ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
As part of the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw project (running April 25-May 15), I'm posting some content just to Dreamwidth. This is a good opportunity to seek new readers for your blog and new blogs to read, and to recommend stuff you enjoy on other people's blogs to help them make new connections too. Previously we discussed "Skin Hunger."  Continue to later sections: "Primates Need Touch," "Self-Soothing and Self-Control," "Compassion and Gentleness," "Creating Safe Space," "Building Trust," "Healthy Vulnerability," "Coping with Emotional Drop."

"Touch Aversion"

Touch aversion is the counterpoint to skin hunger. Some people prefer to abstain from physical contact with other people. This is also known as chiraptophobia, touch avoidance, or tactile defensiveness. It can be considered a subtype of sensory defensiveness. There is a quiz to explore whether you have touch aversion.

Causes may be psychological, physical, or both. Autistic people may dislike touching due to hypersensitivity or difficulty filtering out sensations. Premature birth is also associated with touch aversion. Child abuse often leaves survivors resistant to physical contact; other traumatic experiences such as rape may do the same. Pregnant women sometimes do not want to be touched, although this usually fades after childbirth.  Chronic pain and other illnesses can turn mild contact into agony.   Someone may resist having one body part touched, but feel okay about others.

Some people may wish to overcome touch aversion, others not. Frequently relatives desire or demand physical contact -- not just spouses, but also parents of tactile-defensive children. It's not a good idea to harass anyone on this point. However, gradual introduction of loving touch can make progress toward finding mutually agreeable forms of contact. Therapy techniques such as anchoring can help overcome touch aversion.

There's a useful saying that sometimes appears in PTSD discussions: "You don't have to eat the eggplant." That means if something bothers you a lot, but comes up rarely, you can just skip it. Things that come up frequently, or are necessary for some reason, may justify the amount of work required to tolerate them. Do a cost-effectiveness assessment. Think about how much time, effort, and expense would be required to get over a particular hangup vs. what you would gain by being able to do that thing with less upset. Then work on the issue(s) that will give you the best bang for your buck. It's up to you whether touching, or certain types of touching, are worth doing or not.

In my research of this topic, I found this interesting snippet about positive portrayals of touch-averse characters. In my research of this topic, I found this interesting snippet about positive portrayals of touch-averse characters. I must admit, I've seen almost none of those anywhere. The Eldritch characters by M.C.A. Hogarth include a few examples; they're touch-telempaths. If I look at my own work, I can identify at least one: Solvig in Hart's Farm. If you read "After Dark," that's typical of her interactions with other people; she rarely seems to touch more than minimally and briefly. Solvig is asexual, aromantic, and reserved in general. She dresses in very sober, modest clothing by choice. She has close positive relationships; she just isn't a physically demonstrative person.

So I'm curious: would folks like to see more coverage of characters who are touch-averse and not otherwise a complete mess?

* * * 

Read two Torn World poems featuring touch aversion: "Stinging Like Nettles" and "Wandering the Heights."

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 09:12 am (UTC)
busaikko: Sheppard and Woolsey ship icon (SGA John/Richard)
From: [personal profile] busaikko
Hm... that quiz didn't work well for me. I don't find touch repulsive or vulgar, but I have to know and trust the person doing the touching. For example, the thought of any "opposite-sex person" throwing an arm around me makes my shoulders go up defensively, but not if it was my dad or brother or kid. The way the quiz was phrased made it seem like the authors disapproved of touch aversion (the phrase "I find your touch vulgar" is quite insulting, and the actual feeling, for me, is more "your touch makes me feel nervous"). I scored 62/90 but I think I'd have done differently if the questions were phrased stranger/trusted person.

John Sheppard in Stargate:Atlantis is a character who is easy to read as touch averse. He stiffens up in hugs, knew his best friend for two seasons before giving her an awkward hand-pat, and seems much more at ease practicing martial arts. He is able to manage social interactions (handshakes, being hugged by his ex-wife at his dad's funeral) but it's obvious it doesn't come easily. But he has a circle of close friends, and with them he can accept and give touch (comforting a friend in mourning). It's never outright stated that he's touch averse, but it's obvious and still he has good friends who care for him. So I think he's a positive portrayal.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 07:26 pm (UTC)
avia: Text: "Strange girls, can they marry like other girls, have children, be happy as they are? Why? Were they born" (strange girls)
From: [personal profile] avia
Yeah, that quiz was really strange. And, strongly focused on sex differences, and that's something I don't even think about when I think about touch. It seems to be focused a lot on "I'm not comfortable with this person touching me because it might be sexual/someone might think it's sexual", which really isn't related to it for me...

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 09:01 pm (UTC)
busaikko: Natsume and Bem share an umbrella (YNB ai-ai-gasa)
From: [personal profile] busaikko
Yes, that's a great explanation! Now I'm curious as to how that might have affected their research results (whether they felt sexual orientation was important, for example).

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 09:57 am (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Interesting question you post at the end. I am on the fence as someone with severe touch aversion; on one hand, I'm sure there are people out there who come from an environment where their aversion was better respected and were thus able to grow up with a healthier mind set about it. On the other hand, virtually every person I know with touch aversion has found it to be incredibly difficult and traumatic when it comes to navigating social situations and consequently DO tend to be a bit of a mess - especially if touch has been forced on them or if they've forced it on themselves. So I suppose, as with any characters, I'd like a broader spectrum. I want to see portrayals of people who accept and are untroubled by their touch aversion, and I want to see people it challenges and upsets tremendously.

What I'd like to see more of, perhaps more importantly to me, is people with touch aversion being treated RESPECTFULLY in fiction - not having touch forced on them, not being treated like damaged and flawed, and not being magically fucked out of their problems by someone with a nice smile and a big cock. The sex and/or true love fixes EVERYTHING trope annoys the shit out of me here as much as it does anywhere else because for many of us it's so dishonest. I am married, more or less happily, and my touch aversion didn't poof out of existence for the right person. It's a challenge, often a heartbreaking and frustrating one, we deal with every day.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 07:23 pm (UTC)
avia: (nest of books)
From: [personal profile] avia
Second to this, yes.

I think I also would like to see stories that accept that, yes, it can make your life difficult, but that doesn't mean touch aversion is "worse" or "needs fixing more" than skin hunger does. Both the need for touch and the dislike for touch are real experiences that are natural for some people and part of their neurotype, and they can also both cause problems. But problems and differences between people are a part of life and doesn't always mean one person needs to be "cured" because they don't fit the normal type, but, sometimes it just has to be a compromise and accepting that both people have different needs and that's valid.

I feel like I hear people saying "we should fix touch aversion" or "we should work on making it less of an issue" but I never hear people say "we should fix skin hunger", except by giving people what they need. That's because it's seen as normal to have skin hunger but not normal to have touch aversion. But a person with more skin hunger than their partner could mess up a relationship too, just as much as a person with more touch aversion than their partner could. So I'd like to see stories that say that both sides have a responsibility to be respectful of the other person's needs, not just one.
Edited Date: 2013-04-26 07:33 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 08:28 pm (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Agreed. One of the big challenges I've had is that I don't really *want* to go through the immense stress of trying to "fix" my touch aversion this late in the game; I want someone to accept it as my range of needs and respect that. I am tired of having to compromise myself to meet other people's skin hunger instead of them compromising by simply not touching me or observing some basic manners, like giving warning or stopping promptly when asked - or, hell, just not exposing me to a guilt trip for saying, "No, I don't want that right now." For the most part, what makes touch aversion problematic is interactions with other people/deviation from a social norm. It isn't necessarily an issue in and of itself until somebody makes it one by trying to force the touch-averse individual to do something they're uncomfortable with.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-27 12:45 am (UTC)
avia: Two swans in a painted style, with a soft purple color effect that looks fantasy. (mysterious swans)
From: [personal profile] avia
For the most part, what makes touch aversion problematic is interactions with other people/deviation from a social norm.

Yeah, exactly. In a society where most people were touch-averse, it wouldn't be an issue. As most people aren't like that, what we need is respect.

Re: Poem

Date: 2013-04-27 12:19 am (UTC)
avia: A dark haired girl sitting without concern in a winter scene, with a large heart next to her feet, surrounded by crows. (eat my heart out)
From: [personal profile] avia
Ahh, I really like this!

According to my mother I was a baby who also hated cuddles, so this relates to me a lot.

I also like the line, "Maybe she just needs a little more time to get used to the world." Sometimes it feels like that: this body was wrong, and I never really got used to it.

Re: Poem

Date: 2015-10-25 10:08 am (UTC)
xenologer: (one)
From: [personal profile] xenologer
An internet search led me back around to your journal and I just wanted to say that this poem really clicked for me, too. I have the wistful/bitter/grateful feelings about people just automatically adjusting and only expressing themselves in ways she'll actually be able to receive joyfully. Guess I just wanted to say thanks.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2013-04-26 10:38 pm (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Just finished reading - I appreciate you posting it! It resonated well with me because I was, by all accounts, a fussy infant who didn't like to be held, screamed bloody murder about being bathed or clothed, and never liked to cuddle. My parents were worried something was *tremendously* wrong with me because I fed poorly and cried almost constantly.

Respect in fiction

Date: 2014-10-30 04:06 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I'm working with not one but /two/ characters who are somewhat touch averse, for very different reasons.

Navigating this is /incredibly/ difficult for me, as I am touch averse for a /third/ set of reasons, LOL. What I want to show is that they can have /trouble/ navigating what's okay for whom, even when they are doing their VERY best to respect and comfort each other.

Re: Respect in fiction

Date: 2014-10-30 04:24 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Most of the characters who have these issues have barely gotten any time in print--

Glyn, whose sister was the Bridezilla in "Brittle Words" is both touch-averse and has a level of skin-hunger that would be clocked at 'voracious' if she acknowledged it. Her friend Drew is one of six kids, who express different levels of touch /preference/, but no outright avoidance behaviors, and their limits are respected by the rest of the family. What they tend to do isn't asking-permission type limits, but rather, making it clear who is always up for more contact and just letting the less-tactile person move in and out of contact at their tolerance level, which makes the different needs less obvious.

Re: Respect in fiction

Date: 2014-10-30 08:58 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's interesting that you mention /that/ switch, because usually I see the reverse in print, where the huggy type suddenly goes "bashful" our outright avoids someone.

Re: Respect in fiction

Date: 2014-10-30 08:59 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Delia is a little outside the scope of things right now; she's at school in another state, finishing up her senior year of college... But the locals /all/ remember her quite vividly, G.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-26 02:04 pm (UTC)
serpentine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] serpentine
The protagonist in the story I'm working on has some level of touch aversion and while he is a bit of a mess, the story is also focused on him working on his issues (the ones that aren't necessarily touch related) rather than leaving them unfixed. He will probably continue to have issues with being touched except for touch from those whom he trusts. His relationship with his wife is defintely more nonsexual than not to be honest and involves a lot of snuggling as the main contact between the two. However, it took him some time to be able to get to that point.

(This may also be a case of me writing what I know, so.)
Edited (word choice and clarification) Date: 2013-04-26 09:55 pm (UTC)

Helpful terminology

Date: 2013-04-26 03:52 pm (UTC)
syntaxofthings: Colored pencils drawing on a white background. ([other] Colored pencils!)
From: [personal profile] syntaxofthings
Thank you for this series! I've had a hard time recently figuring out this need I've been feeling for touch, but not sure what to do with it. Now I have the right words to describe what I've been feeling: I've been feeling skin hunger, but it's hard to do anything about because I am also touch averse. Yes, I can and will give my friends hugs when I see them, but when I need some touch, I feel awkward asking for it, and I do my utmost to avoid touching strangers and acquaintances.

On the other hand, I'm very comfortable with professional massages. At least I have that (expensive) way to try and counteract my skin hunger.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-27 09:20 am (UTC)
sylvaine: Dark-haired person with black eyes & white pupils. ([marvel] Steve lonely man lost in time)
From: [personal profile] sylvaine
Thank you for writing this - touch aversion is not really a thing I have ever heard much of (and I really should have - honestly, what is with society and ignoring basic needs of people not-exactly-like-the-mainstream?!) and it really helps me understand some of my friends better. I mentioned previously that we were a pretty touchy-feely bunch in high school - well, not all of us, and I never quite understood that, or really respected it. I feel kind of guilty about that now.^^;;;

ETA: Also, re: whether I'd like to see more positive portrayals of touch-averse people in fiction, yes, definitely! Just like I want to see more portrayals of non-sexual touching. And non-touching intimacy. And pretty much anything that doesn't fit the mainstream models for how people are allowed to act and be.
Edited Date: 2013-04-27 09:28 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-27 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I found this entry all these years later, and it makes me think. Other than touch telempaths like Spock, or a character like Rogue who would hurt or kill someone, the only non-powered touch averse characters right off the top of my head other than those mentioned are Tony Stark and Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang. Hmm. -kellyc

Touch Aversion Caused By Pain (was: Re: Though)

Date: 2018-09-07 12:18 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
“.....Or people with conditions that make touch painful.”

Conditions like fibromyalgia, and severe arthritis - both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and the autoimmune condition, spondyloarthropathy. I have all of these conditions, and some kinds of touch are painful as a result. I find that I often have to advocate for myself, and say, “please don’t grab my leg that way” or “don’t hold my foot so tightly”. I am disabled by my arthritis, and isolated as a result. I am also touch starved. I have left comments all through “LIFC”; when a link about touch aversion in the story “Touching Moments” led me here, I realized that I now have something I can contribute to the “Touch-Aversion” side of the equation. The pain that is a constant part of my reality, due to my condition, and how people are either too scared to interact with me, or they fail to take my physical condition into consideration and grab hold of me and/or try to maneuver me as they would anybody else my age (I am quite young). Of course, the difference is I am NOT able bodied (Alas! I was an equestrian athlete, Before) and they are causing me a great deal of pain.

I always appreciate the people who will stop immediately-whatever they are doing-and adjust how they are touching me. But it would be even better if those same people listened when I tell them about myself, and take the “profound arthritis” into consideration, so that they *ask* me what is the best way to make contact before they touch me. I can only imagine that would save me the pain.

Someday, I hope I meet people who listen and ask first. People who believe me when I say, “I have arthritis in every joint”, and don’t assume I’m exaggerating. (I’m not). I enjoyed the story “Stinging of Nettles” because the girl’s needs were accommodated by her community. I think part of the problem in Local America is there is too much judgement of disabled people, particularly if they are also in chronic pain. Add some extra weight (which is inevitable if you cannot move your body) and one has hit the trifecta for misunderstanding and judgement from almost everyone around them.

Thanks Ysabet for the thoughtful post about Touch Aversion, and thanks to the other commentors here for their views on the issue. I hope my comments fit in- I’m feeling very shy about posting them.


PS. Most of my comments relate to medical situations; in my private life, I’m rarely touched at all. I would love hugs, or hand holding, - variations on non-sexual contact from the handful of people I trust. One person in my life is aware that I feel cut off from others and she does hug me sometimes, which is wonderful.

I suspect I’m still sane because I have my fur baby Delphi, who is always very close to me. In my lap; in my arms. I tell her I will buy a baby sling for her, so she can be right against my chest and feel snuggled and safe, even when I need my hands. Needing my hands free is what usually brings an end,to our cuddle feats- she will leap in my arms, or climb into my lap - she is with me all the time, and I am thrice blessed.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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