Healthy Touch?


This post is based on things I learned in a class about the psychology of relationships as well as my own observations in the MoHo community.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cuddling lately.  Cuddling is innocent enough, right?  It isn’t really too sexual….maybe just a step above holding hands.  It’s even more innocent when it is “recreational cuddling”, or non-committal cuddling. Right?

The reason I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately is because recreational cuddling has kind of been “the thing” with a few of my really close MoHo friends.  And that might be fine.  But I’m not going to do it, and I want to explain why.

In my opinion, cuddling is a gateway to sex.  You have a lot of bodily contact and there will usually be some massaging or something like it.  Faces are close, and close faces very easily lead to kissing while laying down.  That of course is just a step away from hands going under clothing, clothing coming off, and….well.  Sex.

Cuddling makes me want to go further, especially if it is with someone that I am crushing on.  This, of course, is not something I want to do.  As much as I want to be with a guy, I want to stick with the church, and I don’t know that I can ever have the two together (that is another post for another day).  So, I don’t want things to go further, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the self control to not let it go further.  I’m also pretty sure that cuddling is a somewhat sexual thing for most guys, especially if you’re gay and cuddling with a guy.  The male sex drive is so readily available that it doesn’t take much to get it going, so if two guys are cuddling, both of their sex drives are starting up at the same time and will probably go at the same rate.  This, I think, explains why (as one of my professors put it) “gay men have more sex than any other creature in the known universe”.  But I digress….

So, cuddling with a guy I am interested is a no.  It could probably lead to sex to easily for me and probably for most gay guys.  So what about this “recreational cuddling” stuff?  I’m going to say no on that one too, at least for me.  That can easily create an unhealthy relationship.  A real, loving relationship (the kind we MoHos want with a guy but shouldn’t have because of our beliefs) needs to have a good balance of two things: the emotional side and the physical side.  I want to focus on the physical relationship being too strong.  Studies have shown that physical closeness and physical relationships create strong emotional bonds with the person you are with.  That is why intimacy in marriage is so important.  It creates a bond that you couldn’t have otherwise.  However, if this physical closeness moves faster than an emotional relationship can build, then the relationship becomes hollow.  That is where the problem lies.

It is easy to confuse the physical relationship with the emotional relationship, and vice-versa.  A strong emotional relationship can make that person more attractive to you.  A strong physical relationship creates an emotional bond.  But when you, as a MoHo trying to choose the right, choose to let your emotional relationship become physical, you risk going too far too easily.  The emotional bond is what makes physical intimacy beautiful and real and sacred.  This is what people want.  This is what we “want but can’t have”.

And when you become physical with a person that you don’t know that well (perhaps all you know is that the person is gay and a member of the church – however deeply you have talked about it, that is all you know) you build a false emotional bond.  You think you like that person more than you really do.  Really, all that you know about that person is that they are a gay mormon and a few other details about their life.  (Yes, I know I am oversimplifying).  You desire to have the physical relationship, but it isn’t fulfilling because there isn’t a real relationship behind it.  It is, in a lot of ways, just like pornography.  It comforts you when you are feeling down.  It makes you feel like there is someone in your life that cares about you and that can make you feel whole.  But in the end, it is an empty relationship built on lust.

This is kind of a random tangent, but I wanted to throw this out there.  The purpose of dating generally is (at least in Mormon culture) to get married.  You date to marry.  Using that idea as a springboard, the purpose of cuddling is to what?  To feel fulfilled?  To get the kind of “healthy touching” you missed out on as a child?  Maybe.  Those answers might be right for some people.  Maybe.  For me, I would cuddle to get laid.  I haven’t actually let anything get that far yet, but when I am being realistic with myself, I realize that if I were to cuddle, I will hope  it will go further and further until I have gone all the way.  That is it plain and simple.  If someone wants to cuddle with me, they had better plan on having sex with me because that is exactly where it will go.  That is why I’m not cuddling.  (I can’t take all the credit for that thought.  CJ is the one that explained this to me, and I think I agree with him).

I hope this post makes sense.  It is a little bit scattered, but so are my thougths most of the time.  I just really wanted to have this out.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this:  If you want to stay in the church and be safe and/or avoid drama, you probably shouldn’t be cuddling.  Cuddling sends the message “I want sex”.

I’m sorry if you disagree with me, but that is what I think.


21 Responses

  1. I agree with you. I think of healthy touch more as relating to hugs, handshakes, and pats on the back–meaning the sort of touch that “healthy males” receive and give.

    I haven’t had much experience cuddling with men–not something that I’ve ever really done although it does sound very nice. But I can see how it would easily lead farther. My good friend and roommate growing up also feels same sex attraction. I think throughout my life with him, I’ve always made a conscious effort to somewhat limit our physical contact because I knew that I would’ve wanted things to go further. Our contact was limited to probably less than 10 hugs throughout our life. I’m not suggesting that this is a necessary limitation, but I think that our relationship was only helped by it…. it’s easy to see our relationship being hurt by more frequent/more intense touch.

  2. What I’ve realized that I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I would say, “I just want some of that healthy male contact”, when really I want to touch because it is a turn on. If I feel that I NEED physical contact with another man to feel complete, than it will gradually progress into something more serious. When will it stop? I can feel complete and loved by my friends without crawling all over them each time we hang out. I appreciate this post man.

  3. If it works for you, then great. Others’ mileage will differ.

  4. I think you are wise.

  5. Brennan, I really like your description of healthy touch: the sort of touch that “healthy males” receive and give. Thanks for that.

  6. I appreciate your thoughts and your thinking things through to conclusion. I think you make some important points that are really good to recognize and consider.

    I’ve had similar thoughts, and I, too, have curbed my once-active cuddle habits, even though they rarely made me feel driven to do more. My reasons are more about being careful of boundaries and making sure physical expression of affection matches emotional intimacy, and being careful not to send mixed signals, which I think I did at times. Cuddling doesn’t mean the same to everyone, and for me, it’s nice to just be close with someone I care about and feel connected in another way, so I like having friends who are simply more naturally cuddly with everyone around them. These days, the people I “cuddle” with are few, incidences are rare, and there’s not a feeling that it might go somewhere more romantic or erotic.

    Most are gay/moho friends, yes, but I’ve had a few straight friends who actually expressed affection physically too–mind you, it didn’t involve spooning or caressing, just leaning, resting legs on each other, shoulder rubs, or even resting heads on shoulders now and then. Totally benign, though affectionate, stuff. I don’t know where we got this idea that all physical contact is sexual foreplay. Thank you, Freud? 🙂

    Maybe that’s my long way of saying kudos to you for making a principled decision, and hopefully it won’t have to be a black-and-white, hard-and-fast, all-or-nothing stance forever, even if it needs to be right now for you to sort it out a bit, y’know?

  7. I think all of you boys have never learned the core principal of SELF CONTROL. I mean, since all of you claim to be ‘strong members in the faith’, it is interesting me that such ‘recreational activities’ are taking place. I would think that if a group of good, strong in the faith boys were together ‘supporting’ each other, that cuddling and necking and petting would be so far from your minds and physical needs.
    Perhaps you aren’t as good or as committed to your faith as you claim. Perhaps you aren’t as hidden in the light as you claim but rather your eye sight is blurred by your own lust to fit in.

    Learn self-control, take control

  8. Princess,
    That’s a pretty unfair assessment. If only we can be perfect at all times. The purpose of the Gospel as I see it is to improve. When we make mistakes (which we will always do) we learn from them and move on. That’s what the merciful Atonement is. Thinking otherwise would be denying the purpose of the Atonement.

  9. I think Princess Celestial’s rush to judgment has made her forget that basically everyone here is talking about their successful efforts to keep their physical passions in check, something she seems to think they’re not doing and need her reminder about. Unnecessary, princess. If they didn’t get it, they wouldn’t be posting here. They’d be off partying and you wouldn’t know about them at all. Give these guys credit.

  10. Ha, “Princess Celestial”? I like that better than “Molly Mormon”. I kind of love it, actually. I can only assume that comment was farcical in nature, but I may be slow and missed the joke or something…

  11. I don’t think it is unfair to hold you to a point of reference. Learn from other peoples mistakes, hence the scriptures, hence all the other ‘moho’ boys that have done stupid things that they KNEW they shouldn’t have done but did it anyway. Yes, the atonement is wonderful, but to waste it on people who ARE NOT ignorant of such crimes…is truly a slap in the face for jesus. Don’t get me wrong, its great that you guys can become better through making the kinds of mistakes that ignorant people make, but not for us who know/have it all. Its a hard ugly truth, but truth nonetheless….

  12. Sorry, I just removed the stick from my butt, I’m cool now, boys. I don’t know what came over me.

  13. Mr. Hidden,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. A dose of bitter honesty is needed sometimes. I’ve been thinking of similar things lately and want to add some thoughts I hope will strengthen what you said, even though in doing so I admit that I cross boundaries all too often. I’m learning and trying to do better.

    First, you pointed out just how much we lie to ourselves in a sense, convincing ourselves of innocence that doesn’t exist. What I mean by this is, and what I sense you are communicating as well, we blind ourselves to the reasons that suggest cuddling might not be good for the soul and pay attention only to the reasons that suggest cuddling is okay. This phenomena is known in Mormon culture as justification or rationalization. It’s one of my favorite past times, but I’m trying to improve and lie to myself a little less. Thanks for your example and encouragement in that process.

    Second, I find the idea of recreational cuddling (or group cuddling) very aggravating. You touched on spiritual reasons why it’s bad for the soul. I want to comment on how it is bad for other reasons in addition to the ones you mentioned. For me, cuddling communicates, “I like you” and “I’m committed to liking only you.” When I see someone cuddling with multiple people, especially in a short amount of time, it reminds me of why polygamy didn’t last. Just kidding. But it does confuse me. It’s hard on the emotions.

    Third, as relates to genuine love, it activates dormant potentialities. In other words, its function is to assist people in finding meaning in life through the process of self-discovery and self-mastery, the process of identifying our potentialities and making them into realities. In Viktor Frankl’s words, “Love anticipates personal posibility.” This definition, combined with the understanding that our ultimate potential is to develop as God, helps me understand when my behavior is out of love and when it is out of lust: when out of love it motivates me to assist people in the process of becoming more like Deity; when out of lust it motivates me for selfish purposes. In Frankl’s words again, “As long as self is driven by an id to a Thou, it is not a matter of love… In love the self is not driven by the id, but rather the self chooses the Thou.”

    Fourth, I can’t find the quote, so I’ll paraphrase. I’m reading a Viktor Frankl book right now (as if you can’t tell) titled Man’s Ultimate Search for Meaning. Talking about what I think you’re talking about as relates to empty, hollow, and infatuate “love” and “affection”, he says it’s often a sign, not of how infatuated we are with one another, but of the loneliness preceding the infatuation. I take that to mean that when I get the urge to go on cuddling binges, I should understand the loneliness which precedes, address it, and “divert the river” rather than fight to swim up it.

  14. Princess Celestial, I understand where you’re coming from. I used to think that way towards a lot of different groups of people who would say one thing and do another. Until I learned, from CS Lewis, that such an argument is like expecting a whitening toothpaste to make your teeth white. Never in the advertisement does it promise to make your teeth white. It promises, however, to make your teeth whiter. Similarly, the promise of Christianity is not to make everyone white in action and deed; it is to make us whiter. Understanding the difference between making something white and making it whiter is crucial to understanding the role of Christian faith: it assists us in the process of bad to good to better to best.

    This discussion is evidence of that whitening process, I believe. It shows me that individuals are trying to understand how they justify and rationalize behavior that is inconsistent with doctrine and how they plan to reconcile their behavior with their belief system.

    In addition, at one point in my life I thought I had self control. I realized the only thing I was doing was holding myself hostage emotionally by refusing to engage men in Christian friendship. I denied myself opportunity to learn self-control, yet thought I was completely in control. In no way am I saying we should throw ourselves overboard into a sea of temptation, but I realized, when the temptations came flooding into my life, I had to learn the “sink-or-swim” way. I could have easily learned the same lessons through “swimming lessons” such as this discussion taking place here. In other words, I wish I would have opened my mind and heart to discussions such as this one so when the floods came into my life I would have been better prepared to swim rather than sink. I get the sense the same may be true for you. Learn now.

    PS- You’re a bitch, but I won’t hold that against you because I believe you are also going through the whitening process :). I’ve got my lessons to learn, Mr. Hidden has his lessons to learn, and you’ve obviously got your lessons to learn, which are vastly different than mine. Even though the thing being whitened is different for each of us, we’re all engaged in the Christian process of whitening. It’s a cycle we all go through. And unfortunately, we go through it over and over and over again.

  15. So hidden, it has been a week since we talked and my opinion has evolved a bit. I still want to cuddle, especially when I feel the most alone. However the decision to cuddle or not cuddle is a very personal one to make. I can’t because I make it into something sexual; I want it to progress further. As long as I use it to feel loved, than it’s not a good option. Others feel like they can without consequence and I applaud them.

  16. Dear Ryan 🙂

    Hmm, I guess you seem to be the only willing to broadcast your name and lively-hood across the world. It is really too bad that boys like you claim to have self-control, yet seem so willing to drag everyone else that you claim to love a care about down in the muddy hole you call gay. Well, it seems to me in all your efforts to fit in, is just working against you. Maybe that is why little girls from your work are so concerned with you well being…you dug your own hole and put yourself in it and pulled all your own family/friends along with you. Misery loves company. Good luck boys. Hidden, stay hidden, Ryan, I hope one day this whole ordeal of being gay won’t be just about you! But then again, obession-crazed people never realize that they are the ones with the problem instead of the rest of us… oh well

  17. Sorry Ryan, I don’t know why I said those things about you. Completely uncalled for. Will you forgive me?

  18. Princess, whoever you are, I get the sense you must know me. If you have a problem with me, let’s work it out privately and let Hidden’s discussion of Healthy Touch continue unadulterated by these hard feelings. Email me if you’d like expound on the things you said above and offer me the feedback I need to make course corrections …

  19. Hi,
    I feel really sorry for you. The only reason cuddling is a gateway to sex for you is because you are not having the sex you need as a gay man. Every human being has a need for touch. It’s a basic need we are all born with. Children who are not given cuddles and healthy affection do develop serious problem. That’s why in intensive care units for premmies and aids babies people volunteer to hold the babies.

    I feel so sorry that because of your fear of cuddling leading to sex you are denying yourself a basic need. I wouldn’t get into how denying ones’ identity cause serious mental and physical harm but just the fact that now instead of denying yourself something the church says you can have, sex with men, you are now denying yourself something that the church says is ok, non-sexual touch. How small will your options and your world become as your desires to be yourself become stronger?

    Gay or straight, everyone needs a hug and physical affection. To take that away from yourself out of fear that it will lead to sex seems like a cruel punishment for a crime you have not committed. Don’t want to have sex with guys, then don’t, but a life without platonic affection is just plain harmful.

  20. Samuel, let me break down your argument a bit to see if I’m understanding correctly:

    1) Cuddling is not, or should not be, a gateway to sex if a person is getting appropriate touch and affection. Or the reverse, if a person is getting appropriate touch, cuddling will not be arousing and/or will not lead to sex.

    In that context, it seems like your argument would generalize to say: Mr. Hidden is not getting the needed touch, cuddle, and affection (maybe currently or as a child), therefore, cuddling, for him and others in his situation, is a gateway to sex. If such is your argument, why did you say, “The only reason cuddling is a gateway to sex for you is because you are not having the sex you need as a gay man”? And, “…everyone needs a hug and physical affection”? Are you talking about sex, hugs, touch, or what?

    If such is not your argument, help me understand more what you mean by the above quoted statements.

    2) When someone fears cuddling “because it leads to sex,” that person denies themself a “basic need.” Does this mean that cuddling is the only way to fulfill that “basic need” for touch? Are there other ways to fulfill this need? And what are the consequences for all of those options?

    I see your argument going beyond the issue and questions at hand. As I understand, Mr. Hidden is speaking only about reasons why he chooses not to cuddle with guys anymore; he remains silent on the issue of filling what you describe as basic needs for touch. This silence does not necessarily mean he is not getting what you describe; it only means he was silent on that topic.

    I personally think you are opening a whole new topic Mr. Hidden is not discussing. You ask questions along the lines of, “If humans really have basic needs for touch, what needs are fulfilled? How do we fulfill those needs most effectively? And how does cuddling relate?” while Mr. Hidden is simply relating a personal narrative.

    I personally believe, whether you agree with Mr. Hidden or disagree, that his choice to not cuddle based on his personal feeling and experience is respectable, courageous, and worthy of praise.

    And now a few more questions:

    What is defined, in clinical research (or according to your own experience and opinion) as appropriate touch, cuddles, and affection? And what “serious problems” does such research (or your own experience and opinion) say will develop in children who don’t get touch, cuddles, and affection? How does this research generalize to people in the situation of Mr. Hidden?

  21. I don’t know why you guys don’t just sodomize each other and get it over with.

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