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Hug It Out! The Case For Showing More Affection

We’ve all read about that so-called dastardly “hugging epidemic” that is sweeping the nation’s youth like The Jitterbug (or oral sex parties) and spurring quick-thinking middle and high schools to ban hugs.

But though we chuckle at the idea that in 2009, school administrators are whipping out the “Keep six inches between you for the Holy Spirit!” line of rhetoric, the Affection Police are actually pretty effed-up. Contrary to what Principal Skinner might have you believe, humans aren’t affectionate just because we like copping a feel—we may have a biological imperative to bond.Of course, showing affection is different in all families and subcultures. Plus, homophobia is rampant and fear of sexual harassment accusations probably cause some would-be affection-givers to keep their hands to themselves. But would we—could we?—be affectionate more frequently if society didn’t tell us it’s wrong? Steven Kotler at Psychology Today asked:

“If humans were to live in a ‘natural state’ (I know, whatever the hell that means), how much time would we spend in contact with one another? What is our natural state of affection? And, perhaps more importantly, what would a return to that state mean for our species?

Forbidding hugs is silly for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that humans are biologically hardwired to be social. So Kotler looked to the animal kingdom for some guidance.

Some biologists believe humans have learned pack behavior from wolves and dogs, so it makes sense man may have also picked up the pooch-y inclination to cuddle. “If two dogs climb into an empty bed, they’re much more likely to lie down touching one another than they are to head towards separate corners,” Kotler wrote. This could be to gel the relationships of the pack together through non-sexual physical intimacy.

We can also learn from bonobos, our monkey friends infamous for having sex all the time. “Boy-on-boy, boy-on-girl, girl-on-girl, close relatives, absolute strangers—sex (meaning physical contact) is how [bonobos] say hello,” wrote Kotler. But these monkeys aren’t just hornier than a ninth grade gym class—biologists believe sex is how the bonobos bond with each other and they do it all the time because they biologically crave the bond. Sex gels their relationships to each other.

Of course, humans (with the exception of Bret Michaels) don’t go around having sex all the time like bonobos do. But perhaps kids are hugging because they crave a bond with each other, too.

Geez, is it any wonder prisoners in solitary confinement go stark raving mad? [Psychology Today]

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