By Monty Herron
Parts of this story have been reprinted with permission from the author, Mark Greene.
Happy April, Oaster, Oastara, and Easter if your beliefs align with zombie Jesus! This month I wanna dish about something very few people are talking about. Touch isolation, and how homophobia creates it. This in turn contributes to rape culture.
I’ve always been a big fan of—and shout out to my straight mates that aren’t afraid of—male intimacy. You know who you are, and I count my blessings often that I know courageous, dynamic, comfortable fellas that over the years have shown me how to be a better man. How? It may come as a shock to some, but you actually can hold someone’s hand, hold each other, let someone cry on your shoulder, give a back rub, cuddle, relax, even play with someone’s hair—ALL without it leading to a torrid sexual encounter. Sadly, this is something sorely missing in many men’s lives.
“I’m not talking about a pat on the back, or a handshake, but instead contact that is lasting and meant to provide connection and comfort.”
So what are we talking about? In my day-to-day running amok on the interwebs, I found a gem known as The Good Men Project, which seeks to have the conversation “no one is having.” In one article on the website, author Mark Greene states the following:
“American men, in an attempt to avoid any possible hint of committing unwanted sexual touch, are foregoing gentle platonic touch in their lives.
“Homophobic social stigmas, the long-standing challenges of rampant sexual abuse, and a society steeped in a generations old puritanical distrust of physical pleasure have created an isolating trap in which American men can go for days or weeks at a time without touching another human being. The implications of touch isolation for men’s health and happiness are huge.
“Gentle platonic touch is central to the early development of infants. It continues to play an important role throughout men and women’s lives in terms of our development, health and emotional well being, right into old age. When I talk about gentle platonic touch, I’m not talking about a pat on the back, or a handshake, but instead contact that is lasting and meant to provide connection and comfort. Think, leaning on someone for a few minutes, holding hands, rubbing their back or sitting close together not out of necessity but out of choice. Yet, culturally, gentle platonic touch is the one thing we suppress culturally in men and it starts when they are very young boys.”
“As gay men have faced the brunt of homophobic violence, straight men have been banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics.”
Mark goes on to state that the problem only compounds itself further:
“By the time they are approaching puberty, many boys have learned to touch only in aggressive ways through rough housing or team sports. And if they do seek gentle touch in their lives, it is expected to take place in the exclusive and highly sexualized context of dating … In a nutshell, we leave children in their early teens to undo a lifetime of touch aversion and physical isolation.
“The emotional impact of coming of age in our touch-averse, homophobic culture is terribly damaging. It’s no wonder our young people face an epidemic of sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, rape, drug and alcohol abuse. In America in particular, if a young man attempts gentle platonic contact with another young man, he faces a very real risk of homophobic backlash either by that person or by those who witness the contact. This is, in part, because we frame all contact by men as being intentionally sexual until proven otherwise. Couple this with the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture, and you get a recipe for increased touch isolation that damages the lives of the vast majority of men.
“As much as gay men have faced the brunt of homophobic violence, straight men have been banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics who police lesbians and gays in our society. The result has been a generation of American men who do not hug each other, do not hold hands and can not sit close together without the homophobic litmus test kicking in. The lack of touch in men’s lives results in a higher likelihood of depression, alcoholism, mental and physical illness. Put simply, touch isolation is making men’s lives less healthy and more lonely.”
Have I got you interested? You can read the complete story and much more at The Good Men Project.
Follow Mark’s work at Mark Greene Remaking Manhood on Facebook, @Remakingmanhood on twitter.
My hope, my wish? MORE men need to know the warmth, safety, and security of positive male engagement. I am grateful and blessed to have the large network of friends, bros, intellectuals, etc. that I have. You are a gift, and you each make a difference in my life. Know that you are loved, and I treasure the moments we share. Until next month, take care, be love, be compassion, be aware, spread kindness, and most of all, RESIST.