Basic Facts About Sexual Touch
Sexual touch can be distinguished from friendly or affectionate touchOpens in new window in two primary ways.
- First, sexual touch is usually concentrated in more vulnerable areas of the body, such as the mouth, thigh, or genitals. Thus, the behaviours most associated with this form of touch include French kissing; “petting,” which involves touching private body parts; and sexual intercourse.
- Second, sexual touch usually involves multiple kinds of touches that occur together and in sequences. For instance, Jones and Yarbrough (1985) gave the example of lovers embracing and then caressing as a prototypical expression of sexual intimacy.
Sexual touch is a unique form of touch that is especially important in close, romantic relationships, but is also used during one-night stands, hookups, and friends-with-benefits relationships.
Heslin and Alper (1983) refer to sexual-arousal touches as the most intense and intimate form of physical contact. In fact, sexual touch helps declined all of these types of relationships as including a sexual (but not necessarily romantic) element.
As Prager (1995) argued, sexual touch is particularly intimate because it allows lovers to share private aspects of themselves with one another in a way that is not shared with close friends and nonspousal family members. In general, both married and unmarried men tend to see touch as more sexual than women do (Hanzal et al., 2008).