From Eye Magazine September 1968 Vol. 1 No. 7
Magazine was published by the Hearst Corporation (Harper's Bazaar,
Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping) to cover the emerging youth explosion of the
1960s. It was marketed to college students (male & female) covering
fashion, music, and politics.
Most issues came with a bonus item inserted for the reader (Posters, record, comic book). The last three issues had no insert. There were only 15 issues published between March 1968 and May 1969.]
WHERE SHOULD YOU TOUCH?
Who touches you? And whom should you touch? You may not realize it, but ever since childhood you’ve been obeying certain taboo rules.
BY H.E.F. DONOHUE
The Kama Sutra tells us that when we are with a loved one who cannot at that moment be touched, we should touch the nearest child lovingly, preferably with a hugging kiss. Our loved one, watching, will get the message.
Touching, even by proxy, has always been important to lovers, as it has been to professional students of the human mind—psychologists. Wilhelm Reich, long before he became bagged in his own orgone box, tested patients by touching them all over. Where they giggled or tensed the good doctor decided he had found “armor” and so went to work. Not long ago touch was a crucial razor’s edge in the movie David and Lisa; and in Games People Play, Eric Berne leans on the word “stroking,” to show what he means by feeding human feeling of attention and worth. Now we have a professor of psychology, Sidney Jourard, asking us straight out: Who touches you? Whom do you touch? Where?
“I touched a girl, Father,” the old confessional joke goes.
“Where?” the priest sternly demands to know.
And the frightened boy replies, “In the park.”
So self-conscious jokes bounce around about Jourard’s research because it is, one might say, a touchy subject, even in this so-called mod day when we are supposed to be open and honest and easy, particularly about sex. Really? Then what about Professor Jourard’s finding that only about half the young lovers in his study touch each other in a rather important erogenous zone?
“Touch not; taste not; handle not.”
--Colossians, II, 21
But Jourard is not primarily interested in overt sexual touches, at least not in this study. He even puts “lovers” under the stern label Best-Friend-of-the-Opposite-Sex—a radical move these days, giving hetero-sexuality the nod, apprently. Radical and refreshing. There are three other “targets” in the study: Best-Friends-of-the-Same Sex, Mothers and Fathers.
The whole thing began because Sidney Jourard is a people-watcher. One day, sitting in a coffeehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was a Peace Corps consultant , he wondered how many times the couple at the next table would touch each other in one hour. During the next two years he did the same thing in London and Paris while studying at London’s Tavistock Clinic. When he went to Gainesville, Florida, to teach in the psychology department of the University of Florida, he checked out an American couple for the one hour. The two people at the Gainesville table touched each other twice in one hour. In Paris the touch total for one hour was one hundred ten. In San Juan, one hundred eight. And in London? In London, the two people touched each other not at all.
From this information you must draw your own conclusions. The professor, back at Gainesville, Florida, teaching, being a therapist and practicing Hatha Yoga, refuses to. But his interest led him to make further surveys.
He issued booklets to his Gainesville, students, fifty-four male and eighty-four female. Each booklet contained four digarams of the body divided into twenty-four zones, the idea lifted (he says with a straight face) from a butcher’s meat-chart. He then asked his students to report, anonymously of course, which area of their bodies had been touched by mother, father, best-friend-same-sex, and best-friend-opposite-sex. Furthermore, each student was asked to show which zones of these four chums the student had touched. Time range: within the last year. The charts on this show the result.
“Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air.”
Here Jourard will draw conclusions about “body accessibility.”
“If you’re out of love,” says the professor, “you’re out of touch.
“There isn’t a great deal of body contact going on outside the strictly sexual context. It’s almost as if all possible meanings of a touch are eliminated except the caress with the sexually arousing intent….Most regions of a young adult’s body remain untouched unless one has a close friend of the opposite sex, and that depends on the relationship going between them.”
One of our touch taboos, then, is that we equate touch with sexuality. Unless the relationship is sexual therefore, mustn’t touch.
Jourard goes on to say that in family physical contact the daughters are “the favored ones.” Her parents touch her more than they would if she were a boy. Right up into her twenties. Parents stop touching boys about the time they reach what used to be called The Age of Reason—when one can commit sin. Furthermore a girl’s mother is allowed, or allows herself (having herself once been a favored one), to give frequent touches to a girl’s hair. One half the parents get to touch her on her lips, and half manage a literal pat on the back. But—taboo, taboo—only 13 percent of the girls received a paternal pat on the bottom, and none of the girls touched or were touched by their fathers in the genital area. (Not quite the case with regard to male students and Mamma.)
“Take hand and part with laughter;
Touch lips and part with tears…”
Outside the Best-Friend-Opposite-Sex category very little touching goes on, but when it does happen between lovers, the professor says, “there is a virtual deluge of physical contact all over the body…I suspect that the transformation from virginity or even pre-orgasmic existence to the experience of having a sexual climax is so radical as to be equivalent to a kind of rebirth.”
For Jourard, in our maddeingly crowded world, touch may be our salvation. “I think that body contact has the function of confirming one’s bodily being,” he says. “We live in an age of ‘unembodiment’ or disembodiment, and I believe that the experience of being touched enlivens our bodies, and brings us back to them.” Herein, he suggests, lies the sense of someone “coming to life” under a lover’s touch.
Called by some the Campus Guru, Jourard collates the needs of the young rebels to the needs of the lover and the needs of the world. “There are people who cannot experience a caress with any sensation other than that of a localized pressure,” according to Jourard. “Yet the experience of one’s body when it is being rubbed or stroked can fully engage one’s consciousness, if one lets it happen. Masseurs can tell from the feel of one’s flesh whether one is giving way and ‘letting go’ one’s usual thinking-consciousness, and simply letting body sensation happen, or whether one is self-conscious, preoccupied and hence muscularly tense. Body experience can be a flight out of the usual structures of consciousness….
“The lover’s caress which implies that his consciousness is of nothing but the flesh of his beloved, experienced with his hand, transmutes her consciousness into the sensuous experience of her flesh and his simultaneously. If he is preoccupied and not experiencing her via his hand, her flesh will not respond to his touch. And unless she is relaxed, trusting, and ‘open,’ her flesh will be tense….”
Yet, how can one learn to touch lovingly if one is not permitted to touch and be touched when young? To touch and be touched at times other than when making love?
“It’s a blunted way of life,” Jourard says. “People need physical contact to increase awareness and sensitivity to the body. But, instead, we use our relationships with others as a means to increase our status and social position. We are afraid to let others get close because then we are trapped. We would always have to be on guard in case they get to know us too well and so shatter the image we’ve been careful to build….the price we pay for this estrangement is loneliness. We are not understood because we haven’t let anyone understand us….it can be likened to a bag or capsule or envelope. I live in my bag, my world. Hopefully, the size of my bag expands—if I let more world in.”
“O why do you walk through the field in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves
When the grass is as soft as the breast of doves
And shivering-sweet to the touch?”
--To a Fat Lady Seen from the Train
This isolation factor among people is no stranger to Jourard. Since 1965 he has held weekend seminars in “body awareness” at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California—the same place that produced the book Joy by William Schutz—and recently Jourard has taken to riding the Northeast circuit, giving workshops for professional people. At a winter session sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Education, he attempted to display what he calls “the limits of our openness with other human beings.”
He paired off a group of doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers and gave the strangers the following insturctions: (1) give each other a back massage; and (2) discuss everything you feel comfortable discussing but with complete honesty.
“They were turned on,” he reports. “Many were tremendously embarrassed at touching another for the massage and some were panic-stricken at telling a stranger personal things. But most of them were surprised at what a satisfying experience it was. It is one thing to lecture to them,” he adds, “but quite another to invite them to try it themselves.”
As part of his touching survey Jourard asked his students to indicate how well they communicated with the four “target persons”—mother, father, best-friend-same-sex, and best-friend-opposite-sex. Forty topics “of a personal nature” were listed and the subjects were required to reveal how much information they had disclosed to each of the four persons.
“It is interesting to note,” says Jourard, “that among men, touching a girl friend and disclosing to a girl friend are clearly independent. Thus, it is possible for a man to sleep with a girl he doesn’t know personally.” But the opposite is true, too. “Men may disclose themselves to a girl whom they have not touched.”
Not true for women. Women indicate a “significant tendency to equate the two kinds of intimacy. They will allow a man to touch them if they have established a verbal relationship.
“Women,” he says cryptically, “are more aware. The fact that they show a slight tendency toward equating physical contact and self-disclosure suggests women may be better integrated than men. Men are taught to suppress their feelings.”
This repression begins at an early age. To touch or not to touch becomes a restricted thing. “By the time a boy is elementary-school age he has been socialized to the point of regarding cuddling as babying. But girls are cuddled and touched to a later age.”
By puberty what should be a fascinating, aware time, touching has become a “psychologically conflicting thing.” Touching another person becomes a “significant act.” The arm-in-arm playing has become arm-to-arm combat to keep the individual armor intact.
“Each person,” Jourard feels, “lives as if with an invisible fence around his body, a fence that keeps others at a distance where one feels safe and comfortable. To actually touch a person who is walled behind that invisible fence is to invite violence or panic.”
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”
--Troilus and Cressida
To help ventilate these walls, to help break down existing fences, and to help people toward an “increasing awareness of their bodies,” Jourard and four other Florida psychologists, Drs. Ted Landsman, Franz Epting, Dave Asp and Bob Soar, are forming the Center for Self-Renewal in Gainesville, to be modeled after the Esalen Institute in Big Sur.
And what will they study and do there? Will they learn why a father is afraid to touch his son? Will they find that if we learn to touch each other we will not wish to hurt each other? Will they find that ignorance and fear of perversion leads to it, or to its waiting substitute?
Jourard answers this way: “In the history of psychology there has not been much research into body contact. We have made an inroad into this area that hasn’t been studied before. It will be the accumulated efforts of the next ten years that will be important. The more we know about how physical contact and the love relationship enriches our life, the better position we will be in to do something about it.”