Dating Support: Non-sexual Touch!

Two people holding hands, only arms and hands visible in front of a path on a hill. One arm is bare, the other has a cotton light brown shirt, with cuff folded up, past wrist.

Photo by Sdf Rahbar on Unsplash

Dating Support: Non-sexual Touch!

While dating, we often crave touch. People in healthy relationships get touched in many ways, from hugs to sex, but single people don’t usually get enough of any type. What can we do?

Non-sexual touch!  It’s a thing!

Touch during dating is often experienced as either leading to sex (holding hands, kissing) or sexual.  However, there is a whole range of non-sexual touching that, when valued just for itself, can provide the nurturing touch that single people need.

The event equals the event

What does it mean to value a touch just for itself? It means that each action can be enjoyed as is, without needing to lead to anything else—the event equals the event, and no more. If each person on a date agrees to see touch this way, they can both sink into the touch and enjoy it instead of worrying or hoping that it will lead anywhere else,

Non-sexual touch!  It’s a range of things!

Once we unhook touch from the sexual, we can see the variety of consensual non-sexual ways there are to touch – holding hands, taking someone’s arm while walking, sharing a hug, leaning into them while dancing, stroking their face, giving them a foot massage, or cuddling them.

Six types of non-sexual touch: examples from my 50 dates

During my years of dating to find a committed partner (chronicled in my upbeat book, Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir), I built in a lot of non-sexual touch with my friends and my dates. 

I offer these six types of non-sexual touch to expand your options for touch as support during your dating, using examples from the 50 first dates in my memoir.

1) Contact or other forms of dance

Contact dance exemplifies non-sexual touching.  The point of this dance is to touch, but only non-sexual, non-romantic body parts – no face-to-face dancing, no using hands to stroke. Arms, legs and bodies are used to touch, but not to embrace or dance so closely as to turn someone on. 

While I was taking a break from dating, I attend a weekly contact dance and always felt calmed and filled from the touch I shared there. I met someone there to date, and we continued the non-sexual touching for quite awhile before we became sexual.

Other forms of dance that involve contact — ballroom, salsa, country dancing, tango — can also provide non-sexual, but satisfying touch. Try them until you find one you like!

2) Hand-holding and taking their arm

Something so simple as holding hands on a date can feel intimate and fulfill our touch needs.  Hands communicate so much. 

On two dates with very shy men, I initiated holding their hands. On date number 11, we were walking along a beach. He was saying how romantic it was, but he wasn’t touching me. So, I took his hand and he did not pull away.  On date number 27, I asked if I could take his arm while we were walking on a flat path. He said yes, and it made me feel more connected.  After awhile, I let my hand drop down his arm to his hand and held it, and he kept it there. Afterwards, he marveled at how I had gently taken his arm and ended up in his hand – and he was glad I had.

3) Hugging

Hugging, when consensual, can provide nurturing touch between friends and dates.  Non-sexual hugging usually includes a comfortable amount of upright body to body holding, without kissing. Lingering in a hug when we are craving touch can feel delicious.

Important tips for non-sexual hugs:

  • Calibrate your squeeze so you are not hugging stronger than the other person.
  • Keep all hands way above the waist.
  • When one person starts to pull away, that is the sign to let go.
  • If there is any question about a person’s hug intentions, clarify the type and length of a hug beforehand to make the hug safe for yourself.

There is lots of hugging in my memoir – from greetings at the front door, to long lingering ones. All are consensual.  

4) Face-stroking

Face stroking can be a very nurturing touch to share when you know it is not leading to sex. In the relationship workshops I attended (see previous post on relationship workshops), a common exercise in dyads was to listen with compassion to each other share about our lives, and then take turns stroking each other’s face as another level of honoring each other.  The facilitators made it clear we were not being sexual, and guided us to appreciate each part of the face of this precious person, so it felt sacred as well as safe and satisfying. 

On one first date, we were sitting on a couch, wrapped up in robes after a sauna, staring happily at each other, murmuring how glad we were to be together. We leaned into each other and kissed, which was just what I wanted. Then I reached up and asked if I could stroke his face and hair, and he said yes, so I did that, slowly and reverently. I was clear – this is as far as I wanted to go on this first date.  Unfortunately, he said he couldn’t stop at face stroking —he wanted to go farther and make love. When I said I didn’t want that, he said he couldn’t just kiss and face stroke, so I decided to leave.  He was not ready for non-sexual touch. However, with other men who were more familiar with face-stroking, we both enjoyed it equally.

5) Foot massage

Foot massage can be a very friendly way to touch when it is not leading to sex—even when you think it might!

On date number 3, my friend Ron visited me for breakfast and a hot tub.  I was wondering if this date would spark a romantic connection.  In the hot tub after breakfast, Ron started stroking my feet. His touch relaxed and grounded me. I started giving him a shoulder rub – he loved it.  There was no spark, just a connection of touch, an appreciation that we could make each other feel so good.  It was enough—the event equaled the event.

On date number 16, I was visiting my friend Brad in his elegant but cold country house.  We were sitting in front of a fire to warm up, satiated with a pasta meal and chocolate chip cookies, and I propped my feet on his lap. He started stroking my knees, my calves, my feet, and I gasped as ecstatic feelings rippled up my leg. I gripped the chair and let the delicious sensations undulate through me. We didn’t end up being sexual. A yummy foot massage was satisfying enough. 

6) Advanced: Cuddling with no sex (Cuddle Parties)

An advanced form of non-sexual touch is to be able to simply hold or cuddle someone, either for an hour, an evening, or a night, without being sexual.  This can be done with friends or dates if you both have the intention of just feeling close. In some cities, there are ‘Cuddle Parties’ that provide a safe place to do just that.    

The third time out with one of my dates, we had returned from a movie during which he had rejected my attempts to hold hands. I was serving him tea on my couch, figuring he just did not like to touch. All of a sudden, he asked me to cuddle him. I did, and we both agreed we didn’t want to kiss or be sexual. It was delicious. On date number 37, we spent several dates just cuddling, without kissing. 

What types of non-sexual touch have you enjoyed?

Are you a person who needs touch? Non-sexual touch can be an important source of support while dating, and six types of non-sexual touch have been briefly mentioned here. Read my book, Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir, to see how they enhanced my dating.

What types of non-sexual touch have you enjoyed while dating?  Any I have not mentioned? Has that sustained you?  Let me know in the comments.

Published by Carolyn Lee Arnold

I'm the author of Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir, about my dating adventures to find my perfect partner in my late fifties. I found him, and we've been happily together for over 10 years. These blog posts explore what I learned while dating and from writing my book. For more about the book, including dating resources, other writings, and fun interviews with me, check out my website at the top of this page.

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