Ever have a boss who was a little too touchy-feely around your back and shoulders? Or gotten a hug from a friend that lasted too long?
Oxford University scientists investigated how comfortable people are being touched. In the largest-ever study on physical contact, they asked nearly 1,500 men and women from Britain, Finland, France, Italy, and Russia to color in human body outlines to show which parts they would allow someone to touch, front and back. Touch is a powerful tool for communicating positive emotions. However, it has remained unknown to what extent social touch would maintain and establish social bonds. So using an Internet-based topographical self-reporting tool, those parts of their body that they would allow relatives, friends, and strangers to touch. These body regions formed relationship specific maps in which the total area was directly related to the strength of the emotional bond between the participant and the touching person. Cultural influences were minor. And not surprisingly, they found that the more you know someone, the more likely you are to be happy to be touched by him or her.
Erogenous zones, however, were out of bounds to all but partners, with one exception. Men indicated they were comfortable with female strangers touching any part of their body, even their genitals. In fact, a woman they barely know has “touching rights” similar to a parent and more than a sibling, according to the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences.