Husband Material

Appropriate Touch Between Men (LIVE)

September 04, 2023 Drew Boa
Husband Material
Appropriate Touch Between Men (LIVE)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Touch is one of our most basic human needs. But many of us have been deprived. How can men outgrowing porn embrace healthy physical touch with each other—and prevent harm? Find out in this panel discussion with Certified Husband Material Coaches Drew Boa, Stephen Thomas, John Kilmer, and Mike Chapman. 

You'll learn:

  • the importance of safe touch for emotional and sexual development
  • cultural differences in physical touch between men around the world
  • rules about touch for members of the Husband Material Community
  • how to keep yourself and others safe from unwanted touch
  • why you need to listen to your body and trust your gut
  • what to do if you get a connection erection (aka "broner")
  • how to fill your "touch bucket" in a safe, healthy way
Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Today we have a panel discussion talking about appropriate physical touch between men, specifically for men who are outgrowing porn, men who are on a journey of healing and freedom and sexual recovery, and this topic of appropriate touch has become so important as we create space for men to connect with each other, and yet we also want to protect each other, so that's our priority today. How can touch be healing rather than harmful? How can it be a form of connection and protection, because both of those are really important. With me, I'm joined by certified husband material coaches, stephen Thomas, john Kilmer and Mike Chapman, who will be sharing their perspective. Let's start with a question how do you feel about touch between men? Maybe for some of you, it's no big deal. Maybe for some of you, you're terrified of touch or aroused by touch between men, or both. Maybe you enjoy it. Maybe the idea of appropriate touch feels triggering because it brings up shame or guilt. Maybe the concept that touch can be healing brings up fear because for you it has been the opposite. Regardless of how you feel about touch, your feelings are welcome here. If you're with us on the live episode, let us know. How do you feel about touch between men? Let's start with our coaches, guys, how do you feel about touch between men? I?

Speaker 2:

love good, affectionate masculine contact, and that has not always been my story. I used to feel very awkward hugging another man. Have you heard of the like? I'm not gay triangle hug, it's the tap, tap, tap. I'm not gay, tap, tap, tap on the shoulders as you're coming in and maybe touching shoulders a little bit, that was me. It has taken me years to really learn to feel comfortable with masculine touch. Once I have, it's been really life-giving and transformative in my life. I love masculine touch.

Speaker 3:

Hugs, definitely. I feel similar to John, though there's all kinds of different touch between men. That's non-sexual Hugs I feel comfortable with it, and other things that other men might think is okay, I would feel less comfortable with.

Speaker 1:

That's so important, because we all have different boundaries and we want to honor those boundaries. Stephen, how do you feel about touch For me?

Speaker 4:

it's such a complicated answer and as I was thinking about my answer I was thinking it'd be good to shed some light quickly on my background. So porn years at age seven, at age 12, I started experiencing same-sex attraction and that was a significant journey, kind of the primary focus and my act out behaviors included porn and actual sexual engagement with men. So there's a history of inappropriate touch with men in my story. So for that reason there's like I said, it's quite complicated my view is also kind of filtered through. I am 15 years free from those behaviors and also in that journey I've built a marriage that I love. I'm totally into my wife, we love each other, we have a marriage we love and so all that kind of leads into it. So I just want to say I'm coming from the perspective of I used to have a big SSA problem and it worked really hard to build an incredible marriage and I'm looking to steward that. So all that kind of feeds into it. On one hand, I've processed my wounds. Where I actually touch isn't a big deal. I don't think about needing touch from men. It's not something I actually sit with, to be honest. But when I'm in charge I feel very confident and I like to be kind of liberal with it because I think touch is really needed in this world, like we need appropriate touch, right. So I try to be forward with it. In my history I used to kind of hide behind sort of that like frat boy, like hey, let's like touch each other and play around and touch each other and appropriate, and it's kind of fun. But that was the way I was trying to suss out who might be interested in a sexual engagement. It's a big complicated mess to me, to be honest with you.

Speaker 1:

And it is for many of us, and in our community we've had a lot of confusion about what's okay, what's not okay. So today we are going to hopefully set some guidelines and open up some space for touch to be healing and wholesome and appropriate, so that we can feel good about it and so that it can be part of our healing journey. I personally absolutely love physical touch. It's my top love language and because it never became sexualized for me, I'm very comfortable with being a hugger and a touchy person in general. However, with someone I don't know very well or with someone who is invading my space without a relationship developed, my alert comes on very quickly, and so I would say I also have a high sensitivity to touch. That feels icky, and that's part of my story as well, from when I was a boy. So today we will explore these two questions when is touch appropriate or inappropriate, and how can touch be healing rather than harmful? I also wanted to share some of these comments. I see some of you saying touch can be powerful and appropriate in many situations. It depends on how long it goes on. For Scott says I think that our culture in general vilifies touch between men. That's a great point because touch between men historically has been a lot more common than it is now, and homophobia and other cultural factors have contributed to that and we will talk about it.

Speaker 3:

And that's mostly in Western, especially US, culture, but Europe, south America, asia, so many other countries. Physical touch between males. That's extremely appropriate and encouraged and just part accepted as part of the culture.

Speaker 1:

Well said. I want to start by talking about why touch is so important. It is one of our most basic human needs. Little boys who don't receive healthy, safe touch become stunted in their development emotionally, socially and sexually. Healthy, safe touch is critical even from the earliest stages of development. And touch can also have such a long-term devastating impact when it is used to take from someone rather than to give and receive. So when touch is taking without permission, touch can be abusive and it can also affect our arousal templates that we develop. A hugger touch can result in the release of the hormone oxytocin, the bonding chemical and also a reduction in stress hormones. So that is a lot of what happens, whether through an orgasm or through non-sexual touch. We all need touch and yet we all need safety.

Speaker 3:

Someone had mentioned, if a hug goes longer than five seconds, it seems uncomfortable. However, I think those chemicals oxytocin and so forth are released after a good 20-second long hug and you can kind of feel it. It's like, oh, and then it's just that release.

Speaker 1:

That's a great point. A three-second tap-tap on the back hug is very different than a long hug. John, what were you going to say?

Speaker 2:

Oh, I'm just thinking about. I have a three-year-old son, caleb, and when he is feeling snuggly he is, you know, and he's totally presexual right now, which is this age of innocence and he is all up in my space, I mean, he's rubbing his head against my cheek and my chest and he just wants to be like so close, and that is releasing the bonding, the feel-good chemicals. You know, it's just such a beautiful, beautiful time and such a tender time and such a time when things can go awry and it did go awry for many of us and so the touch feels so confusing and so my father's heart feels very heavy right now just thinking about that the whole touch thing and how neurologically it has been, it's been miswired. So I'm just really sitting with that consciousness right now.

Speaker 1:

And when we talk about touch, there are different levels of touch. The lowest level might be a simple handshake or a high five, then maybe a side hug or a full frontal hug and then an extra long hug, like eight seconds or longer. Then another level of touch might be engaging some of the erogenous zones. For example, a kiss on the cheek, or something I experienced that I did not like in high school was a slap on the butt while playing basketball, which perhaps is culturally appropriate for some, but for me it was shaming and violated my personal boundaries, although I didn't feel safe to say anything about it. Even something that appears to be just normal might not be normal for the other person. So something like an area of the body such as the lips, the butt, the neck are highly sensitive erogenous zones. And then the most intimate, most private level of touch would be genital stimulation. For men that would be penis scrotum, and for women that would include the vulva and also their breasts, and at husband material. We believe that that level of touch should be reserved for marriage, for adults, between a man and a woman. And so when we talk about appropriate touch, that is the first thing I want to say about when that level is appropriate. So this first level of physical touch, of just a handshake or a high five, is very appropriate in almost any situation. It has permission built in because you offer it and then the other person chooses whether they shake your hand or to receive. When we get into some of the higher levels of touch, it's usually not appropriate with someone you don't know at all, depending on the cultural context. And you might be in a place where everybody is touching and that's just culturally expected in our context. And at the upcoming husband material retreat everybody is coming from a different background. So you might have some people who have lived in Europe, like David, who's commenting right now that when he lived in Europe as a teenager, men would kiss each other on both cheeks and this was genuine nonerotic affection and it was an embrace into community. Now that is wonderful and beautiful. And yet we're going to have some different boundaries within husband material, at least at our events, because the level of touch really should match the cultural setting. So when you're at a wedding, that's one thing. When you're playing sports, that's another thing. Maybe if you participate in jujitsu, that's a very touchy, very physical activity where men are often wrestling each other. In general, touch should match the cultural setting and it should match the depth of relationship.

Speaker 2:

I would love to just linger on the cultural setting, because I'm very multicultural. My parents raised me in East Africa, where it was very common for to see two grown men, who were buddies, walking down the road holding pinkies or with their arms around each other and sometimes around the waist. And, believe it or not, there's a tribe in Papua New Guinea where, as a sign of solidarity, connection, vulnerability, men believe it or not will actually who belong to this tribe together will cup one another's balls scrotum while they're visiting with each other as a sign of true intimacy. And so this whole cultural concept of touch is really broad, really deep. I would love to do some sociological study on what touch is like between men and other cultures, because it's very different. It's even different across the United States. What is accepted as kind of normal guy touch in Seattle versus like Alabama?

Speaker 1:

And while we want to bless and affirm such rich cultural expressions, we also want to be forthright about the ways that sometimes men have misused that information to make excuses or justifications for abusive, inappropriate, abusive, inappropriate touch. They'll use it to normalize and say, oh well, this naked cuddling session is not inappropriate and a different culture will be totally fine, or this is not sexual. So I really want to find a balance of having blessing and also boundaries, and as we talk about what's appropriate and not appropriate, there are some warning signs that are really important for us to keep in mind. Here are a few that I've come up with. One is secrecy. If the physical touch between you and another man is a secret, especially if it's a secret from your wife, that is a warning sign. Actually, I would say that's a red flag that this is not appropriate. If it's a secret, if touch feels like it's taking rather than giving and receiving, that's another clue. Now, the other person may not feel that way, but if you feel like something is being taken from you or if you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. Oftentimes, a gut feeling that something is not right is a really important warning sign to listen to. We all need to get better at listening to our gut, because even if we're not sure what it's telling us, it's usually on to something that we need to hear. Another warning sign is too much, too fast or pushing past boundaries. Occasionally we've had men in the husband material community privately message each other about getting together and having some really intimate touch when they're strangers. They don't even know each other. That speed is a warning sign. If you have somebody who's asking you to engage in a really intimate touch and you don't even know the person. Watch out, because predatory behavior is more common than it should be. If somebody is stimulating your erogenous zones, for example, your lips, your ears, your butt, your neck, that is getting into some dangerous territory Again. A kiss on the cheek seems like it could be either, but oftentimes there's a nonverbal signal that you can pick up on that will give you some clues as to whether or not this is just polite, casual or if there might be some hidden motives. And finally, if you are feeling uncomfortable with touch and you bring up your concern to the person and they become defensive or invalidating or maybe even gaslighting, telling you oh, nothing's wrong, what's the problem? That's a warning sign too. If you're talking to a safe person. They're going to be understanding and empathetic and maybe even apologetic. They're going to care about how you feel, not just steamroll over your hesitations or your discomfort. So those are some warning signs I have noticed, mike.

Speaker 3:

I have noticed that Byron says staying in a group setting is safety, and I would agree with that, that there's safety in numbers and if it's a no, let's break off from the group and go the two of us, or let's meet privately, one-on-one, where, if it's a group, there's more accountability there. I met with my triad, who we had been meeting online for over a year and finally had the chance to meet in person and just have some downtime and hang out together. And yeah, we were kind of physically all over each other with not quite snuggling, but yeah, I mean, you know, just kind of playing, but there was that safety in numbers thing and it just felt very comfortable and very safe. But we also had that depth of relationship as well. So there was safety in that too. So that was very appropriate.

Speaker 2:

Drew, I just wanted to say also, this whole trust you get thing is so vital For so many of us. If we were violated or if there was confusion early in life, it's like I'm not sure that warning signal has been altered neurologically somehow. So it's like I might not even be sure because of blurred boundaries between caregivers and myself and inappropriate touch. That happened when I was really young. I don't even know where my boundaries begin and another person's end. So there's that as well. Sometimes that got instinct is right and sometimes it might be actually too protective and sometimes it might be not warning me enough. So there's those two extremes. And but I'm thinking about a time that I really trusted my gut instinct. I was another man, really was longing for a hug and went in for a big one with me and just kept holding on and holding on and holding on. Literally about midway through this prolonged hug there was almost this energy that felt like it left my body and was like going into him in the weirdest way and I was like, but and I politely disengaged that it was a very odd feeling that I had never experienced before and that to me it was like OK, gut instinct, I'm just separate.

Speaker 1:

And when we have an experience like that, sometimes it takes us a while to realize what really happened and how we really felt. At last year's husband material retreat, the average amount of time it took for people to report Touch that felt inappropriate was about two months. The average amount of time that it takes men to disclose sexual abuse is 25 years. So we may not realize In the moment what's happening and, as Mario is saying in the comments, absolutely listen to our bodies. They will never lie to us like a face touch.

Speaker 3:

Someone could give you very triggered by that, whereas other people might think nothing about it.

Speaker 4:

So I feel that in American culture we struggle to communicate boundaries actually. So there's a little bit of a passivity in that and, I think, normalizing that for me. I come from a background I'll just say where it feels awkward if someone is hugging me too long to push away, am I disappointing them? You know, part of that's even church culture that grew up in. Am I hurting them, you know? So I've had to confront my fear of disappointment and be like sorry. So I'm just thinking about that and it makes me think of a story, kind of what John shared. I had a guy at church that every time he'd come to me he'd want this really long hug. And I found myself just trying to avoid him because I'm like I don't want to give this. I feel like I'm being taken from, I feel like I'm trying to give him those signals of OK, I'm done. And I actually finally just said to him because I'm like it'd be better to like, like I'd be OK with hugging him if I have my boundary, like if I know that I have control over what happens to me, I feel like I can engage him with a hug. So I said, listen, I can do hugs, but they can only last three seconds. I just held that to him, but at least then I didn't. I wasn't running from him, so it can feel awkward, but I think that that would be an area of growth for most people in recovery and I think culturally it's OK to have boundaries, it's OK to say no. So they say this makes me uncomfortable and it's not a total rejection of the other person.

Speaker 2:

Boundaries enable intimacy, which seems weird at first. It's like aren't boundaries a wall, or aren't boundaries like a barrier, but boundaries enable safety and therefore enable people to come close because they're clear on their boundaries, and so a boundary actually enables appropriate intimacy.

Speaker 4:

When you have the boundary, you feel authentic, right and therefore you will experience more connection and intimacy because you're being real.

Speaker 1:

I love Byron's comment. It is more important to be honest and verbalize needs rather than worry about what others think.

Speaker 4:

Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

That is so difficult, and we're trying to create a culture where we can be courageous, to share those moments when we're not OK or something is wrong or something is off. In fact, we need to do that to protect ourselves and each other, and when we express those needs, we're working on responding to each other with curiosity and compassion, and that's what we're going to do at this upcoming retreat. One of the changes this year is that we will have buttons that participants can wear in order to indicate that they would like to be asked permission before being touched, and if you're ever unsure about whether or not a certain form of touch is appropriate in any situation, it doesn't hurt to ask permission. That's one of the best ways that you can avoid some conflicts and harm is to simply ask the person if they would be OK with a hug or something like that, and we're hoping that the system will help you can do it nonverbally too.

Speaker 3:

I will just stand there, not approaching, but stand there open arms and they know, hug, they don't even have to say the word and they're going yeah, they'll come up or they go. No, I'm good, you know, but usually it's yeah. So you can do it nonverbally too, and just hey, let them come to you.

Speaker 1:

The hug can be amazing and the boundary can be amazing too. In fact, for some guys, it's really healing to set a boundary and then experience, respect, experience, respect and honor when people keep that boundary.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I have a friend who he had some physical abuse as a child and he has a really hard time with hugs, and so once he explained that to me, because I could feel that he was very uncomfortable, then he finally was able to share. No, I really, really, really don't like this. And so and I said we'll do fist bumps. But then I'll tell him, ok, if I hold the fist bump, that's me really giving you a big bear hug. And he's like, ok, I'm good with that.

Speaker 2:

That is beautiful. That's a beautiful story of like respecting someone's boundary and letting them know of your affection for them through a symbol that works for them. That brings tears to my eyes, aw, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, he's a good friend. He just posted recently a new haunted house. Nothing but guys asking you hey, where's my hug? I was like, oh I thought that was hilarious.

Speaker 1:

In contrast to the husband material retreat where it's the most hugs per day I have ever experienced.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I wanted to bring up a comment that Jim made. It says you guys are talking about and trying to provide so many guidelines for physical act that usually unfolds spontaneously. I don't envy you trying to provide navigation to a group of men so varied in backgrounds, triggers and expectations. And as I read that, it's a really great thought, jim. As I read that, I think about how this is titled. For men who struggle with porn right In the real world, it's spontaneous and I even think this whole idea of if it was just more normal to have boundaries and be able to communicate it. Like if someone gives me a hug and I don't want it, if I'm used to having boundaries and communicating, then it's OK because I can just say, oh no, I don't want that and that can be it. You know what I'm saying. Whereas when we don't know that we can communicate things like that, all of a sudden it's like and you don't think, oh, this person's so bad, they tried to hug me. Like I said, I'm actually pretty forward with the lighter forms of physical touch. I try to be very engaging with people because just a little touch in the arm sometimes it's like you don't know who didn't get touched all week long, I'm thinking, at church and I love that. It's not like we're trying to have over rules where it's super cautious. But maybe it feels that way because we're a group of sex addicts and there's a lot of guys who have same sex attraction as a part of their story. That's kind of why we have all these guidelines, if you will, and there's things to thought. It's not going to be a perfect thing, right, because we are human and things happen spontaneously and sometimes you read the moment and you know it's fine, but we're trying our best to facilitate too.

Speaker 1:

Stephen, I love your sensitivity to married men and how we should really be talking with our wives, if we're married, about what level of touch they are comfortable with us engaging in with other men. And for those of you guys who are single, it's so, so important to find intimate touch within your friendships. Some of us are so touch deprived, and especially in our culture where much of the intimacy that is available is in a romantic relationship, because we don't have very much embodied brotherhood and community in our culture, and this is a huge need. I think it's a huge need for everybody. My heart especially goes out to the single guys because I remember when I was single, those days when I got like five or 10 hugs had such a big impact even on my mental health. It just feels so much better to have that human contact.

Speaker 2:

Since I got over the anxiety of being touched. All of a sudden I was like a drowning man, looking for touch everywhere, masculine touch in particular, strong masculine touch. I needed it desperately, Like the little boy within me had been awakened and no longer feared. You know this touch, and so part of my journey is to actually have been involved in groups where the intentionality is there for receiving good fatherly touch, from a masculine, prolonged fatherly touch. I'm talking about leaning into another man's chest and recognizing the deficits in my own soul and accessing the grief in a context of safely being touched and being held in a place where I felt safe and it was tremendously healing for me. And so I'm curious to know what that feels like to hear that in this panel and maybe other men listening. If you want to chime in on the chat, what does that bring up for you?

Speaker 1:

John, for me it brings up the difference between doing that in an intentional, professionally facilitated environment versus privately, behind closed doors, with a friend in a bedroom Like those are two very, very different things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I hear you and in my desperate, in my dry, feeling so emotionally dry and needing this, I wasn't always intentional in following those guidelines and I did feel it go sideways sometimes, just as you were saying.

Speaker 4:

I would chime in and say that, while that experience sounds really beautiful that you had John in my marriage my wife, I know, would actually be uncomfortable with me going through it. And it's not to put a right or wrong on it, it's just I think different wives in this would be okay with it and different wives might not be okay with it, right? So what's interesting is that I found through inner child work just like when we fantasize, we experience all that arousal in our body even though it's not actually happening. I found that through inner child work and seeing the child be held, I've been able to heal and, like I said, I actually don't. I feel whole in that area. I don't sit with a deficit today, so that feels like legit healing of experience that's also uttered by wife. So I'm not trying to put a right or wrong, I just want to offer hey, there's, there's a couple of different ways and I don't want to sound like the guy because I only like three second hugs. That is actually refusing touch, right. I actually feel really good and really really healthy in this area.

Speaker 2:

So that's why this is a panel discussion, because, yeah, exactly, it creates this yummy dialogue of like, well, what about this? Well, I don't feel this way and so I just feel like it rounds it out so much better. So, true story when I was dating my wife, I told her, I said, masculine touch is super important to me and I showed her, in some of the intentional holding groups that I had been involved with, what holding patterns had take place between men and I said I want you to know right up front, this is a dynamic for me and this is something that I need in my life from time to time, and I commit to doing it in a safe way and an intentional way. So I showed her the different holding patterns and I was kind of like my boggling for her at first and bless her. She has really, she really gets the deficit that a little boy has and that he needs from a father figure. And I remember her saying, well, yeah, I guess that's okay, you know, as she's grappling with it, right, but all this stuff takes a lot of communication and a lot of dialogue and a lot of listening, active listening and back and forth. Right, it's, it's this, these sorts of intimate conversations are vital and very important that we continue to lean into them and have conversations and be open and transparent.

Speaker 4:

And I really honored that. You were transparent with your wife and I think that makes it successful. Because when we talk about situations that can go sideways, I think when there is the secret present, the percentage chance that it goes sideways dramatically increases. Rather than I'm coming in this kind of with my spouse, with me, right to become one and I carry her, I carry her heart, I see her in her heart wherever I go, right, so that act creates so much safety. You know, I would imagine it would actually make you feel more safe to enjoy because you don't have that fear of it going sideways. You know, because it's open, there's no hiddenness, and that's beautiful.

Speaker 1:

Even I love your point about how touch can even happen in our imaginations, through inner child work and I see Eugene saying that he has had that experience, especially since that touch came from Jesus. So through that deep heart work and sometimes healing prayer, we can receive touch from Jesus and in our brains those same neurons are firing as if we were receiving it from a physical person. Isn't that amazing?

Speaker 2:

I love that because, truly I tell this to my coaching clients a lot truly, our brains, our nervous systems do not know the difference between imagination when you truly go there and I'm talking about embodied imagination, where you're really feeling it, you're visioning it and you're feeling those emotions in your body it does not know the difference between imagination and real life. And so, and also another beautiful thing about our Lord and Savior, who has so miraculously created our complex nervous systems, is that he is not bound by time, and so where I'm like 52 years old, in prayer, in close community with others, in therapy, in good coaching, he can come right into that infancy wound that happened to me at my birth and he can calm the little one within me neurologically and it truly does create new nervous system pathways. I get so passionate about this.

Speaker 4:

I agree. I just want to echo guys. Imagination is powerful and I love it. He got us outside of time so many times. He's come into our childhood wounds and he cares about every pain, every place we've been deprived or hurt and touched and he wants to show up for us there. So let's normalize that.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes.

Speaker 1:

And oftentimes he touches us through one another because we represent Him Right. We are the body of Christ, we are His hands and feet, we are His hooks.

Speaker 2:

I got to say that healthy masculine touch within appropriate cultural context is biblical. John, I love it that his name was John the beloved disciple. It says in the scriptures that he was leaning against the chest of Jesus at one time and I love that. I find that so healing to read that passage and to imagine myself doing that. And Christ didn't push him away, he received him and gave him healthy masculine touch.

Speaker 1:

I see Rick saying that a safe and healthy male massage can also be good for healing touch, and we also know that massage parlors are places where men have sexually acted out too.

Speaker 4:

I want to just bring up a subtle point of it's actually a boundary violation. I don't think people realize it. If we come in, let's say you're. You talked earlier about how, culturally you know, a kiss might be very normal between guys, but like it's really good, I think, to realize that here in America it's not. So the truth is, if you try to engage someone with that, they're probably going to feel violated and what's going to suck then is you're going to feel rejection and you just like, put yourself out there and actually, if it was received, you might then be like well, I wonder. I mean, it's hard to imagine a situation where that goes well, I mean, it's not that it's impossible, but my point is, is sometimes, when you're engaging in behaviors like that, where you're trying to like, let's make this normal, it's because you're looking for the validation to hear that you're normal, which is still approaching the situation from a deficit. Does that make sense? Rather than, hey, you know what, like I'm here and I'm here to give love, you're actually taking in that exchange because you're doing it, looking for, hey, like, affirm me, help me, know I'm okay with myself, and then you're pushing people into that place of discomfort.

Speaker 1:

Well, that actually happened at the last retreat and it was exactly as you described between two of our participants. It was really sad. They were both hurt by it. They both felt deeply wounded, one from the unwanted touch and the other from the perceived rejection.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so just want to throw that out there as you're. As for guys who're trying to get healthy, touch that like you're wanting to be like the Renaissance man. You just have a big uphill climb and you might experience a lot of rejection along the way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we want to create space for many different, safe, healthy expressions of touch. Here are the boundaries that we have set up at husband material that are really important for all of us to maintain when we are engaging with other community members. And if these boundaries are violated then unfortunately it's not safe for men to continue in the community. Unfortunately, we have to remove people who violate these boundaries. Number one no genital stimulation. Even if you think it's non sexual in our world, in this context, that's not okay between our community members. Also, no touch while nude. So even if you're not touching genitals, if you're both naked, touch is not appropriate for our population of men outgrowing porn. Also, no secret touching. And be sensitive too to the nonverbal signals. As Stephen has said, try to listen if there is a no lurking beneath the yes. So my best advice for healthy, safe touch is to consider the cultural setting, consider the level of intimacy you have with this other person, ask for permission and when you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, trust your gut. And, equally important, when someone else feels uncomfortable with you, own your impact. What I mean by that is, even if you did not intend to violate that person's boundaries, you can take ownership of the impact you had on them. That is essential for repairing a relational rupture caused by touch. It's to say, I take ownership of the fact that, despite my best intentions, I hurt you and you were harmed by this. We need to practice taking ownership of our impact, not just our intentions. We're all growing in this. No one's going to do it perfectly. It's messy and community is a mess worth making. Touch is important enough that we need to emphasize it and work on growing in this area, and that's why we have this episode.

Speaker 2:

Drew, I think about when you talked about is it a secret? Like, what do we do with that? If this feels like it's a secret thing, I think it's important to lean into that with curiosity. Say, is it a secret? Does it feel it's a one party Like it's more of a secret than it does to the other? Why or why not Like for one it might not be so secretive and for the other it might be more secretive? So to have an open discussion about that and then, is it a secret? Is it a secret from whom and why? How does that tie to our early story? So there's a lot of dynamics at play with the whole secretiveness of touch.

Speaker 1:

And when I say is it a secret, I'm talking about. Well, if you're married, is it a secret from your spouse? If you're a member of this community, is it a secret from the leaders? Is it a secret from certain friends? And there's a difference between secrecy and privacy. So privacy is good, Privacy is appropriate. Secrecy fuels addiction.

Speaker 2:

Well said.

Speaker 1:

Now we have some questions here as well.

Speaker 3:

Bring them on. There was a question on here about what in your podcast you described as a connection erection and also called a broner, when two guys are platonically healthy, touching, but you end up with a physiological response as a result and if you don't realize what that was, all of a sudden you can be overwhelmed with shame and negative feelings. It's like, oh my God, my body is rejecting me. What do I do? This body is acting up. I'm wet. Am I attracted to the sky? But no, that's very normal physiological response for platonic friendship, platonic touch.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it simply means I'm connecting neurologically. I'm thinking about when I was a teenager and our cat would come and you know how cats need your stomach with their claws. She would do that and I would get a boner and I'm like, oh, what's it? But I didn't want to have sex with a cat. It's just a neurological response of feeling warm and connected.

Speaker 1:

And, as Doug Carpenter has taught, arousal can be purely physical. It doesn't matter who's touching, it doesn't matter what person it is. If certain areas are stimulated, there will be a response. And sometimes, when I have my kids sitting on my two legs and when we're reading a storybook, I might get a boner like that. But it doesn't bother me, I don't act on it, I just say oh, hmm, that's interesting, there it is, and then letting it pass. Part of the trouble that we get into is when it becomes so distressing and we feel shame, like Mike was saying, then we can get into fight or flight and if we resist that boner, it will actually grow and grow. And this is why sometimes men experience their erection almost like a snowball turning into an avalanche or a train that just goes faster and faster because they're frantically trying to resist it, unknowingly fueling that arousal. So our arousal just gets bigger and bigger when we resist it, when we receive it and let it in and then just let it dissolve. Usually that energy can pass through us rather quickly. It's when we get into fighting a battle against it that it becomes overwhelming.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, physiologically arousal and anxiety actually are really similar physiologically in the body and so those pathways can get so mixed up.

Speaker 4:

I just wanted to add to that that for men who've struggled with same sex attraction, it's not uncommon for there to be a blurriness and confusion over intimacy, nonsexual intimacy and arousal. There's a place where that blends and what I want to say is that it's okay if you find yourself experiencing that and you're uncomfortable, like I know we're saying, oh, like you don't have to be ashamed of that, but it's okay to give yourself space in relationships so you can process that in a healthy way. If you don't have history to responding to your erections in a healthy way, I would even recommend it and this is where, to me, I say strength in numbers. Like I think it's good to have lots of friends so that you can have different places to process that. If you need to withdraw from certain relationships so that you can be clear that you're approaching it healthily and again from a marriage perspective, that's extremely important because as much as we with men, we have penises again, sometimes the wives don't fully grasp male sexuality. Male and female sexuality is really different and nonsexual boners happen. It's important for us to provide ourselves safety, give ourselves honesty. We don't have to experience shame that it's like, oh, I need to step away and handle this properly. That's actually to me. I would say that's courageous masculinity, because you're being real with yourself rather than be like it's fine. It's fine and maybe you're actually getting drawn in because you don't have that history of responding well to your erections.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a good point. If you do feel yourself becoming susceptible or at risk, then it can be important to use the flight function of our brain and get out of there and flee. That might be what's needed and then afterwards come back to a place of curiosity and compassion when you've reestablished safety. Another participant is asking how about eye contact, touching with the eyes? David says some of my most powerful and healing experiences have been intentional one-minute eye contact exercises. It often ended in weeping. I could feel the affirmation and that's why we do it in a safe, healthy way. So beautiful to experience the intimacy of eye contact. It's actually one of the fastest ways to truly see and be seen. It's extremely vulnerable and we do it at the retreat. It is quite the experience. The eyes are the window to the soul. This year I want to do a better job of honoring those who might need to set a boundary around that, and that's okay. We're still going to do it because it can be so healing and we also never want to force people to be a part of it.

Speaker 3:

That kind of ties in. Someone mentions circles being in a circle with just arms around each other, like we do in group prayers or circles or whatever, and it seems like very non-sexual touch and very appropriate. However, someone might still not be comfortable with that and say, no, I'm good, I'm going to stay over here and that's okay, I'm thinking about infancy.

Speaker 2:

You know an infant, when it's born, it's the field of vision is about two feet, so that is from mother's arms up to face or caregiver's arms. Who's ever holding it? And what can an infant do when they're little? They look, they're looking, they're gazing, right. This is huge eye contact stuff and there's a very intricate play going on between caregiver and infant attuning, disengaging. If the attunement is too much, right, reattaching, reattuning, disengaging. And so we need to be respectful. When eye contact in the context of like doing a process, work at the retreat, feels threatening, pay attention to that in your body. That might inform part of your early story and so being okay with averting your gaze or closing your eyes momentarily Sometimes all that needs to be is a long blink, right, and then reopening to reconnect and reattach.

Speaker 1:

Touch can bring up memories of abuse. Mike, I know that you asked some questions to our subgroup for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. What did you learn?

Speaker 3:

No one said no, I never want to be touched. Which was quite interesting that I think the desire and physical need for touch, despite any history of abuse, of negative touch, that need is still there and it was either yes, ask first, or some say no, I don't need to be asked. But no one would say 100% never want hugs, even my buddy who hates hugs over. Overall, for the most part Everyone wants a while. Yeah, he wants a hug. Yeah, we all need that. That was really fascinating that. Yeah, everyone needs hugs, even those who have had really crappy experiences with touch in the past.

Speaker 4:

Derek said something I said earlier about a warning to not seek out forms of touching that aren't culturally normative. I want to hear that warning, but I'm struggling to embrace it when I think many acknowledge that what's culturally normative for touch isn't healthy to begin with. So in other words, it sounds like you're saying, hey, the American cultural normative for touch isn't healthy. I agree, I totally agree with that. I think we are a bit deprived and actually the deprivation of it opens the window that the only touch we're familiar with is sexual touch. So it's all hypersexualized and then we feel that need to withdraw and then we're more deprived. First off, I just want you to know. I agree with that. So my question is how can we know if our efforts to seek out healthy touch giving and receiving is selfish or selfless, good or bad? And to me, the key is this I feel like some I don't know if you've ever experienced where someone's like trying to push you, like, oh, this is good for you, and it feels like they're pushing something on you that feels actually dishonoring and more about them like, oh, like, maybe it is good for me, but if I'm not ready for it, that boundary needs to be honored and, to be honest, that, going into even sexual abuse, grooming behavior and stuff like that I mean I've talked to clients who've had people abuse them, saying I love you as they're abusing them, so it's like this is good for you. That's really harmful. So the truth is, yeah, like we're in an evil world and I'm always thinking how can I actually communicate love in a way that they can receive it?

Speaker 2:

And.

Speaker 4:

I find that, like I said, being forward with touch, I might just put a hand on somebody's arm or that, like light touch on a shoulder, briefly, and that does a lot for people because it's not too much, it's not over the top and it actually fills my touch bucket and I just get the joy out of seeing people feel loved. So hopefully that helps clarify it. It's just like you just got. The point is is you can't force things on them if they're not ready for it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, part of grooming is to make the victim believe that it's not abuse. You get trained to comply and trying to retrain yourself to not comply when you really don't want to and to stand up for yourself, and it's a huge growth thing for many of us.

Speaker 2:

And that is so helpful to hear because, like after I got over my fear of touch and then I assumed the whole world needs this, every man needs this, and I was too over the top with like encouraging, trying to get men who were uncomfortable with it to engage in what I felt was healthy touch, and I felt like I was trying to heal the world. But, like this, hearing your story helps me so much to like withdraw that and back off and be respectful and be like wow, what is going on in his nervous system because of his background. I want to, I want to honor that completely, and so I just wanted to say that it occurred to me as we're talking here. Like when we're viewing porn, there's almost always some level of touch going on, even if it's like a single person touching themselves right, but there's always some level of touch.

Speaker 1:

Chad's asking how much does healthy touch deprivation drive masturbation? What a wonderful question. I suspect that it does drive masturbation.

Speaker 2:

A lot.

Speaker 1:

That's a great point, both in the content of pornography and in what we do with our bodies while viewing it is often touch, so why not replace that with a much more life-giving, sacred, godly version? Rather than just resisting and resisting and depriving ourselves, let's find ways to fill our touch bucket, whether just in our imagination, with Jesus, with each other, with men and with women. We can find embodied intimacy, whether single or married, and it's a huge part about growing porn. What a gift to be able to have these conversations, and if you all want to contribute, let's keep the conversation going in the husband material community. Please remember you are God's beloved Son and you is well pleased.

Exploring Healing Touch Between Men
Exploring Appropriate Physical Touch and Boundaries
Physical Touch
Boundaries and Healing Through Touch
Navigating Platonic Touch and Arousal
Importance of Healthy Touch, Impact of Pornography

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