I spent much of last week in a bliss bubble of lovers and friends, family and community. Much of that was enjoyed scantily clad (or not clad at all!) in circle and conversation about everything from polyamory, to kink, sexual wellness, tantra, the entertainment industry, consent, and much more. Yet this was no orgy or sex party.
Touch is incredibly beneficial to our emotional state and overall well-being; it can increase oxytocin levels (the hormone associated with trust and bonding) and reduce stress hormones like cortisol, and promote a deep sense of peace and co- regulation. Non-sexual touch, or platonic touch, is a form of physical contact that has no sexual connotations. It includes hugging, handshakes, holding hands, resting a hand on someone's shoulder or back, and even standing close together in an embracing manner. It includes cuddling, massage and other forms of physical closeness.
Despite the numerous benefits of platonic touch, many people are uncomfortable with non-sexual forms of physical affection due to cultural norms that emphasize abstinence from touching anyone outside their family members. Even within households and romantic relationships, touch can be lacking, if not limited to sexual interactions.
However, platonic touch can be normalized if individuals can understand the importance of, and become comfortable with it. To start, it’s important to recognize that platonic touch is not just about physical contact or play, but rather a way of expressing love and affection, and even support. It’s also vital to remember that platonic touch, like all things, should always be consensual; never force another person into physical contact they don’t want or feel comfortable with.
Another way to normalize platonic touch is through activities like cuddling parties or platonic touch workshops, where people who are interested come together in a safe space to practice platonic forms of affection without any sexual implications. At Divine Kink Academy and Dark Haven ATL, we practice this intentionally with regular events like After Care Sundays. These platonic touch containers provide a safe environment for those interested in exploring physical contact with one another.
Lastly, platonic touch can also be used as a form of co-regulation; that is, it can help two people regulate each other’s emotions and reduce stress levels. It’s especially useful for couples who may not feel comfortable expressing their feelings verbally but still want to show their affection through platonic forms of physical contact. I particularly love this as a way to reintroduce touch into relationships that may have lost their sexual spark. You'd be surprised how aroused we can become after experiencing being safe and held.
Normalizing platonic touch is an important part of creating a healthy emotional environment where people feel safe and connected to one another without the pressure or expectation of sexual activity. By understanding the importance and benefits of touch, we can all learn to appreciate and incorporate it into our lives in intentional, healthy, and consensual ways.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, December 17). Oxytocin: Does it play a role in relationship bonding? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/expert-answers/oxytocin/faq-20058312
- Burghardt, J. (2013, October 22). The Importance of Platonic Touch for Wellbeing & Relationship Building Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayn-burghardt/platonic-touch_b_3422123