For a new study, researchers from UK’s Oxford University and Finland’s Aalto University surveyed 1,300 people to create a “body map”, showing where — and by whom — people are comfortable being touched. Unsurprisingly, they found that this mostly depends on the relationship, although there are some remarkable differences between men and women. Women were overall more comfortable with physical contact than men, especially when it came to being touched by friends. While men were generally comfortable with being touched by female friends, both men and women were generally uncomfortable being touched by men. And when it came to being touched by strangers, women said the only place they were comfortable with men touching was their hands. Researcher Julia Suvilehto argues that the results show that touching is an important means of maintaining social relationships, as the “body map” is strongly linked to the pleasure caused by touching: “The greater the pleasure caused by touching a specific area of the body, the more selectively we allow others to touch it.” Nevertheless, researchers warned that their results (based on an online survey) contain an oversampling of young, well-educated women and their findings might be limited to Western cultures only.
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