A Touchy Subject: How to Work on Being Touched

Old and young hands together

I am a very physically affectionate person. If it were socially acceptable I would introduce myself to new people by biting at their stomachs and nuzzling their neck.

Almost every week I swap full-body massages with my girlfriends. I kiss people goodbye and hello and my poor husband has bald patches all over his otherwise hairy body from being love-nuzzled.

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I think one of the saddest lessons life teaches us is to not let ourselves be touched. Men learn not to “be gay” and women learn, often through experiences with sexual assault, to be afraid.

With introversion finally getting its time in the limelight (calm down introverts, you can have the limelight on you and still hide under the stairs in the dark) and every talk show host/therapist/blogger talking about setting your boundaries, it is easier than ever to not let yourself be touched.

To touch is to trust

Yes, I think you should challenge yourself to let someone touch you. To touch is to trust. I think it is something worth working on. And I know no one else will tell you this because you are scary with your thick outer shell of scales and that look on your face like you’ve seen some shit. But I’m gonna because mama loves you and knows what’s best.

In all seriousness, I get it. Once you’ve been violated, not touching and letting yourself be touched is not only the instinctual thing to do, but it is easy to tell yourself that those feelings should not be questioned, ever.

So let’s prod at that sensitive area. Today I want to talk about how to touch and be touched when that’s the last thing you want to do.

Go easy

Try small challenges. When you meet someone, shake their hand for five seconds instead of three. It might seem like an insignificant increment, but when it comes to your brain, two seconds can be the difference between triggering stress and safety responses and love hormones or getting no exciting brain juice at all.

Go hard

The only time I don’t desire to be stroked, petted, or patted is when I am angry. I remember once reading this Cosmo tip that was like “drive her wild, get her angry, then kiss her deeply” and I was like, “Motherfucker, you would be in danger getting your face that close to my teeth.”

Since finding out my abusive homeless father is looking for me, I have been feeling angry. I’m not an angry person, but this set of circumstances has it bubbling just below the surface, all the time. Because of this, I find that I am not enjoying touch as much as much as usual.

So I leaned into my fear and my anger and I started taking Krav Maga.

I was shaking on my first lesson. Not only was I going to let a 200-pound man touch me, he was going to throw me around.

I am so glad that I challenged myself. An hour a week of physically aggressing on a much larger man has me trusting again.

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Go artistic

I love to get henna tattoos in the summer. It’s fun, celebratory, and sexy. When it comes to opening up to letting people touch you, you can’t go wrong with a henna artist.

I have never met one that wasn’t soothing in that hippie, “I have read the Bhagavad Gita and wove this skirt out of wheat” kind of way.

Watching the design happen can provide a nice distraction from the discomfort you might feel from being touched, and creating something beautiful with someone is one of the best ways to open yourself up.

Makeup Tattoo GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Go farther

It might be your instinct to try to get physically closer to people already in your trusted circle, but you may find the easiest place to start is actually with someone you don’t know. Book a massage, take a tango lesson with a private instructor or have a one night stand (kidding!). Sometimes having a little emotional distance can allow us to open up to a more physical freedom.

Go closer

My sister is some kind of touch wizard. I find her touch more soothing than any other persons. I legit pay her to wax my legs because as painful as a leg wax is, if she is doing it, it brings my blood pressure way down. Try having a pamper night with your girlfriends or sisters, do facials, manicures, or snuggle up and watch a movie.


Because the goal is to promote non sexual touch, and trust, I specifically left out SOs and sexual partners.

It’s about you

I know it is very empowering when you learn that no one has the right to touch you against your will. That lesson is out there, you’ve heard it, it is sung from the mountaintops and rightfully so. But here at Damn, Girl, we like to look at the other side, where it is equally empowering to touch someone and let someone touch you in return.

46 thoughts on “A Touchy Subject: How to Work on Being Touched

  1. Guilty guilty guilty. You might have written this all for me. I detest touch. I’ve even written about it. I can hold your hand, or cuddle you, but if you want to cuddle me, no bueno. Interestingly I’ve had a guy massage therapist for about 6 years, who is amazing. He’s not unattractive, but he’s not someone I’d find attractive, ever, and I feel strangely comfortable with stripping down and letting him do his magic all over my body. Finding the right touch is important. I touch ok, but seriously I do need to work on the being touched from pretty well everyone (except for my massage therapist).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find touch very startling. My family rarely hugs so I’ve probably had more physical contact with people in martial arts than any other circumstance. I have to think through romantic situations more than most women find romantic.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am a touchy-feely person too. I seriously hug half the folks at the little league park when we arrive, when we leave. My closest friends, I will kiss on the cheek or just stand and hold in my arms… thankful that they are there – even if I just saw them the day before. My baseball friends have become my family – wives, husbands, kids, grandparents… it is a long process to get to the game and to leave at the end because I have to hug and squeeze them and let them know that I love them.

    But I also have a tendency to touch people when I talk to them (that sounds bad)… but I will put my hand on their arm as we are walking and talking, or if we are passing in the hallway. At work it can be frowned upon, but it is who I am as a person, I guess.

    Don’t even get me started on my kids… I hug them all the time. I cherish the fact that my tweenager boys will sometimes snuggle with me on the couch, or hold my hand… they don’t (yet) cringe when I hug them in front of their people….

    I am fortunate to have never felt physically violated. No one has abused me – sexually or otherwise. I am thankful that it has allowed me to be who I am, and to love to be touched (in a non-sexual way).

    Sorry your dad is making you stabby…. I would hug you, if I could.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Straight out of high school, my first female boss and mentor taught me to shake hands with a man using both hands and gently holding their hand while looking them straight in the eye. She explained that it takes the power away from them and gives it all to you. Whenever I find myself in a situation that gives me a subservient feeling, I shake hands by taking the gentleman’s hand in my right hand and covering it gently with my left. Works every time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I admit I do not like being touched. I am the type of person who will hug someone if they want to hug me, but I will not initate a hug. I will also avoid platonic touch if I can help it. I don’t mind shaking someone’s hand or having skin contact when passing someone money or stuff, but anything more than that seems foreign to me. Once in a while when my dad gets into one of his “oh my little girl is all grown up” moods and holds my hand or pats me on the head before saying goodnight, I feel kind of cringey about it. I mean, maybe he wants to hug me but feels awkward about it. Perhaps he can sense I am uncomfortable with hugs. I do think I have intimacy issues, but I don’t know when or how it began. The closest bit to nonconsental suggestively sexual touch I experienced was in junior high school, and also a bit in high school.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I grew up in a family that didn’t touch too often. Although in our culture everyone kisses as a greeting, hugging my parents brought up such feelings of the heebie-jeebies that it never really caught on more than some awkward half hugs and pats on the back. It led me to make that much more effort with my own kids to break that habit. It’s a constant thing I work on because I never realized how bad me and my parents were until I saw so many people who were the opposite with their adult parents!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I love a good snuggle… with everyone but my parents. It’s just so not a natural way for us to be. Year’s of conditioning on both sides probably. My daughter always liked to snuggle, son will give me hugs and kisses too, but too much hugging makes him cringe. That may just be teenage growing pains though. I’ll squeeze him for the rest of his life, like it or not. 😄

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This was wonderful information about touching. I actually do love getting henna tattoos because they are artistic and a way to release some of who I am. Crazy thing is, I normally do not want to be touched by any men but my husband, step father and father in-law. When I was younger, there was a man that was often very inappropriate and it of course got much worse through the years. It has been 2 decades, but the feelings of his hands linger. Thankfully, not only have I not been near him in those 2 decades, but he is not alive anymore. This so called man was my mother’s live in boyfriend for 9 years too long. I am working on my insecurities, but I think if any man hugged me, my husband would flip out! I do often greet friends with hugs and hugs goodbye, so I am not against it. I hope I make sense and don’t sound like a crazy person!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Weirdly, my top love language is touch – but mostly only with my husband. I guess if I don’t love you, I don’t want you touching me 🙂 I don’t mind shaking hands or a quick hug, but if anyone touches me when I’m not expecting it, they can expect sudden instinctive violence whether I love them or not.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I am only wary of touching at work, because I work in a corporate office, and there are often a lot of power dynamics at play. I’m not very touchy feely by nature, but I do find getting my hair shampooed when I’m at a salon really soothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a few close people who I always hug when I see them. Some I don’t want to let go! But I’m not a toucher and I don’t like being touched. I don’t even like to feel my own breath on my skin! I’d rather eat my own kneecaps than have a massage or have someone do my nails. I don’t think I could even let a close friend do any of that. I need to try some of these tips otherwise how am I going to manage when I can no longer look after myself? :/

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi there, good to run into you here! There’s lots of different kinds of touch, maybe you are more comfortable with deep pressure (e.g. hugs) and dislike lighter touch e.g. breath on skin, nails painted. Despite your reservations, you might like a masage as long as it was a deep tissue/sports massage and not a Swedish/relaxation one. I used to love getting a deep tissue massage regularly, even though I am fairly reserved about touch generally, and was very shy and nervous for my first one. That feeling of knots being worked out, I found mind blowing, and works as therapy without words. Or if you want the feeling of a hug whenever you want no person required, an idea could be a weighted blanket or an inflatable squeezy jacket. Xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi there yourself 😉 I do like the weight of clothes & bedcovers so you may well be onto something there 😉 My partner has regular sports massage for neck/shoulder/back problems and swears by them, but loves any type of massage. Interesting perspective, thankyou 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this. Like, people who don’t know me think that I detest touching. Like, it’s a superpower if I don’t know you. I could be in a room crammed with people and I still find a narrow maze to walk through. But, it’s because I feel really uncomfortable and this post hit home.
    Unless if someone knows me they know I’m big on all the hugs and kisses. 😂
    Thanks a lot for posting this. It’s like you’re in my head.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I am touchy touchy with people I’m close to but not at all touchy with family or strangers. I’m a little cat-like in that way. Bit stand-offish at first but I’ll be nuzzling you in no time!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am super touchy-feely with my friends. Even with casual acquaintances. To the point of it being socially unacceptable. Growing up, my friend group in high school was very physically affectionate–hugs, cuddling, cheek/forehead kisses were common, even if you just met someone.

    I need, like, the opposite of this guide, lol! “How to keep yourself from hugging someone when you don’t even know their name, yet.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dude. I want you to love nuzzle the hell out of me! Ha! It has been so long since I was with anyone, so anytime someone’s hand lingers on me I feel like purring like a cat and rubbing up against their leg. Human touch is so important and I have realized lately how deprived I am. I have even thought of renting a prostitute for a night so we can cuddle watching Netflix. OMG. I need help. Love ya, girl.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Living in Hanoi, I see very few public displays of physical affection, and then I was at a gathering and a woman came in and started hugging everyone in the room. I actually asked if she was from Vietnam, I was so surprised. She said she was, but also that she loved hugging more than anyone she knew.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I took your suggestion to heart yesterday, at “church,” and only got slapped twice. That’s okay, though, as slapping is technically “touching,” too. 😉 As the morning went by, folks became more contact-friendly, but that could have been the alcohol effects. Nothing brings on a big pub group hug like Irish whiskey, I’ll tell you what.

    All kidding aside I’m a known hugger and toucher. I get folks texting me in the mornings asking if I’ll be attending such-and-such because they need a big ol’ Tom hug. I’m always happy to comply. 😇

    Great post, missy. Virtual hugs from the West!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. As usual, you’ve made me take a look at myself and think way too much. I don’t mind giving or receiving touches as long as they are brief, or I know I can “get out of them” , anything that makes me feel claustrophobic is a no go, bear hugs, hand holding etc,,,but greetings, salutations, comforting no problem….but I am also one of those people that always ask before I touch…unless you add alcohol….then everyone is getting touched 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  17. GAH i finally found your blog!! I’ve legit being going bezerk trying to remember the name hahah.

    Anywho It’s great that your content is as lovely as i remember. I struggle a lot (!) with touch at times. And it feels like i’m not allowed to. Because the reasons are just so gray area. but im looking to see a therapist so hehe fingers crossed to sail on that boat. But your post really helped me figure out how i can help myself too, with mini challenges. I go in too fast then end up hurting someone physically which duh is SUCH a nono (not even socially, just morally really ha). So I’ll take it slow this time, the way you directed with these mini challenges. Thanks so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is an interesting subject! I’m not a very “touchy” person myself but generally I don’t mind it at all when people greet me with a hug etc – it just comes across as warm and friendly. Then of course there are people who take it too far which can make things awkward.

    I loved your decision to do krav maga (my wife is a martial arts teacher)! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This post has brought me to tears. I was actually thinking that massages are good ideas for touch therapy.
    Seriously speaking, the more you let others touch you the safer it is. At this point I can hug others (briefly) and even want to. Touch isn’t safe for me. At all. I wonder if it ever will be…

    Liked by 1 person

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