- Although it is often assumed that men touch women more than women touch men, this hasn’t been a consistent research finding. In fact, differences in touch in cross-gender interactions are very small.
- Women do engage in more touching when interacting with same-gender conversational partners than do men.
- In general, men tend to read more sexual intent into touch than do women, who often underinterpret sexual intent. Peter A. Andersen, Nonverbal Communication: Forms and Functions (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1999), 125.
There is a touch taboo for men in the United States. In fact, research supports the claim that men’s aversion to same-gender touching is higher in the United States than in other cultures, which shows that this taboo is culturally relative. For example, seeing two adult men holding hands in public in Saudi Arabia would signal that the men are close friends and equals, but it wouldn’t signal that they are sexually attracted to each other. Judith N. Martin and Thomas K. Nakayama, Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 5th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2010), 274. The touch taboo also extends to cross-gender interactions in certain contexts. It’s important to be aware of the potential interpretations of touch, especially as they relate to sexual and aggressive interpretations.