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Haptic Intelligence


Now "when everyone is apart and together in their apartness" we still can provide ourselves with the simple acts of self-intimacy and care while the outside world, as we know it, is going obsolete


It is unusual to think of your hands as ever-present enemies which, most likely, are going to infect you at some point. To remind yourself that from now on you have to be constantly anxious about not touching anything around you without a reason.  Hands suddenly have been transformed into poisonous tentacles that we cannot cut off but keep clean and away from anything and anyone including ourselves. 


Ironically enough, the more we are told of the dangers surrounding the act of touching oneself with dirty hands, the stronger is the itch to do so. Can physical necessity to touch one's face be so strong that even basic desire for survival along with power of will cannot withstand it? An irresistible craving to scratch an eye, poke one’s nose, rub the forehead or gnaw the tip of the nail were trying to eradicate with the rules of etiquette from the 18th century and in public places it worked to varying  degrees of success. In solitude,  of course, human instincts always were taking their toll.


A powerful hand to face combination first appears shortly before our birth – ultrasound of pregnant women shows that we begin to touch ourselves already at the stage of embryonic development and continue to do this throughout our life. Automatically and unconsciously. It is absurd to suppose that, as if on command, we suddenly unlearn the habit of touching our faces even if it threatens our lives. However, Winston Churchill’s words “Our future is in our hands” have never taken such a literal meaning.




According to the observations of Morris, there are more than 650 variations of touching hands with the head, which conditionally fall into 4 main categories: 

  • Shielding actions – the hand is brought up to cut off or reduce input to the sense organs or conceal the facial expression.

  • Cleaning actions – the hand is brought up to perform scratch, rub, wipe, or similar actions. In many instances they are “nervous” actions, caused by emotional tensions.

  • Specialised signals – the hand is brought up to the head to perform a symbolic gesture like twisting a finger next to the temple meaning that someone or something is "crazy". 

  • Self-intimacies – the hand is brought up to perform some action that copies or imitates an interpersonal intimacy.   

Sudden feelings of emotional distress drive us, unconsciously, to provide the soothing contact which, under other circumstances, a loved one's hand might have offered, or which long ago our parents would have provided when we were tiny children. Now, in the absence of a lover's or parent's hand, it's our own hand that comforts us. It does so automatically, unthinkingly, and without hesitation. Self-intimacy acts may appear to be “one-person” acts, but in reality they are unconscious mimes of two-person acts, with part of the body being used to perform the contact movement of the imaginary companion.

Understanding the hidden nature of an intimate touch, we get the opportunity to better understand and manage our emotional states, having the key to decode our self-touching patterns. One of the most common types of hand to face touch resting the part of the head on the hand, with the elbow of the arm in contact with a supporting surface. By the frequency of use, contacts with the hairs and touching  of the mouth are following.


By providing it with support from the elbow, it has become something more solid, and seems instead to be acting as a substitute for the shoulder or chest of an imaginary ‘embracing companion’. When, as a child or a lover, we are held in another’s arms, we frequently rest the side of our face against their body and feel their soft warmth through the skin of our cheek. By resting the side of our face on our supported hand, we are able to re-create that feeling in their absence, and thereby give ourselves a welcome sensation of comfort and intimacy.

Although the reason for this touch is the need for some comforting, one involuntarily recalls scenes from the cartoons in which a bored child props his chubby cheek with his fist, showing with his whole appearance how tired or bored he is. In any case, both in grief and in boredom, loving mother's hands repeated the same movement, holding us tightly to her.


Another common form of contact is fingers touching the lips. In fact, this gesture is an unconscious return to infancy and maternal breasts. Sure enough, no one walks down the street with a finger in his mouth, but often you can observe the simplest modifications of this touch, for example, when we hold a pressed finger between our lips. This can continue for a sufficiently long period of time while its preoccupied owner is restoring peace of mind, calling in his subconscious mind a sense of security that he had previously experienced in contact with his mother's breast when was a little infant. The finger can also gently rub the surface of the lips, mimicking the movements of baby's lips around the nipple. When we are excited, sometimes we are losing our regular self-awareness and can easily end up biting nails or keeping knuckles between our teeth. These self-intimacies may reveal inner insecurities and even be seen as hidden infantilism, but so is the nature of man – if one needs to calm down, long-forgotten tricks from childhood are repeated.

In 2014 scientists published a study of the brain stating that “spontaneous facial self-touch” helps to jump-start the memory, process information, and regulate emotions. At the same time, it turned out that our sensory receptors perceive touch differently, muffling sensations when we touch ourselves, and amplifying when someone else touches us.


In the aftermath of an extreme emotional or life threatening situation we hug ourselves with our arms and gently rock back and forth like a mother would have done it to her frightened infant. In less extreme cases we can fold our arms across our chest in a weaker form of self-embrace “than the full self-hug of misery” described above.  It is typically seen when we are slightly on the defensive. This way we regain some of our lost comfort and at the same time shut others out of our embrace  to find self-sufficient strength in our own private space. 

We are also probably not aware of those daily occurring moments when we hold hands with ourselves. One hand acts as our own, while the other, which clasps or grasps it, acts as the hand of an imaginary companion. We can intensify this comforting sensation by interlocking our fingers very similarly to those moments of a passionate bonding with our dearest people.


Leg-crossing also provides us with a remarkable degree of self-comfort giving us the reassuring pressure of one part of the body against another. There are few variations of that action that take into consideration the anatomical differences between the sexes. Placing the ankle of one leg on the knee or thigh of the other is regularly the action associated with man. While  a very tight twist of legs, when the upper leg shows up from around the ankle of the lower one, is more appropriate for women. Low level ankles cross is common between both sexes. Leg-hugging is a more intimate form of contact.
At its highest intensity it involves bringing up thighs up and the chest down. The pressure is increased by embracing the knees or lower legs with arms.

In moments of intense emotional stress,  the head can be lowered onto the knees or  we can press our knees to our chest, hugging them with our hands for a closer contact. In this case, our own knees act as a replacement for the chest or shoulder of a loved one.


With lockdown of non-essential activities forcing people to stay home while the virus is raging outside, surprisingly enough, the porn sites started to score a massive amount of views. It's not that they were unpopular in regular times but Coronavirus has created a whole new niche in the industry. Many visitors of porn-sites started to search for Corona related porn, which nudged porn-productions to create the new content to fulfil the demand. Now let's look at how the forever-present practice of self-pleasing has been treated by society throughout history.

The word itself appears to be a corruption of ‘manu-stuprare’, ‘to defile with the hand’, and reflects the fact that the most common method of sexual self-stimulation involves a hand-genital contact. Similar sensations can be reached by thigh-rubbing, in which the thighs are squeezed together, with an alternating tightening and relaxing of the inner muscles to produce a rhythmic pressure on the compressed genitals. Masturbation is widely practiced amongst so-called ‘primitive tribes’, “but is usually referred to as something of a joke, indicating that the masturbator is a failed copulator" (Desmond Morris, "Intimate behaviour", 1971). 


In the 18th century, masturbation was denounced as ‘the heinous sin of self-pollution’. In the 19th century, it became ‘the horrid and exhausting vice of self-abuse’, and sound Victorian ladies were forbidden to wash their genitals in case the gentle friction of such an act…’might induce impure thoughts’. In the early part of the 20th century, masturbation declined in horror to the level of a ‘nasty habit’. By the middle of the 20th century, attitudes had undergone a dramatic change, and it was at last boldly announced that masturbation is ‘a normal and healthy act for a person of any age’.


With such a radical swing from one extreme to the other, reasonable worries about excessive self-pleasing started to arise. Masturbation was thought to become a universal hobby. To which Desmond Morris replies that masturbation is only an alternative to sexual intercourse, but not its equivalent replacement in any way.

Anything done alone that is a mimic of something done with a companion must, of necessity, be inferior to the genuine act of body intimacy, and this rule must apply masturbation as much as to any other form of self-intimacy. If two people come to love one another sufficiently, the emotional intensity of their relationship stands a good chance of sweeping away the rigidity of their previous, solitary patterns of self-gratification, and allowing an increasingly free growth of the sexual interactions that occur between them.

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