My former wife sent me an article about why men demand sex so often, but the article was about something much deeper and more important. Touch.
Mark Green, author of Remaking Manhood and editor of The Good Men Project (where the article first appeared), discussed how men touching men leads people to think the worst of them. That is, that the touch is all about sex. It reminded me the premise of Billy Crystal’s character in When Harry Met Sally, the one about men and women not being able to be friends because secretly the man just wants to have sex with her.
It’s not that I don’t see the point. I see it. I just think it’s a shame. I think that because, as my mother taught me, no one is just one thing. And by the same token, not everyone is the same. Even though they’re all men, all men are not the same. Each of us is very different, and we each look at and come at the world in different ways, with different expectations, with different dreams, with different, well, everything.
But Green’s point is this, really. That we have to teach our kids that touch isn’t just one thing, either. Touch can be sexual, when appropriate, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be friendly, supportive, and loving. It can tell someone you’re there if they need you. It can tell someone you appreciate them. It can welcome them into your life, somehow, in ways yet to be determined.
Green says it’s a question of trust, and it’s a societal problem as well as a personal one. If a man cannot feel free to touch for non-sexual reasons, where does that leave him? It leaves him alone. It leaves him untouchable.
He also says that platonic touch is something dads share with their kids. Being able to touch a child, to show tenderness, to show that it’s okay to touch, is something kids are teaching their dads. That’s worth celebrating. For our part, my former wife and I have never shied away from showing our kids that human contact is a good thing. Sometimes it’s more casual, sometimes it’s a solid handshake, sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s a kiss, but it’s always skin coming into contact with skin. It’s a rather magical moment, when skin touches skin. And no matter the reason—sexual or platonic—it means something. I know our sons are better for understanding the power of touch. Touch is the great equalizer. It’s shown our sons that people are just people, and that no matter who someone is, touch can transform. Touch can heal. Touch is everything.