License to touch

I have been thinking a lot about touch. Touch amongst people, how we respond to it, how it affects our lives, how it makes us feel. Just having a regular conversation with a friend, you may touch them on the arm, kiss them on the cheek, or just brush against them as you walk together. This is a vehicle for comfort; a sign we are comfortable around people, that they make us comfortable when near.

All of this relates to friendly touch, which is a form of public touch. Public touch also comes into other forms of contact; the romantic relationship being the most predominant, and perhaps the most important contact that a person may have. In a relationship with someone, you is license to touch them in public, around others, not only as a continuation of the mould with which you may normally be with them, but as a public signal of your feelings. Touching in certain ways, say, holding hands, placing a hand on someone’s back, on someone’s knee, all signify the romantic relationship, all suggest to the people around that you have a license to touch this person, however you may want or need to. As it is something that you do in private, then doing so whenever you are with the person builds up a constant blanket of comfort. Feeling sad about one thing, perhaps having contact with this person will indulge your comfort levels in another way, making things feel okay.

What happens when this license to touch is restricted? When you can touch someone only in privacy, for whatever reason, the license to touch them no longer has freedom. Behaviour must change, and the body must be held back from contact you may otherwise have with a person. If you only have license to touch a person in private, then being around them in public can be painful; not only emotionally, perhaps, but physically. It is uncomfortable to restrain yourself from acting in a particular way. As touch is so important to us, so imperative to us feeling wanted, liked, appreciated, then when the desires of our body cannot be satiated we feel loss. Discomfort and loss, especially if perpetuated by non-contact with an other, can make everything seem bad.

This is why having a license to touch a friend, say, is so important to humans. If one relationship becomes restricted, then at least we can take refuge in the comfort of contact with someone else, whose touch lets us know that they care, and if we’re lucky, lets us know that they need our touch just as much as we need theirs.


About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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