Physical intimacy

Physical intimacy is sensual proximity and/or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself and/or be an expression of feelings (such as close friendship, love, and/or sexual attraction) which people have for one another. Examples of physical intimacy include being inside someone's personal space, holding hands, hugging, kissing, caressing, and sexual activity.

The forms of physical intimacy, in order of increasing degree of intimacy (but not necessarily in order of increasing enjoyment), with each form generally including those preceding it, are: physical closeness, touching (especially tenderly), touching intimate parts (including outercourse), and sexual penetration.

Intimate proximity

It is possible to be physically intimate with someone without actually touching him or her; however, a certain proximity is necessary. For instance, proximity and sustained eye contact is a form of physical intimacy. When a person enters someone else's personal space for the purpose of being intimate, it is physical intimacy, regardless of the lack of actual physical contact.

The objective of physical closeness can be a mix in various proportions of desired intimacy and practical aspects, such as lack of space, softness, stability (e.g. in a moving vehicle), and keeping warm; e.g. somebody sits on somebody else's lap, or sleeps leaning on somebody else. Physical closeness may also be involuntary, as in a crowded train or elevator. In such cases eye contact tends to be avoided. See also frotteurism and groping. Another form of this kind of closeness is when one goes to a crowded place for entertainment: a bar, disco, pop concert, street festival, etc.

Affectionate touching

Virtually any kind of physical touch can be seen as affectionate under the right circumstances, but common examples include:

A personal relationship that does not involve sexual behavior, e.g. friendship, may involve affectionate touching. Friends may avoid physical intimacy to avoid associations with sexuality or emotional intimacy, in order not to appear to be in a sexual relationship. The definition of "sexual" physical intimacy varies greatly.

The connotations of different kinds of physical intimacy are largely culturally influenced. In western culture hugging is more common among women than men. In other cultures, such as Arab culture, men may hold hands with no implication of sexuality. Many East Asian cultures typically encourage relatively little body contact between friends, acquaintances, and members of the same sex. Even among family members and spouses, traditionally, there are fewer public displays of affection.

Whether a person is wearing clothing or is nude also plays a role.

A cuddle party is a party where strangers cuddle, touch, caress, and massage, subject to rules such as no nudity, no hands under clothes, no French kisses and no dry humping or other sex.

Also a person, especially a child, may caress and hug a doll or stuffed animal.

In the Roman Catholic rite of the Holy Mass, immediately after the Doxology, the congregation will partake in the Pax or Rite of Peace. In most Western churches, this involves a handshake and the words "Peace be with you." If the other party is someone known to you, a hug may be substituted. Spouses tend to hug and/or kiss each other first before using the traditional handshake and "Peace be with you" for the other surrounding members of the congregation.


In Japan and Korea, the term "skinship" is used to describe the intimacy, or closeness, between a mother and a child. Today, the word is generally used for bonding through physical contact, such as holding hands, hugging, or parents washing their child at a bath. The earliest citation of this word appears in Nihon Kokugo Daijiten in 1971.

The apparent similarity with the English word 'kinship' raises the question whether this word was originally coined as a play on words. Use of the word "skinship" in English publications seems to focus on the notion of sharing a bath naked, an idea known in Japanese as 'hadaka no tsukiai' . It is not clear why the meaning has shifted in being borrowed back into English.

Other forms of intimacy

Other kinds of intimacy include:

See also

External links

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