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.

18 thoughts on “Touch Aversion and Asexuality

  1. This, in my opinion, would be a great submission for this month’s Carnival of Aces. It feels like it fits in with the topic quite well.

    Thanks for writing up this post. You made so many great points and the metaphor is easy to understand.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, I submitted it there :)

      Thanks for writing up this post. You made so many great points and the metaphor is easy to understand.

      I’m relieved to hear that. I was worried about the metaphor being unrelatable; I’m glad it resonates.

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  4. “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.”

    That’s what I went through. In my Carnival of Aces entry, I wrote about how sensual intimacy is devalued, and taken for granted. Because of that devaluation and being taken for granted, people tend not to think that sensual non-sexual intimacy can still be a dreadful chore done just for the sake of compromise. It’s assumed to not be as dreadful or as bad as someone having sex that they dread. Do you feel like this is an issue in the asexual community too?

    • (sorry for the late response)

      Oh yes, definitely. I’d go so far as to say that there really isn’t a widespread knowledge, in the asexual community, that non-sexual touching or intimacy can be unpleasant.

  5. I’m asexual, tactile defensive, and a sexual abuse survivor, and those three things are not causally linked to each other. But try convincing some people of that.

  6. I have found myself telling my husband to stop touching me, I’m not touch averse all the time, but it seems that I have to initiate the touch or I push him away. I think I’m harboring some deep seated resentment and I think I need to explore it – suggestions?

  7. I hate being touched so much that I avoid any chance to go to the doctor…I am asexual and aromantic but some of my aversion to touch does come from a few bad experiences, possibly making it worse. Recently my manager was trying to get me to take a break, I rarely do and had only been in an hour. A coworker then jokingly said she’d pick me up or grab me or something and I just couldn’t laugh because the thought of it caused internal panic and discomfort. But most people don’t mind being touched or getting touchy feely and aren’t willing to see your point of view! I think I get it from my dad to sone degree, he is not touchy feely at all.

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  12. I haven’t found a lot of material on the topic but came across a pretty good novella that’s focused on touch aversion and how it impacts the a person’s life but also the lives of the people around them. It’s called The Price of Normal. The author is Lili S. McDeath.

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  14. I am aroace & touch adverse. I never actually knew the term touch adverse until I read this article. From the time I was a child I told my parents that I didn’t like hugs. My father made fun of me, even though he doesn’t enjoy hugs either. And my mother forced hugs on me, saying”everyone likes hugs.” I would rub my arms afterword, still feeling the unpleasant sensation lingering on my arms. That used to offend my mother. When my father would tickle or poke my shoulder, he would laugh at my reaction. I was never touched in a any abusive way, but the teasing was unpleasant& no one cares enough to really understand. The more it happened, the more I hated touches of any kind. Now that I’m older I just kinda accepted the hugs. I am the one doing all of the accepting for every one else. No one usually accepts what I want. I’d j just rather stand back& wave goodbye to a family member. No one accepts that. We all MUST hug, like it’s a rule or something. And i MUST join in for some reason. Anyway, thanks for this blog. Maybe I can show it to my family.

  15. Don’t blame any of you. I hate it but I’m crystal clear, stay away. I don’t want you in my space not in my aura back off. Thank you.

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