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#425337 - 02/15/13 06:40 AM Casual physical affection, what is normal?
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1927
Loc: durham, north england
Hi.

I am asking this question hear since I think this is something which perhaps some of the ladies who are familiar with survivers might be able to advise on as well.

For the last few months, I've been doing a light opera production of Iolanthe with another university. I'm playing one of the two principle Lords, sort of a comedy duo, one tenor (me), called tolloller, and a baritone. As usual with these sorts of things, people involved get fairly close, since you've got a bunch of students, all betwene 20 and 30, engaged on going on stage, singing and dacning.

One tendency I've noticed about such things is people grow to be very tactile with each other, and as a group, indeed slightly more than is usual in English culture, (I have been told by some of my European and even American friends that this is an area where we brits are rather over stiff).

Of course, with my hyper sensativity to touch and physical affection, especially! where girls are concerned, I have always found this a little difficult, yet at the same time it's part of the activity, indeed one reason people do! become so tactile is practically to do with staging, since you can't really engage in some of the sort of business on stage if your totally stand off about casual touch, ---- heck the director has myself and the other principle lord gripping each other's wrists and hoisting the main female lead into the air to form a human throne at one point! (given that the other lord involved with this is slightly weedy, most of the actual weight carrying end of this falls to me).

people thus grow very physically affectionate off stage. lots of hugging, casual pats on the back etc, indeed quite often sessions end with a group hug.

I've experienced this before, but usually people avoid most physical affection with me even in those circumstances, obviously sensing my "don't touch me" field. I've noticed though this! time things seem different, and I'm experiencing a lot more of this, for example the other day I was required to hold hand with a pair of girls while practicing an on stage dance, then when the director finished to give us the next instruction, one particular girl kept holding on to my hand and squeezed gently.

Last thursday, when in the bar after a rehearsal one girl (the same female lead who I'm required to hold in the air at one point), gave me a hug from the back and kissed the top of my head while saying goodnight (she'd also hugged several other guys, and indeed girls), though of course since I was wearing my large and heavy flease lined leather jacket at the time (a jacket I'm very fond of), I was in some measure protected from the full experience.

these are the sorts of things that haven't really happened since I was a lot younger, indeed around 18 or so. I'm guessing that probably since finishing my phd, since doing recovery etc and since being far more conscious of what I'm doing I'm probably projecting a little less tactile defensiveness than usual, heck where animals are concerned I'm an extremely tactile person, (again, this is the first production I've done since getting my guide dog, which probably helps again).

The problem however is I have absolutely no idea what sort of thing is normal, acceptable etc, and what is not since my only measure is my own feelings on the subject and if I think about physical affection i feel disgusting and guilty. This means that in the past even holding hands with a girl (off stage), or hugging a guy on the shoulder felt like moving the earth to me, indeed this has always been one thing about staging which I've got used to, it's about the only time I've been comfortable since your always told! what to do in terms of hand holding, embracing etc. I have a recurrent nightmare in which I'm sitting oposite a girl talking, then I'm suddenly accused of s/xual abuse, and I am terrified of making someone feel the way I feel when I! experience even casual affection, albeit that I know my feelings are a long way from normal.

Does anyone have any suggestions with this? it's very difficult to track someone's feelings when the only guide I have is my own, and while my emotional sense is quite adequate to let me know what a person feels, I'm so scared that if I even so much as pat someone on the back, it'll be seen as invasive and wrong.

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#425342 - 02/15/13 07:51 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
SoccerStar Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/15/12
Posts: 915
Loc: New York
It's very brave of you to confront this head-on and to admit you are nervous about being judged for getting touch "wrong." Social / tactile boundaries can be a real problem.

Nothing you describe is socially abnormal / unacceptable, though I for one find group hugs weird and creepy. The female lead hugging you and many others individually shows that she is both outgoing and being friendly to her "supporting" team - in a way it's also a show of her status, she bestows affection on others and it is understood to "matter" because of her starring role. If the MVP insists on hugging all his teammates it's a different signal dynamic than if the benchwarmer tries it.

If the other girl squeezed your hand, there's a fair chance she likes you. If you know she's unattached you may want to weigh if / how you'd want to follow up. Of course you don't have to do anything.

In general, if you're unsure it's best to keep it to hello-s, goodbye-s, and congratulations after performances. Touching people when everyone is just standing around talking could be misinterpreted.
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#425351 - 02/15/13 08:57 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1927
Loc: durham, north england
Hi socker star.

I'm not sure on whether the certain girl likes me or not, that is dam difficult and I have no ideas on that front, indeed that's one reason I'd like to sort this out since at least three of my friends who are now married communicated their feelings to each other entirely by touch.

About the female leed, I'm not sure on the showing support thing, since the dynamics in productions are a little different from those in sports teams, indeed on that front I am actually the principle tenor of this performance myself, albeit that in this particular production he is one of a paire of rather commical lords as opposed to the romantic hero.

I've also noticed that stage performers, especially those of an incredibly good standard tend to be either far too serious, cleaque orientated and pushy, or highly relaxed and pretty nice to everyone whether your a back member of the chorus or one of the principles, indeed often the entire ethos of a production depends upon how many of the one or the other type you have.

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#425383 - 02/15/13 02:55 PM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
HD001 Offline


Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 242
Loc: us
Hey dark. I think this is really good question and I was able to relate a lot to some of the things you said. Also being a survivor (although I am female). I felt the same way about touching others. For years I held up the don't touch me vibes pretty well. For me I was especially uncomfortable with men touching me. So many times when a male friend or relative would hug me they would comment about me tensing up and ask why. I would always just say that I'm not a huggy person. After a couple years a therapy I noticed the same thing that you mentioned. People hugged me more often and gave me pats on the back etc. I still didn't really like it but worked really hard to not tense up because some people would take my reaction to their touch personally.
Over time it got easy to accept hugs and not want to immediatly pull away but it taken awhile. However like you I have a hard time being the one who makes contact. I'm so afraid of making people feel uncomfortable or that I will creep them out. This is causing problems with my survivor H because he thinks that I'm just cold. Becoming secure with affectionate touch is a hurdle I think many survivors face. However I have just tried to copy what I see the "normal" people do. When a friend is sad I hug them. When I have an affectionate thought for someone I reach out and pat them on the back etc. My actions have been well received by others. I confessed to a couple friends that the real reason I wasn't touchy was because I don't want to come off as predatory. My friends laughed and told me that was the last thing they would see me as. That helped me feel better
As far as the kiss on the head I think it was meant as a friendly gesture. I would try not to worry about it unless things escalate. My advice is to follow the lead of people you feel safe with. And try to remember that their touch is a sign that they accept you and like you. And is not sexual
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#425441 - 02/16/13 12:06 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1927
Loc: durham, north england
Hi Hd.

this sounds familiar, though i will say I actually like! the thought of a woman worrying about seeming predatory, since it has always felt to me that as a man I'm under really strict cultural sensor on this, and there have been a couple of occasions when something which has been overtly s/xual and would be considdered extreme harrassment if the genders were reversed has made me feel awfull, especially considdering my abuse was essentially gang rape by and s/xual humiliation mostly by girls (though boys were present).

I'm not however concerned about the romantic end of physical affection here, indeed I can't really apply! any of those concepts to myself at all, I just want to get a little more used to this. I am fairly certain the kiss on the head was! indeed just friendly affection, however it is A, how I should respond and B, what from me would be considdered a correct! response that is my concern, since if (even as a friend), I hugged the female lead in a similar way at a similar time I'd feel as if I was being ridiculously too invasive and pushy.

Heck, while I considder that particular girl a friend I am not! in any sense attracted to her, indeed I'd feel the same concern about affection with any of the guys, and in fact while it is rarer this is one circumstances where guys do! occasionally hug each other or give pats on the back if they are feeling close enough, though it is still less common than with girls.

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#425445 - 02/16/13 12:49 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
HD001 Offline


Registered: 07/30/12
Posts: 242
Loc: us
I think you should just be you. If you don't feel like returning the physical gestures than don't. Do what feel natural. I know I have a tendancy to over think things when it comes to my interactions. You must be an alright guy or your fellow thespians wouldn't be embracing you. They like you so you must be doing something right. And yes I think that woman can be creepy. I don't think its fair to assign that trait to only one gender. Good luck with your production.
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#425449 - 02/16/13 04:24 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1927
Loc: durham, north england
Hd, your certainly right about women and creepy, even young women.

I was once outside a bar at about midnight walking back from a theatrical performance, a girl walked up to me and said hello, I then said Hi in a discomforted manner, she then came irritatingly close and attempted to physically grab hold of me, ---- frankly even if she hadn't! stank of cigarettes and cheap perfume (my trigger smell from my abuse as a teenager), I'd have been worried, I literally turned around and ran.

The problem is I've been "doing what comes naturally to me" for absolutely years now, and it has limits. I've made some good friends of both genders, but never anything more than friends, indeed from my own perspective I'm not convinced anyone! has been interested in being closer to me at all. physical affection seems to be part of this, especially if your male since one cultural thing which I hate! is that it always seems to be the man who must express his interest in becoming closer to a woman, while the woman has all the power to accept or reject. I'd very much prefer someone to ask me, but that doesn't happen, either because of the sterriotype, or because I'm projecting so much of a "don't touch me" field, or both.

I'd like to actually move forward with this instead of just being stuck behind the usual wall again, particularly because where none humans are concerned I am extremely tactile, get on very well with animals of all kinds especially dogs, and indeed very young babies for the same reason.

That's why I'm sort of trying to gain more information. I have as I said, a horrible recurrent nightmare, where I'm sitting and talking to a female friend, then suddenly I'm accused of commiting sa, and as someone who suffers extreme genophobia and even finds the word s/x difficult that is pretty painfull.


Where this came from is pretty clear, since all of these are things your supposed to learn in the socialization process as a teenager, however what I learnt as a teenager was anyone who touched me at all around my own age was going to do something deeply unpleasant, indeed on one occasion I remember the end of a computer power lead I was carrying came lose from it's coil and touched me on the behind, and I spun round and screamed "get off" before realizing there was no one there.

that is why I'd like to do something about this, especially in an environment where I am confident in what I'm doing in terms of singing and performing.

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