My little sister brought friends home after Church today, and watching them made me wonder. As we all talked she, her roommate, and two boys they knew sat on our sectional, switching positions, playing with each others' hair, tickling, holding hands, sprawling, fighting over pillows, cuddling...
I just watched. It wasn't an awkward "watching them make out on the couch" type of thing... just noticing what happened as time went on and we talked. There wasn't a girl (or guy) for me anyway.
I guess I haven't really had the opportunity to watch many teenage boys & girls interact. I don't think my sister or her roommate has a crush on the boys, but physicality was there anyway. One guy's leg was stretched across the couch, or my sister had her head laid back against his chest... Everyone was always touching.
And that's completely foreign to me.
I have an inner repulsion that would have to be calmed before I could join a couch of girls engaged in cuddling. And, according to what little I know about unwritten societal rules, it would pretty much never be okay for me to sprawl on a couch full of guys, or to lean my head on another guy's chest. Even putting my arm above a guy on the back of a chair or couch seems like it's pushing the envelope. Intertwining fingers to hold hands doesn't seem like it would work.
I don't feel like almost anything they did would be acceptable between guys. Between girls? Yeah. But between guys... no.
I feel like modern society has sexualized touch to the point that the only contact men have with each other is a handshake or high-five. It's like doing anything else would be inciting homosexual feelings... or something absurd along those lines. Shaking hands with people at Church doesn't really fill my needs for touch. Why is guy-girl touch affirmative, girl-girl touch is accepted, but guy-guy touch is often interpreted as potentially sexual?
I feel like this - the societal construct that dictates that men don't touch one other - makes homosexuality a hundred times harder to deal with. If non-sexual touch between guys existed, then there would be an out. I need physicality, and then I could find healthy, spiritually safe, non-sexual ways to meet it. As it is, though, currently, putting my arm on the pew at Church next to another guy seems to be in the same category as making out with him: totally inappropriate.
I wonder how it happened. Who made it happen? What cultural artifacts made such a dramatic change possible? It's only been maybe a few years, a few decades, that touch has been hyper-sexualized in its nature by American society. That the phrase, "I love you, man" included the caveat "no homo." That the ideal man became distant, insensitive, and completely self-sufficient - especially from other men. It feels like it's as much a geographic artifact as it is chronological. In Italy they still give bacci - kisses - when saying hello or goodbye to friends, strangers, and colleagues.
So men who realize that they need affirmation from other men (guys like me), find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Try to find close friendship, emotional intimacy, or physicality with hetero guys, and hit a wall. Society has trained men well to avoid unnecessary contact, and since hetero guys can meet whatever needs for intimacy they have by following societal rules, they're happy to oblige. So where to turn?
Hence the draw of spending time with other guys with SSA. They get it. They understand. They know what it's like to sit in a crowd and feel alone - to need someone to give me a hug and feel how awkward it is to even ask for one, let alone get rejected. They know what it's like to have to dull my feelings when they flare beyond my control... and they know what it means when I say that feelings don't dull selectively. They're willing to talk, to listen, to look into my eyes and be there.
But those same situations are dangerous. It's like alcoholics being forced to drink in a bar because it's the only place that sells clean water. That's when same-sex attraction turns from a trial to a temptation... and mutual attraction turns innocent sitting on the couch into something beyond the boundaries that God has set.
I just wish that there was some way to change our society. To allow men to meet the needs they have, safely and within the context of normalcy. To align the boundaries of touch and physicality with the actual boundaries God has set.
But I have no idea how that will ever change.