Consensual Hugs

By Theia. 

In France they do a thing called an une bis. That’s when they kiss you on both cheeks to say hello. They do it at informal occasions like parties to people they know or have just been introduced to by a mutual friend. Imagine that you’re in France and for every person you meet, you have to kiss them on both cheeks. Some will have a kick out of this, but for the more shy or reserved people, think how stressful it is to do something so foreign and unnatural.

For me, the midwest is my France. But instead of doing the une bis, they do hugs. Do I put my arms around their waist or over their shoulders? Do I do it sash style where one arm is above the shoulder and one arm is below? How long do you hold the hug? Can there be space between you and the other person? How tight do I squeeze? We’re still hugging? Are they feeling my boobs? Do I put my cheek against theirs? Who releases from the hug first? Do I pat them on the back?

A guy who I was formerly seeing was having a farewell dinner for moving to NYC. He’s from Minnesota. As I was leaving, he went in for the hug. I only wrapped one arm around him, but he held on tight for a while, so I felt the need to start patting him on the back with my one arm and rest my cheek against him. The hug lasted so long that I got tired of patting. Where I’m from (east coast) that hug was intimate as fuck! That was basically first base. Fuck you, we stopped seeing each other, don’t tell me you’re interested right before you leave! YOU CAN GO TO… oh wait. You’re from the midwest, it’s just what you do. You can go to…NYC, where they don’t hug platonic friends like that.

My housemate was having a shitty day because a girl he had a big fat crush on decided she no longer wanted to see him. All of the housemates were sad.The Minnesota housemate squeezed him a tight hug, made a sad puppy dog face and said she was sorry.The Iowa housemate called him and gave him a pep talk (he was out of town, so that’s why he didn’t hug).  I bought him beer. He appreciated the gift and wanted to give me a hug because of that. I BOUGHT MY FEELINGS INSTEAD OF SAYING THEM BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANNA HUG!

I can’t win.

There’s this big trend in parenting and pre-school education about teaching little kids consent. Too often parents, relatives, and family friends tell toddlers “Come give you mommy/auntie a hug!” as if it’s a toddlers obligation to be cute and show affection. Now parents and pre-school teachers are being taught to ask their kids for a hug, and if they don’t want one then that must be respected to show children have control over their personal space.

I wish this consensual hugging was applicable to 23 year olds.

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