I’m touch-averse, though not repulsed. I do not enjoy the vast majority physical contact, it does nothing for me, I have no desire to touch or be touched, I read about skin hunger and I’m just baffled. I don’t feel violated or experience sensory overload or have a physical reaction to being touched, the idea of it doesn’t make me feel ill except when it’s in sexual contexts; I just don’t like it. I’m pretty asensual.
For the most part, I don’t like skin-on-skin touch, I don’t like sweaty or clammy or warm touch, I don’t like unwelcome contact, I don’t like unnecessary elbow brushings while passing strangers, I don’t like non-friends touching my arms. I hate being touched on the back. I hate being touched on the back, please do not gently pat my back while I’m having a coughing fit I will just delay taking my inhaler to move away from your hands and to try and explain while coughing that I need you to not touch my back.
I enjoy head massages and having my hair played with. Sometimes I enjoy skin-on-clothes or clothes-on-clothes contact, such as on the train, when the feeling of the cloth moving against my arm or leg hair is nice. As long as it’s clothes-on-clothes I don’t shy away when a manspreader tries to edge out my knees from my rightful space, but I don’t enjoy prolonged still contact and I’ll rearrange myself on a couch if there’s too much skin-on-clothes or clothes-on-clothes contact with a friend or stranger. Maybe I would enjoy someone running their fingernails across my arm, since that’s a sensation I enjoy creating for myself, but it’s never happened.
Hugs are probably my most frequent physical contact with people. Nowadays I’m neutral about the physicality of hugs—they’re not pleasant but for the most part they’re not unpleasant—but I take joy in what they represent. Hugs are emotional closeness as well as physical! I used to regularly go through periods where I disliked hugs and I wouldn’t hug even my closest friends, but I also had to put up with a lot more unwelcome touch and people becoming upset that I didn’t want to hug or have them in my personal space specifically. If it’s stinking hot and we’re sleeveless and a hug’s likely to involve skin-on-skin contact and transferring sweat and heat then I’ll probably avoid it because the unpleasantness of the touch will outweigh the mental component, but most of the time I will happily hug because hugging people whose company I enjoy is a happy! And of course there are the polite see-you-after-the-holidays hugs with co-workers which for most of them have zero emotional impact but the AC’s working and a quick clothes-on-clothes touch is fine, and the hugs in times of distress when I’m not so much hugging a person as I am being emotionally ensconced/smothered.
I am okay, generally, with professional touch. After years of physio I have finally stopped being uncomfortable and anxious about the idea of massage. It’s a purposeful and specific touch, it involves gel and dry heat, it cycles through increasing and lessening pain. It’s skin-on-skin contact, but the use of the sports gel or massage oil creates a texture to the contact that makes it so unlike every other instance of touch in my life that I can partition it off as if it’s skin-on-medicinal tool contact. (This is also probably the only warm touch I like.)
The other exception is my partner, who enjoys activities such as holding hands. Now, I do not, for the most part, like other people’s hands. I do not know what the hands have touched, what has been coughed onto the hands, what scents might be clinging to them, how warm and clammy these hands might be. Occasionally I don’t even like it when my left palm touches my right palm. I am typing this now and pausing to look at my palms and they are getting itchy and I’m going to have to wash them and moisturise them with the only hand lotion I have found ever that I don’t hate. I will hold hands with my partner. I don’t ever initiate hand holding because it doesn’t occur to me that that’s a thing and sometimes—for what I’m sure are baffling reasons like “no, it’s too warm” and “not when I’m crossing a road”—I cannot deal with holding hands, but I will hold hands with my partner, skin-on-skin, palm-on-palm, when this contact would be unthinkable with any other person. Like hugs, I don’t enjoy the physicality. The touch doesn’t become pleasurable just because it’s my partner’s; it becomes non-odious. What this touch represents and the emotion it conjures is immense.
I also don’t understand the allure of it, why it makes my partner happy, but I understand that my partner being happy makes me happy, and I’m happy to make my partner happy, and occasionally even when I’m finding holding hands a bit uncomfortable I’m happier than I am uncomfortable (as long as I’m not crossing a road :p) and I’m content to continue holding hands, especially since it occurs for such a limited amount of time per year. Now, if we weren’t long distance and saw one another frequently then hand holding might lose some of that emotional lustre for me and make me less willing to continue holding hands past the point of becoming-a-bit-uncomfortable, but that’s only speculation. Maybe I would get more used to holding hands, maybe we’d start giving each other head massages, I don’t know! Would definitely need to think and talk about compromises and touch boundaries.
As for touches that are complete no-gos? Cuddling. Can’t do it. Don’t like long hugs (I start feeling trapped), cuddles are right out. Non-professional massages, no. Non-consensual massages, fuck off. The idea of kissing is distressingly gross. I dislike wet mouth sounds, they set me on edge. Plus, um, that’s where food and air goes? And there is so much saliva?? And lips are really weird??? Why would anyone want to touch a mouth????? I just??? don’t?? get it??????? And then you add in the extra touching that’s required to position a mouth into another mouth and to keep it there and the associated hand touching and aslshafklfsfhsklad I feel queasy thinking about it. As for sexual activity, well! I have occasionally wondered about trying it, having read about aces who enjoy sex, who love having orgasms, but the idea of that much skin-on-skin contact in combination with everything else puts that firmly in Nope Nope Nope Town; just visualising that much touch is upsetting. And did I mention don’t touch my back without permission??