Don't Touch Me

When human contact is not a comfort

Don't Touch Me

I do not like being touched, especially by strangers. I don't like strangers trying to hug me. I'm not even keen on handshakes. I hate it when you are on the bus and the thigh of the person next to you rubs against yours. It makes my skin crawl. Crowds give me anxiety. I don't like it when people tap me on the shoulder. I hate it when someone I barely know touches my arm. Touch is not a comfort to me.

My family was never all that touchy feely. Both of my parents came from violent situations in their childhood home life and I suspect that made them slightly hands-off parents. But even so, my extended family is not all that touchy. My home life as a child at home was fairly stable and definitely non-violent but we interacted verbally and intellectually rather than tactically.

I can trace my own more severe aversion to touch to several events in my childhood outside of my family life. I was relentlessly teased as a child and that sometimes turned physical and even violent. In grade three, my tormentors invented a game called 'Sarah fleas'; if someone touched me they would yell 'Sarah fleas! Pass it on!' and they would pass it around the room. I began to shy away from touch.

I also developed breasts very early and had large breasts by the time I was 12. This led to unwanted attention from predatory grown men and boys in my school that terrified me. I was grabbed when I didn't want to be. Or 'accidentally' brushed up against. Touch became a form of dangerous sexuality. I began to fear touch and the potential for it to turn violent.

I am now 36 and I still avoid being touched. It took me a long time to get used to friends wanting to hug me when they saw me. My family is still not 'huggy' touchy. It takes me awhile to warm up to friends or lovers wanting to cuddle me and it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Cuddling does not come naturally to me. It takes a while to get there when I start a relationship. I do at times find myself craving that intimacy but I really need to trust someone to let them touch me freely. Furthermore, fibromyalgia has caused me to be extremely pressure sensitive so touch can actually be physically painful.

I really despise strangers touching me. As a women, I have of course been the victim of frotteurism (rubbing against strangers for a sexual thrill) and sexual assault which has just increased my aversion. My mom not being a huggy person and having a huggy business partner was hard for her. He, however, learned quickly to ask before he tried to hug. She warned him never to try to hug me because I am even more adverse and he has made a decided effort not to slip up. I appreciate that because some people do not understand the fact that I don't like being touched and try anyways. Or attempt to touch or hug me without asking.

You often see semi-scientific articles on the internet about how important touch is to humans. What this does not take into account is consent to touch. Some of us have suffered trauma surrounding touch and do not feel comfortable unless it takes place in a safe and familiar environment with trusted people. People who have managed to stay my friends have learned this about me and don't force touch on me. I have definitely told people I was being introduced to who tried to hug me to back off. Sometimes they get a look of disgust and entitlement on their face. Sort of a visual "what the fuck is wrong with you?"

I think people need to become more cognizant of the fact that touch does not always equal reassuring to some of us. Consent goes beyond just sexual consent but to all forms of touching, even when it's not meant to be sexual. But please don't assume I am unfriendly or a bitch, this is not going to help the situation. Don't make assumptions about people who don't want to be touched, you have no idea what they have been through and why they might need the distance to feel comfortable.

And when we do decide that you can touch us, realize that you have entered a very special place in our lives.

Sarah Sparks
Sarah Sparks

Witchcraft poet, neurotic sex symbol, over-educated sadist, and generally only dangerous to herself and a few unfortunate bedmates. Found haunting the halls of academia, frequenting shady establishments and eating candy at home in bed.

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