Thank you Brian for writing this and sourcing such great imagery. I love seeing photos of men holding hands and connecting so freely and without any sexual connotations. I’m a woman so this is obviously only partially relevant to me, but nevertheless I’d like to share a pertinent experience:
In 2009, I spent two months living and studying at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, which was the birthplace of the human potential movement in the sixties. I was touched SO MUCH there. Everyone held hands, stroked people’s backs, put hands on shoulders, hugged a lot, leant against one another. It was just part of the way of life there. I was so struck by how little touch there was between me and my British friends — and I’m a woman who hugs all my friends on saying hello and goodbye! I felt incredibly nourished by all that touch, and sad for what I’d return to — a culture where touch is fairly awkward and laced with an undertone or question about sexual intention.
It’s interesting observing how interconnected touch is with sex in our society. I wonder if that has something to do with why we’re touch starved in general, particularly men. I definitely observe that many couples have issues around touch, which is perhaps a conversation for another day but which I’m sure is also connected to what you’ve written about here.