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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Corvisart

The Subconscious Loneliness of Desire

Why do Americans stifle touch in our everyday lives?

By now, many of us have heard of the concept of “love languages”, which was first theorized by author, psychologist, and researcher Dr. Gary Chapman[1]. After thousands of hours spent talking with and observing couples in conflict, he and his research team came up with the theory that people recognize and receive “love” in one of five ways:

  1. Quality Time (e.g. spending focused time together).

  2. Receiving Gifts (these are physical items, especially well-thought out ones).

  3. Acts of Service (e.g. unasked for assistance with something).

  4. Words of Affirmation (e.g. being acknowledged and appreciated verbally).

  5. Physical Touch (not just sex, but yes–sex, and especially being genuinely touched and caressed in NON-SEXUAL ways that do not lead to sex).

Most of us tend to only think of romantic partners when considering the five love languages, but they have much broader social application as well. Humans are social creatures. From our earliest days in utero [2] we are attempting to communicate with the outside world and receive feedback on our place in the world by communicating with our mother’s physiological systems and the biofeedback given to us in utero. Her experiences, her nutrition, her mental health all affect our brains and organ system development before we come into this world. Once arrived, we are dependent upon touch to live. It is now well understood that babies who are not touched early on will not survive [3], and those that do survive often suffer mental disabilities and developmental delays or are emotionally and psychologically stunted, often lifelong [4,5].

So why am I bringing this up? Because American puritanism tends to stifle nonsexual touch in our everyday lives in a myriad of ways to the point that most of us are starving and don’t even know it.

This was most notable to me when I returned to the states after studying abroad where people—even strangers—were constantly touching each other, and much to my distaste in the beginning—me. There was a certain peacefulness and safety that permeated the streets and shops of my neighborhood, and in retrospect, perhaps it was the result of this constant contact maintained through a touch-based society. Everywhere I went and looked, everyone was always doing little touches. It took a long time to get used to being touched by strangers without my explicit consent during my time there. I recall once exasperatedly exclaiming to a friend, “Damnit! Do you ever get tired of people touching you here? I do!” She simply looked at me quizzically and said, “I never considered it, as this is how we grew up. You Americans are so uptight and closed off about being touched—even by people you know and trust.”

Perhaps this is why we as a culture idolize violence and sex—often mixing both. Safe touch among strangers in the community and at home influences the social zeitgeist and teaches us from the earliest ages that we are *safe among the "big people" surrounding us. It teaches us that touch should feel good and be safe. As we grow, we learn that touch should not be violent and does not always need to lead to things sexual.

It seems that we do not have as many problems translating the first four love languages into their proper contexts when engaging with inner and external circles, however; the psychosociobiological model of healthy physical touch seems to elude us here in the U.S. We have some of the largest personal spaces [6] among those studied. Furthermore, this has been exacerbated by the recent chaos of living in...well, whatever your particular turn of phrase is to describe the last 15 odd years.

When was the last time you were given a genuine hug by someone that you could really sink into and enjoy? When were you last touched in a positive and affirming manner by someone you didn't know well or didn't know at all?

I can hear you say out loud, "Umm we have all been social distancing for the last 2.5 years. Duh! No one was touching anyone outside of their safety pods!" Yes and no. While we social distanced (or should have been), some of us were not getting very much touch BEFORE covid covered the globe.

As a professional companion, I can always tell which love language a person has been starved of. Some light up when I genuinely compliment how they look or smell, others when I congratulate and demonstrate true interest in their accomplishments, but most are starved of touch. Starved in such a way that they are ravenous, and when given the food their soul needs I witness an energetic shift in right before my eyes. It's like watering a droopy plant.

When SW´rs on Twitter state that they often prefer longer dates, more often than not, it isn’t about money…

it is about allowing love languages to fully blossom between two strangers: Most especially the love language of touch. My personal ideal is a two-hour meeting where we both a get the initial sexual frisson out of the way, drift into an interlude to connect emotionally and intellectually, and finish by engaging the language of touch at an even deeper level.

This also allows for a burgeoning courtship to begin, deepen, and blossom so that you—the Patron, and me—your Vanguard, can build a lasting trust that moves us both beyond words. There is even a new industry around touch—Professional Cuddlers [7] are now a thing, and I have read that there are even men’s groups where cisgendered, heterosexual men learn to touch each other in nonsexual ways (cannot find a link).

Toxic masculinity has poisoned men to think that needing/desiring touch outside of sexual contact somehow is “weak” with the resultant pathology being men who only know touch as an expression of sexual desire or to brutality. So many men only arrive at tenderness through the birth of their children or the impending death of a parent. Some not even then.

There is a lot more to touch, and I firmly believe that men should have the nonjudgemental freedom to explore touch in ways that women have always been given the liberty to do so.

And sometimes that can come under the carefully curated safe space of a professional companion.


  1. The 5 Love Languages

  2. Communication between mother and embryo or foetus

  3. The importance of touch in development

  4. The neurobiology of attachment to nurturing and abusive caregivers

  5. The effects of social deprivation on adolescent development and mental health

  6. Column: Americans love wide open spaces – between people

  7. What is a professional cuddler and how does touch therapy work

*I am aware that sexual assault is a very real problem in societies around the world and that the total number of children who are the victims of violent, nonconsensual touch is real and tragic. I am not idealizing or ignoring the very real problems in ours or any other social system.

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