normalise physical touch

good misfit
4 min readMar 6, 2022


Stumbled across this on Facebook today.

  • Normalise giving your friends forehead or even little mouth kisses.
  • Normalise stroking your friends’ hair.
  • Normalise sitting on laps.
  • Normalise cuddling up and spooning with friends to take naps.
  • Normalise ‘I love yous’
  • Normalise cooking for your friends when they are sick, or just because.
  • Normalise holding hands with friends for safety, comfort or just because the pressure is nice.
  • Normalise tight pressure hugs that last a little longer.
  • Normalise platonic affection

I’m often curious about the source and etymology of such shared things. All I could find via Google was a lot of reblogs on tumblr from two deactivated accounts, citrusdickbiscuitss and autling. And in that search, another interesting quote from

I don’t feel like Marvel heroes complain enough during battle. I really want Steve to just throw the shield down an be like:

“You know what? I’m freaking tired, none of yall have seen me eat because, guess what, I haven’t. This red and yellow fucker keeps pretending he didn’t nearly end the world, I have 3 broken ribs, my feet hurt, my boyfriend is fragile and should totally be at home right now and MY BALLS ARE SWEATY”

There’s something delightful to me about these deviations from the norms, because that’s what I see all the time in my life experience. Lots of messy situations and frustrations and emotional outbursts, more than everything going so smoothly. Although sometimes I suppose the juxtaposition of the two is what gives some meaning to the experience: first, the ideal of the perfect outcome; then, the messiness of how to get there.

I’m moved, though, by these examples encouraging us (I’ll switch from British “normalise” to American “normalize” spelling here) to normalize physical touch. I think for many years I’ve been too shy or too proper with respect to touch. I reserved hugs for when I saw someone for the first time in a long time, or if I knew we were parting ways for a long time. Or I could only touch my intimate partner, but not other people because it could lead to something inappropriate. Or even a childhood fear of touching someone of the opposite sex, because it might lead to sinful behavior, or having a child too early, which was one of the stories that seemed to get a lot of shame when I was a child. And, I suppose, in these times of the pandemic, physical touch is a health risk as well. Lest I forget, knowing that I was gay in a time and place where it was not yet accepted, any physical touch with other males seemed really dangerous, either socially because one would be ostracized, or physically because one could be beat up or even killed.

In the few years before the pandemic, I had some experiences that piqued my curiosity about the norms around physical touch. When I was traveling to Vietnam, I met some friends who showed me how men could put their arms around each other’s shoulders and walk in the streets, and it wasn’t viewed as inappropriate or gay, but simply as camaraderie. I remember another time of visiting family, and seeing two cousins, a female cousin in her 50s and a male cousin in his 20s, spooning on a couch after lunch. I was surprised, yet as I reflected on the experience, I realized it was really endearing, and I wanted to experience that myself.

However, I still myself fighting my own mental blocks about these things. That childhood programming is sticky. And, I realize that it’s not a black and white thing, these absolute ideals, like: we all should touch, or we all should not touch, we should always touch, we should never touch. It’s a messy combination of different reasons and situations: for health reasons (this year less touch may be healthier, and next year it may not be a problem), preferences (he likes me, he likes me not), or even the mood (one moment we’re struggling with some life problem, another moment we’re really horny). It reminds me so much of that song from The Byrds.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late