Physical contact is a fundamental human need. This is not an overstatement. Decades ago, while investigating into high mortality rates at orphanages, we learned something critically important: infants that do not receive enough touch fail to thrive and - in serious cases - fail to survive. So we researched further. It turns out the way we are touched lays the foundation for empathy and influences our capacity to access feelings of safety. In early childhood it teaches what is safe, sane, and consensual, and actually keeps kids better protected from sexual predators because they have learned appropriate boundaries and (arguably) are not as starved for affection. In adults it can help to ameliorate depression, improve performance, and boost the immune system.
So why, if we know that healthy, consensual touch is so important, do we still shy away from and sexualize it? I have collected a few articles that I have found helpful:
Here is an article from the perspective of people who prize touch as their primary love language, and how it feels to not receive physical affection in our touch-phobic culture.
This New York Times article on the science behind touch as a surprisingly effective form of nonverbal communication and perhaps the best performance enhancing drug (as shown by studying professional athletes).
And this article on how touch builds the foundation of empathy.
I challenge you to notice what happens within your body as you imagine different kinds of touch. I encourage you to start conversations with your friends and loved ones. Explore how you feel about touch and get curious around where those ideas come from. Do you agree with the values that you've absorbed from your family and culture, or do you want to build something different? The choice is up to you.