Touch Aversion and Asexuality

Something I’ve wanted to talk about for a little while is “touch aversion”. Touch aversion is being averse to touch—it is not limited to just one kind of touch—whether the intent is platonic, comforting, sensual, or sexual, some people do not enjoy being touched and do not want to be touched. Some people can tolerate or enjoy certain types of touch but not others.Touch aversion is not exclusively an ace thing, although if you research it, it is discussed in ace spaces with relative frequency. When asexuals are not talking about it, you can often find it discussed from the perspective of those who are on the autism-spectrum or those who have sensory processing disorders. Others who talk about it are people with borderline personality disorder, and people with trauma. Still others do not fall into a group that is sometimes associated with touch aversion.

If it’s not specifically an ace-issue, then why am I talking about it? Well some people have been led to my blog in their search for it, and it seems to be a trait that pops up with greater than normal frequency in the ace population.

It can be an uncomfortable trait for an ace to have—so many asexuals are quick to assure others that “even if we don’t enjoy sex, we still like to cuddle!” “We still like hugs and things”. Sometimes aces even use the enjoyment of platonic touch as proof of asexuals’ humanity and normalcy.

Meanwhile, those aces who are touch-averse may deeply dislike hugs, and the possibility of cuddling may be as much a dreaded, compromise-made chore as sex ever could be.

There are a variety of reasons why people may not like being touched—whether it’s due to sensory issues, disorders, trauma, or some other reason. It is often not in a phobia or fear-centered way, although for some people, the prospect of being touched makes them physically ill.

For what it feels like for myself, for instance, I do not enjoy being hugged, but I am not afraid of being hugged. It doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s perhaps mildly unpleasant but easily endurable as a social obligation. When I’m upset, however, and people attempt to “comfort” me by hugging me, it becomes very unpleasant.

For an apt metaphor, think of a society where for some reason, a light, painless kick in the shins is the normal and socially acceptable way of greeting loved ones, and giving comfort to the upset. Everyone else likes the kicks, but for you, they’re not quite painful but still unpleasant and unnecessary. You can easily endure being kicked and kicking whenever a relative or faraway friend visits, they don’t last long after all. When someone else is crying and would be comforted by a kick, it’s not a great sacrifice to give them a gentle kick.

But have a time come along when you’re stressed out, and crying, and someone starts giving you painless, annoying, distracting kicks. Take kicks out of the metaphor stage and let’s go back into reality, where hugs are the norm. How would a person react to being gently kicked when they’re crying? Not very well, I would imagine. That’s really how hugs are with me when I’m upset. It’s like “GET AWAY FROM ME AND STOP KICKING ME CAN’T YOU SEE I’M CRYING?”

Not that I have ever yelled that but I have told people, time and time again, not to hug me when I’m upset. Some listen. Some don’t.

Although others have covered general touch aversion more in depth than I have here, and more eloquently, I feel it’s important to talk about in an ace-perspective. An asexual who is touch-averse may experience certain repercussions that one who is non-asexual and touch-averse will not (and vice versa).

Asexuals already deal with the stereotype that they are not asexual, but rather are simply too traumatized to enjoy sex. Inability to enjoy or endure being touched is a trait that many people associate with trauma from sexual or physical abuse. Being asexual and unable to enjoy being platonically touched at all may work as a double strike against dissuading someone that that particular theory is incorrect in their case.

Likewise the touch-averse aces do not have the enjoyment of platonic touching to humanize them, and may be alienated by such humanizing-attempts. Those asexuals who are romantic and touch-averse, cannot always rely on the enjoyment of kissing, cuddling, hugging, or hand-holding to explain why their romantic relationships are “romantic” and differ from platonic relationships.

Touch-aversion is not exclusively an ace issue, but being touch-averse does impact how one experiences being asexual.

Further Links:
A good short coverage on Touch Aversion in general.
An very eloquent description of what being touch-averse feels like.
A woman with sensory processing disorder talks about her experiences.
An AVEN thread where asexuals talk about their experiences being touch-averse.