A few Sundays ago, I cried during the Our Father at Mass. I was holding my mom and sister’s hands, tears silently streaming down my face. It wasn’t until I clasped the hands of my loved ones that I realized the depth of my desire to be touched. My difficulty and embarrassment in explaining this realization illuminates a larger societal problem surrounding physical human contact: the sexualisation of touch.
From our first post-natal snuggle to our last moments of life on this earth, human beings desire (dare I say need) to be touched. In fact, an article from Psychology Today claims that “touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.” However, our perceptions of touch have been transformed by what I call the “pornification” of touch. The more I read about the harms of pornography, the more I see the disturbing disfiguration of sex in modern culture. Countless men and women habitually view sex mingled with degradation, physical, and verbal abuse (particularly of women) in pornography. The disfiguration of the conjugal embrace has caused a disfiguration of intimacy and touch; thousands of implications abound.
One such implication is the series of shocking abuses involving unwanted, harmful touch. With people associating touch with sex, and sex with harmful touch, it is not surprising that many adults are reluctant to touch others and be touched. One could say that the over-sexualisation of human touch (and the resulting fear of scandal) has leeched its way into families, schools, and even Churches. Our attitudes influence what and how we teach our children about touch, and so even they are suffering our culture’s pornified attitudes toward sex. Children are now growing up in a society that is afraid to show them physical affection, and when, isolated and starved for positive touch, they turn to pornography to fill this void, the cycle continues. So, how do we begin to break this ugly, spiraling cycle?
In Hebrews 10:10, St. Paul explains that “By God’s will we have been sanctified once and for all through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus, the Messiah.” In His Incarnation, Jesus affirms the holiness of the human body. In His passion, He demonstrates what we are to do with our body: offer it in service of others. In the institution of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Jesus affirms the holiness and necessity of human touch. If we reject pornography (get help here), embrace the Sacraments, and pray for courage, He who makes all things new can restore our healthy practices of positive touch. Jesus proved countless times in scripture what miracles can be accomplished by reaching out to touch those who are suffering. Jesus longs to show His love through us, and as St. Teresa of Avila once said:
“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”
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