The Four Types of Touch

Touch is essential for good health

Approx 6 minutes to read

Most of us can benefit from receiving consensual, appropriate, non-sexual touch.

It is essential for good physical health. It can be soothing and calming for our stressed nervous system. And for many of us we can feel disconnected and emotionally unsupported, if we are not getting enough of it in our lives.

Unfortunately, many of us are not taught how to ask for the touch we want, or crave.

Few of us are taught that there is a difference between: erotic touch, soothing touch, therapeutic touch and touch for pleasure.

I’ve met parents who did not touch their children due to the fear of ‘sexualising’ the touch.

Many many people I’ve met professionally equate sex with touch. So any form of touch gets mixed up and confused with sex and erotic pleasure.

Combine this with the guilt, fear and shame many of us have been handed from the dominant Christian-Judaeo perspective on the body, sex, pleasure and touch. We can see why it can be so confusing.

So, we do not risk asking for the non-sexual touch we crave, even in intimate long term relationships.

Learning to be clear

Feeling more comfortable when asking for touch, can be as is easy as learning a few simple concepts. Which can lead to increased safety and enjoyment of appropriate, and agreed upon touch, which we can relax into.

And therefore gain the most benefit from.

The simple concept of the ‘Four Types of Touch’ can be learned easily and quickly

This simple and practical method for bringing more awareness to the type of touch being exchanged. between you and your lover/partner, will enhance the experience of touch immensely.

The Four Types of Touch Are:

These first two types of touch, are what we aim to stay away from in everyday life and particularly in our intimate relationships

1- Non-consensual Touch
To be avoided

As with many things non-consensual touch runs along a continuum from the gross to the subtle.

One end of the continuum contains obvious physical, violent and violating acts.

The other end is more subtle and even gentle, in nature. Yet it is coercive in nature and intent.

Non-consensual touch is coercive in nature. The person being touched has had their choice removed and the person doing the touching has no regard for the object that is being touched

Both ends of this non-consensual continuum, and all in between, contain disrespect and disregard for the needs and wishes of the person being touched. The needs and wishes of the person imposing touch on another, are placed ahead of the other.

2 – Tolerating Touch
To be avoided

Have you ever had someone touching you in a way that leaves you feeling uncomfortable and impatient for the touch to end?

It can occur during a massage, receiving a hug, when you are feeling grief, or even with a handshake or your lover is trying to give you pleasure, from a good place, but it becomes uncomfortable and you want it to stop.

This is what we call tolerating touch.

It’s not pleasant and there is no pleasure in receiving this type of touch. As there is a feeling of not having a choice in ending the touch, so one ends up enduring an unpleasant experience of tolerating touch.

Tolerating touch can occur between friends, family members, lovers, or in a situation with a stranger

Many of us have experienced receiving a massage where the touch has been too firm, light or uncomfortable – leaving us feeling have to tolerate the touch.

We want to give feedback to the person, to change what they are doing. Yet, because they have the intent to touch us in a way that is pleasant, or for our benefit. We stay silent because we do not want to make them feel bad or upset them.

Simply put, tolerating touch leaves you feeling yucky. Often resentful or angry, at not being able to say ‘Stop’, or, ‘No more’

It’s easy for this to occur during sex and love making. Our partner starts doing something that is pleasurable at first. Yet he/she continues for so long, it becomes unpleasant. So we don’t say anything for fear of offending someone we care about.

Now we explore the two types of touch that we encourage. To bring greater awareness to our giving and receiving of touch, in order to increase safety, joy, pleasure and connection
3 – Allowing

Allowing Touch can be a challenging concept for some, as the person being touched is the one giving, or being in service.

Let’s take a heterosexual situation where one lover, let’s say the female, is lying back, allowing her lover to touch her body in the way he wants.

With a cursory look it appears that she is receiving.

Yet within this framework, she is in service to him by offering her body to touch, in a way that maximises his pleasure.

She will experience pleasure as well of course, for if she did not, they would be entering the zone of tolerating touch. Yet it is important to understand she is allowing him to touch her in a way that gives him pleasure.

4 – Requested

Let’s stay with the same heterosexual couple and now reverse the roles.

He is still touching her.

However, now he is touching her in the way she wants. He is in service to her. He follows her directions requests to touch her in a way that maximises her pleasure.

He will get pleasure from touching her of course, yet his intent is to serve her, by giving her what she requests in the specific way she wants

The intent is to empower each other to consciously be in choice around Allowing and Requesting.

For many, ‘Requesting’ the touch they want can be challenging or daunting – as they have unconsciously been in the ‘Allowing’ role in their relationships.

So learning to overcome old patterns of behaviour, learning to request the touch you want, can be intimidating at first for some. However, in the longer term it can be very empowering.

When experimenting with ‘Allowing’ and ‘Requesting’ touch, it can be easy to unintentionally slip into receiving, or giving tolerating touch 

Tolerating can be very subtle, so learn to catch it early.

The intent is for ‘Allowing’ and ‘Requesting’ to be pleasurable for both parties. When the touch you are receiving becomes something you are not enjoying. Gently give feedback to your lover, asking them to change what they are either doing, or their intent and focus.

For example:

‘Can you go back to doing what you were before?’

‘Mmmm…I really liked what you were doing before’

‘What were doing previously? That felt really good’

‘Please go back to what you were doing before’.

‘Can you touch me gently/firmer/like this instead please?’

Consensual, agreed upon touch, is based upon mutual understanding and clear boundaries. It provides a safe container, which leads to a deeper sense of safety.

And remember touch is good for us. So make it fun to experiment!

As you and your partner experiment with ‘Allowing and Requesting’ be aware of the habits and patterns you both unconsciously reinforce, by slipping into the role of giver/receiver, active/passive, dominant/submissive.

It can be challenging to step outside these comfortable roles. yet the benefits to increased pleasure and connection cannot be underestimated.

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Author: Steve

Steven. R. Sweeney has worked for over 25 years with people in groups, one to one and with couples. His broad experience in private practice, the community sector and in business as a - Trainer, Group Facilitator, Speaker & Relationship Counsellor - has given him a deep understanding of relationships and how to make them work better for all concerned. His passion is in helping people manifesting the life they deeply desire, through co-creating Xtraordinary Relationships.

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