Stroking Without Sex

This article was originally published in March, 1976, in The Second Page, a publication of a long-defunct organization called Beyond Divorce Inc. The newsletter was brought to me by a friend, and despite how dated it is I decided to republish it.

If you were born in the 70s, this is the way it was for your parents. If you wondered if I've really been a relationship coach for over 35 years, here's your proof.

The accompanying picture is of me, Laurie Weiss. I was identified as Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Transactional Analysis Institute and a Teaching Member of the International Transactional Analysis Association.

Transactional Analysis and You
Stroking Without Sex

"Is there any way to get acquainted with a man without having sex first? Most guys want to have sex after the first or second date, or the third date for sure, or they tend to terminate the relationship."

Yes, there are many ways to get acquainted with the man without sleeping with him first. It is true, however, that our current subculture strongly supports men wanting to have sex with women a very short time after meeting them.

The reasons for this are very complex. I believe one important factor is that we are systematically taught to accept the idea that grown-ups do not and should not need to be physically touched. We accept the scientifically demonstrated fact that babies need physical stroking in order to survive. We usually respond to small children's request for cuddling, but somehow, as children reach sexual maturity, we stop touching them. (As parents stopped touching us when we were adolescents.) As grown-ups many of us are uncomfortable and uncertain when we experience the need for strokes we've been taught to ignore. We don't even know what we need.

We certainly don't know where to get it, and so we search for something, anything, which will relieve our discomfort. If by chance, we encounter physical touching, we feel better. However, our lives are so arranged that encountering meaningful physical touching is rare.

Most of the ways grown-ups are touched by other grown-ups (without being damaged a fight) can be observed by watching TV for an evening. Men are allowed to touch other men during and immediately after athletic encounters. Men and women are allowed to touch each other briefly in some greeting rituals. Women are allowed to touch other women in highly charged emotional situations. Men and women may be touched by medical practitioners. Men and women are allowed to have sexual relations with each other (as long as it's done off the TV screen).

As we grow and are being deprived of other physical strokes, we learn that sex is a culturally acceptable way of being close to others. Since sexual encounters provide many physical strokes, these encounters relieve the discomfort we experience when we do not get an adequate supply of physical contact with others.

We learned to equate sexual needs with stroking needs and then get into the complicated circular situation you described in your question. Sex manuals in the 50's were cautioning men that women need lots of physical strokes before they would be ready for lovemaking. Men, on the other hand, were expected to be ready instantly. Even during sexual encounters men didn't have the opportunity to get many physical strokes for themselves and although sexual needs were satisfied the stroking needs were only partially satisfied.

Women were likely to have a large part of their stroking needs met during the day when men were trying to arouse them to want sex. Therefore, men were in the position of urging women to sleep with them in order to even partially satisfy a need for strokes they were not even aware of having.

Many of the rules about sex have changed since the 50's. However, the basic problem of grown-ups having limited opportunities for meaningful physical strokes remains. Recent newspaper articles reported that men are acknowledging needs for nonsexual touching. As those needs become acceptable the general problem you describe may gradually disappear.

Meanwhile you might experiment with sharing physical touching with men you meet and delaying sleeping together until you feel comfortable about doing it.

If you enjoyed this article, Being Happy Together: How to Have a Fabulous Relationship With Your Life Partner in Less Than an Hour a Week will provide you with much more information that I believe will be useful to you.

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