch which is the most acceptable among same gender parties .
Physical Abuse directed and self and others is the dark side of Warrior Touch. I remember being physically bullied on the playground and lashing out, and both of these were forms of the shadow warrior touch. I also believe many of the unsaid rules of touch that we expect of others is part of Shadowy Warrior Touch.
Lover Touch – Rubbing, Tickling, Caressing, Patting, Hugging, Cuddling.
Zurinstitute.com cites the following:
Loving touch triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “bonding hormone” (Field, et.al., 1997). Studies in bonding also show that human babies who are held often and touched frequently in their earliest stages of development have higher scores on physical, emotional, and interpersonal scales (Klaus & Kennell, 1976; Field et. al., 1986). The opposite is true of abusive touch or lack of touch. In fact, the absence of loving touch has been documented to have profound impact on the will to live. Death rates for under-touched infants less than one year of age, in institutes during the 1920’s ranged from 30% to 100% (Hunter & Struve, 1998). During the early 30’s, Bellevue hospital in New York challenged the prevailing norms and authorized staff to incorporate physical contact in their care protocols. The mortality rate dropped on that unit from 30% to 10%, and the caregivers proposed the name marasmus (wasting away) for this disease of institutionalized touch depravation (Cohen, 1987). Developmental specialists agree that primary caretakers’ attunement and appropriate response to their child’s communication of needs during the first few years of life is essential to adequate neurological and emotional development (Bowlby, 1952; Field, 1998, 2003; Harlow, 1971). They agree, as well, that deficits in the satisfaction of basic needs results in the development of defense structures that complicate and inhibit relationship to self and others.
So the touch intended to connect and bond is Wholesome/Golden Lover touch.
Smothering touch or Touch Deprivation are the touch shadows of Lover Touch. Touching without permission is also quite shadowy. Masturbation can also be a shadow form of lover touch, because it can be an over-indulgence in touch that can lead to marital bonding issues especially when pornography is involved.
King Touch – Nurturing, Blessing, Laying on of Hands, Service-Based, Directive, Domineering, Handshake,
Laying on of hands to give blessings is one of the highest forms of King Touch. Tucking a child in bed at night is also King Touch. A coach fanny patting a player into the game is a form of King Touch. Wholesome/Golden Father-Son Holding, taught at Journey Into Manhood, in my opinion is Wholesome/Golden King Touch (Guidelines for “Golden Father-Son Holding” will be shared later in this posting with permission of Rich Wyler)
Quid Pro Quo, or any unwanted touch, or touch with strings attached, is Shadowy King Touch. Any touching done without permission often called “gay”.
Sage/Magician Touch – Detached Touching, Professional Therapeutic Touch, Touch Communication, Predatory Touch
Professional touch experienced such as touch by a Doctor, Physical Therapist, Massage Therapist, or Beautician/Manicurist. Communication that evokes thoughts of touch or feeling can also be considered Wholesome/Golden Sage/Magician Touch. For example, telling someone their performance was touching, or the old Ma Bell Jingle “Reach out, Reach out and Touch Someone”. Requests for folks to keep in touch work here too.
Predatory Touch and not just molestation is Shadowy Sage/Magician Touch. I remember one time I was so touch deprived that I went to the mall and had the Seacret sales guy polish my thumbnail. I justified it by buying his product, but, honestly,I was only there for the physical contact.
The Touchy Subject
In a recent post to one of the discussion groups, I mentioned that I have straight buddies of mine who come over and ask for a hug, or to be held. Like this scene from Warrior there is a time and place for touch of this nature.
I remember talking with a gay friend of mine who said that if his sex partners would just hold him, he would not need to have sex. In other words, for him and I suspect many others, Sex was a shadowy means to get some holding time with another guy.
There are groups that host professionally facilitated Cuddle Parties. To me this is shadowy because the term party gives the impression of altered mental state or for pleasure. I offer the following set of guidelines as a means of safely getting one’s need for male-male touch met appropriately and safely.
The following is reprinted with permission of Rich Wyler at People Can Change. Please note that these guidelines are agreed to by participants and staff members of Journey into Manhood Weekends to prevent abuse and predatory behavior and they are strictly enforced. Italics are added for clarification of terminology.
GUIDELINESS FOR “GOLDEN FATHER & SON HOLDING”
At Journey Into Manhood, we offered you an opportunity to receive affirming, safe, non-sexual touch. We call this “Golden Father & Son Holding” in order to emphasize the healing potential of a “Golden Father” giving your “Inner Child” the unconditional love and acceptance that every innocent young boy desires and deserves. Father-Son Holding is safe, nonsexual, affirming, nonjudgmental and protective—the way a loving father protects his son from being sexualized, wounded, or taken advantage of.
Notice that we offered Father-Son Holding only in sacred space (ritual space, or space set apart for sacred purpose). We were in a safe container (a safe group with agreed upon boundaries). It was done in small groups, with others present. It was done fully clothed. It was done with healing intent. It was done after asking permission.
Some men, craving touch, have tried to recreate this kind of holding in UNsafe ways in their everyday lives. Holding can quickly become sexual, and it can become manipulative if it is not done in a safe container.
You may find that Father-Son Holding will be an important part of your healing work. If that is the case for you, we invite you to seek Father-Son Holding in SAFE situations following this weekend.
People Can Change STRONGLY urges you to follow the guidelines below any time that you seek out Golden Father & Son Holding. In fact, Journey Into Manhood staff are all asked to commit to follow these guidelines in their everyday lives as a condition of their eligibility to staff our weekends.
- Father-Son Holding is ALWAYS done with full permission of all participants.
- Father-Son Holding is done among THREE or more men, or with another man who has never experienced SSA. DO NOT ENGAGE IN HOLDING ONE-TO-ONE WITH ANOTHER SSA STRUGGLER IN A PRIVATE SETTING.
- Father-Son Holding is ALWAYS done with healing intent—with one man clearly in the role of the loving, protective “Golden Father,” and another man clearly in the role of the Inner Child, receiving nonsexual holding from his Golden Father and loving brothers.
- Father-Son Holding NEVER involves erotic touch, nor is it done in sexual positions (such as lying on top of each other) or places (such as on a bed).
- Father-Son Holding is done FULLY CLOTHED. Combining holding with nudity – even partial nudity (shirtless, for example) – can easily create an erotic context.
- Father-Son Holding is always done completely sober, never after drinking or using drugs.
INNER CHILD AND GOLDEN FATHER
Father-Son Holding is usually about meeting the needs and healing the wounds of the little boy. In order for holding to accomplish this, the man being held must make himself very vulnerable. And vulnerability sometimes creates sexual feelings.
Wounded little boys can’t heal other wounded little boys. It takes Golden Father energy to heal a hurting boy. Golden Father energy is not sexual. An emotionally healthy father would never try to heal his son’s wounds by having sex with him. That is abuse.
Golden Father energy is more safely created in conscious male communities of three or more men. Groups that include men without same-sex attraction can offer even greater safety and healing.
You may find that holding will be an important part of your healing work. If that is the case for you, we invite you to seek Father-Son Holding in SAFE situations following this weekend.
Some of the safe ways men have received Father-Son Holding include:
- Holding with a third person present
- Being hugged or held by men without SSA
- Asking to be held in their men’s group
We also offer you the following cautions:
- Avoid engaging in holding with strangers or with men you’ve just met, even if they’ve also been through the Journey Into Manhood weekend, unless it is facilitated in a safe container.
- Avoid engaging in holding while watching a movie or television. The distraction of these media lessens attention to present time and place, making it impossible to create a conscious, safe container.
Even Father-Son Holding can cause a man to become physically aroused. This is not at all unnatural, even for a non-SSA man. That alone does not necessarily mean a situation is becoming dangerously sexual, lustful or counter-productive. What a man is feeling in his heart – whether love and affirmation or lust and sexual desire – is a better indicator of whether touch is healing than is whatever is going on in a man’s groin.
Father-Son Holding is different from other kinds of touch, such as a standing hug or a non-sexual massage. These other types of touch can be either healing or eroticized, too, depending on the individuals and the circumstances.
To close, I hope that I have clarified the difference between Wholesome and Shadowy touch. I offered readings and sources that provided further research of this topic. I hope I have presented a frame work by which one can easily explain healthy forms of touch to others that takes away the stigma often associated with male-male touch.