"How do men touch you when they're trying to pick up on you?" he asked at Denny's late one night. I'd just met him, and it if hadn't been for his eyes, the innocence when he looked at me, the warm glow when he looked at his sweet young fiancee, I would have thought he was trying to pick up on me. A most mercenary way to pick up on a woman, asking her a question requiring deep thought soon after you meet her. I tend to fall for it like crazy, what with how long it takes some men to figure out that I'm capable of deep thought at all.

His chin gestured through the window to the porch where two close-knit bodies sat, "men always seem to rub Yvonne's back in circles. And it generally works. Do they have radar or telepathy or something? Is she putting out some kind of signal that says, 'touch me this way'?"

His fiancee chimes in, "they usually rub my neck, not so much any more with an engagement ring on my finger, but back when I was single, that's what they'd do."

He repeats, "How do men touch you?"

I think about it, recall the touches that come so easily to mind, the undesirable ones. Edgar, whose occasional unwanted touch makes my skin crawl, and whom I've rebuffed strongly several times, but our circle of friends is such that any stronger of a rebuff (such as a restraining order!) would force a choice between him and me, an awful situation to put anyone in, so I choose to put up with reminding him at every touch that I don't like it. The numerous freshmen who enter my circle of friends and don't see the years and love behind our apparently casual touches, and who don't really see me as a person,but rather a possible outlet to their sexual and emotional frustration.

I tell him, "the ones that I don't like touching me usually put their hand possessively on my side."

"But what about the ones you do like, the ones that touch you successfully?" I can see in his face that he's completely unaware that such dedication to this particular intellectual exercise could be taken as the most obvious of come-ons. It's sweet. His fiancee is sweet, too, no longer interested in the conversation but not the slightest bit suspicious.

I shake my head slowly, too sapped by the lateness of the hour. My head's been intimately probed by a stranger too much today. His question will have to go unanswered.

But later in bed, I think about the first touches with men I've loved, and how they happened. My only current lover, who calls me "girlfriend-figure" and answers to "boyfriend-figure" because our impact on each others' lives is as much as an SO, but we're not really committed enough to be.... he first offered me a backrub to make up for stealing my seat on the sofa at a mutual friend's house. Never has a stranger's touch been so welcome. And my recently lost and much mourned SO, whose gentle and unassuming neck rubs -- by request only -- caused my best friend of the time to state, "No woman can be frigid around James." My long-time lover and sweetheart, Karl, who's constant love has outlasted both of them, gives backscratches with his long, well-groomed fingernails, asking softly, "like this?" Of the two new men who currently interest me, one offered me a motorcycle ride and I reveled in the feel of his long lean back against my stomach and breasts, and the other hasn't touched me at all, the timing simply not being right.

Contemplating all of this, I realize that it's not a particular touch that characterizes these. They didn't all choose a specific place on my body to touch, they didn't have a specific pattern in which their hands moved. No, the thing all of these touches have in common is that they asked first. Sometimes with words, sometimes with eye contact, but they always asked. And even later in the relationships, after the first touch is a fading memory, the idea of consent is always there. The men who get invited to stay in my life or in my bed are aware that previous consent does not necessarily imply current consent. And I, for my part, am aware that they may choose not to receive my touches today despite having done so yesterday.

Such a simple thing, but having thought on it, it fills me with awe. The men (and women) whom I love and who love me are the ones who acknowledge that I am in control of my own body. An important concept for a woman who's childhood was the long painful lesson that as a child, other people own your body and can do whatever they want with it, no matter what your teachers and the social workers and the television commercials say.

How do men touch me? The men whom I love touch me with permission, after first having assured themselves of their welcome. For these men, I open myself up like a flower and try to wrap myself around their lives, anything to get them to stay.

11/6/95
imago

The first time I remember being touched by a guy the way I wanted to be at the time was the first night I hung out at my now ex-boyfriend's sophomore dorm . I found out later that Gage had a crush on me , which was a first, as far as I know. He had invited me over to his room where he was having a small gathering of people we knew mutually.

It was hard to talk to him, since there were maybe seven or more people crammed inside a 10X15 foot cell. There was another guy there named Eric, a guy I also thought was very attractive. They both had that boyish skater figure and smarmy intellectual air that I always found elusive and seductive.

At one point in the evening, I'm sitting on the loveseat wedged between them both. Everyone was playing some drinking game, but beneath that, I was getting talked to with arms . Both of them had casually stretched their arm along the back of the sofa, directly behind my back, one of those cheesy efforts you see in fifties movies.

They still focused their attention to the game; neither made eye contact with me or said anything to indicate what they were doing. I knew that at this singular point, if I leaned to one side or another, my choice would have been made clear.

I deliberated for a few seconds, until Gage's hand began to gently rub my shoulder in little circles . It felt as if he had always known me, as if we had been sitting next to each other for years . It was his direction that I leaned into, which told his hand to get more brave in its thoughts, so it cupped my shoulder and stayed there for the rest of the night. I was his from that night forward, for the four years that followed.

Until of course, I broke up with him a few months after I found out he had cheated on me during a six month hiatus in between moves from Virginia to New Orleans. Little circles, indeed.

There is something to be said about chemistry. This man could make my stomach do flips with just a word from his lips. He could set my body ablaze with just the touch of his finger on my hand.

He would speak to me about running away together, as he ever so softly kissed my neck. He would gaze into my eyes as timidly ran my finger over the shape of his lips. He touched my soul, and my body.. and I am ever the better for the experience.
Most men try to avoid touching me, probably because I'm a guy and they're not comfortable doing so.

When they do, it's usually a pat on the back. Since I don't engage in too many team sports, I rarely get a slap on the ass. The bulk of intentional physical contact concerns only the hands, ie., handshakes and high fives. And fisticuffs.

My family is very close and we routinely engage in hugs. Not quick ones. Long ones with heads on shoulders. It's a great way to show affection. I think my dad has hugged me much more than he's whacked my ass as a form of corporal punishment. Of course, he stopped doing that a long, long time ago. That was replaced by the Lecture of DeathTM. I'm not sure which one I would rather have had.

Something to note, however, is that men on ecstacy don't seem to have an anti-touching inhibition, especially after gifts of whiffs of Vicks Vaporub. Hugs all around!

Often in badly feigned casual brushes. the fingertip rub whenever passing something between hands The there not enough room on the couch so I HAVE to sit here glued to your side allowing for all kinds of miscellaneous gropes for as long as I can get away with sitting this close type encounters. Then there's the it's still crowded in here that I have to walk straight into you while I'm talking with my hands, excuse (another variation - wasn't looking...). This type of touch generally causes an awkward moment where the man acts genuinely surprised, for a moment at least till the eyes make contact. This is where most men will break the part by a smiling. That glint in the eye that says "Yeah you caught me, that was no accident." Then they generally go on about what ever it was they were pretending to be so involved in the first place, as if nothing had happened.

Then there's the deliberate approaches. The brave souls that will suddenly grasp the hand, for a quick squeeze, maybe rub both hands over it, occasionally a kiss has been offered. Some like the sudden hug, or one handed rub on the back or squeeze around the waist. A perfect example for this type of touch happened on the first day at a new job from the guy that just hired me. We are in the back room and he's showing me around the place. He walks up behind me, reaching one arm up and around me to get something off the shelf as his other hand was firmly placed on my side. At this point he says, "It's alright I'm not molesting you, I touch everyone like this." I suppose I could have been offended and probably caused him a lot of grief because of his bold advances. I was a little annoyed that he assumed that I wouldn't, but I also was impressed that he was so self confident. So I just smiled at him, cleared my throat, and not so discreetly moved back a pace or two from him. He smiled back, catching the clue and left me alone after that. These guys are usually testing the water and are not afraid to let you know that's exactly what their up to.

Then there's the strictly business types, doctors, salesmen, policemen, etc. Most often these are just as they should be, strictly business. These guys are usually professional in their touch. Not always but usually. There have been a few scarey, victimizing type touches. Angry, desperate and occasionally traumatize man handling. These guys are wanting control, their strictly looking for their own self satisfaction, and like the added bonus of how it bothers their prey.

As to the rest of the ways men touch me, we don't know each other well enough for those kinds of details. =D

One of the more unusual situations involving touching without consent (a topic that the women here seem to have touched on) is that of Frotteurism. Defined as a sexual deviance in the subcategory of Partialism, Frotteurism is characterized by these symptoms:

Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving touching and rubbing against a nonconsenting person.

The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

So ladies, the next time some guy "bumps into you" while talking with his hands, yell out "Leave me alone you lousy Frotteur!". He'll be sufficiently confused for you to make a hasty and honorable retreat.

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