Ross Olson's Web Site

Social Issues: Other

Touch Deficiency

I feel saddened for all the children and young people who suffer from "touch deficiency" and may not get hugs or pats from adults, sometimes due to fear of sexual abuse accusations.

To be touched is a necessary part of human life. Infants may die if denied it. Adults often feel depressed if it is lacking. Touch is not just a gateway to sexual activity. It is a separate need. A young child crawling up on the lap of an adult is asking for affection and comfort, no more.

Absent or busy parents may not give the warmth that their children require. Young people who lack hugs and warm, caring touch may be drawn to sexual activity in the mistaken notion that this is what they need. The pleasure of warmth and closeness is misinterpreted as a signal to become sexual.

Our confused culture even linguistically confounds the issue with such phrases as "did he touch you?" Basic non-sexual touch is confused with genital sexual activity.

Sexual abuse is a terrible betrayal of any person, young or old. Often, abused persons do not recognize that they were manipulated until long after the events.

Courts labor for days and weeks deliberating rape cases where the issue is supposedly whether or not consent was given. The aggressors often seem to really believe that they were given the "green light." How are the participants supposed to determine all this in the heat of passion and rationalization?

It will remain a gray area only as long as we continue to reject the preserved ancient wisdom, handed down from the time of our creation, which says, "if you are not married, it is always wrong." Genital sexual activity, for the sake of physical and mental health, ought to be confined to permanent, committed relationships. "One partner for life!"

The problem of sexual abuse will not be solved by outlawing touch. That misguided approach only creates more problems -- larger ones because it will affect many more people.

Children and young people need hugs and pats. We tend to hug children up to a certain age, then, just when they start to feel weird in early adolescence, we stop. Men, especially, in our culture have trouble showing affection, especially to their sons and daughters. The end result is a generation suffering from deprivation of necessary touch.

The hugs must be pure, but they must also be present.

Ross S. Olson MD

Send comments to me at ross{at}

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