Why Touch is the Baseline for Intimacy
Save Intimacy is your guide to exploring barriers to intimacy. With devices an everyday presence in our lives, we set out to question our habits and examine the relationships between technology, personal connection and intimacy.
Late last night, with my arms full, I carried clean sheets to my bed. Shaking out the fabric, I congratulated myself for splurging on 1,000-thread-count cotton and high-end linen. The extra cash was well worth it – the fabric feels amazing. I pulled the bottom sheet taut over the mattress, shook the pillowcases over the pillows and smoothed the duvet cover. I unfolded my new pyjamas, shimmied inside and crawled into bed. After some cajoling and hefty bribery (we’re talking “I’ll buy your coffee every day for a week”), my boyfriend massaged my neck. As his thumbs smoothed out my shoulder muscles, my body responded in kind with goosebumps. I had always related goosebumps to fear (thanks to those creepy books we all read as kids) or a cold so icy that it makes your teeth chatter. These goosebumps were different, evolving out of unadulterated pleasure.
What was the catalyst for these joy- filled little bumps?
At a base level, how did they appear on my skin? The moments of touch from my boyfriend’s fingers stimulated my skin’s tiny muscles, the ones connected to every hair in my body (and yours), and caused them to shrink. This contraction left a shallow dip that also made the skin around the hair – and the hair itself – pop up, a result of the fight-or-flight instinct passed down to us from our animal ancestors. But since we are no longer furry hunter-gatherers, our goosebumps are now triggered by intense emotions rather than life-or-death situations. Turns out my boyfriend’s touch had sent such a profound jolt of pleasure through my body that my physiology picked up on it.
But what’s in a kiss?
The next morning, as I left for work, I gave my boyfriend a kiss goodbye – a simple act that has become a routine over our two years of dating. He’s a fantastic kisser, but I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences. Reverse goosebumps, if you will.
See, there’s also an entire science behind making out. A good kiss is like a good massage: it gives us goosebumps and generally makes us feel closer to another person. Kissing induces the ‘happy hormones’ – oxytocin and dopamine – and in turn decreases cortisol, a stress hormone, which explains why you feel relaxed after locking lips. A bad kiss usually happens because someone feels misunderstood. Research has shown that saliva contains testosterone – hence why men may enjoy a little more slobber. But, as most women will tell you, a slobbery kiss is about as sexy as a barnacle on a boat. In short, hold back on the wet kisses – they’re really not for everyone.
So we’re not hunter-gatherers anymore, and our fight-or-flight instinct isn’t always triggered by life or death. But maybe our goosebumps are our own personal wingmen, giving us the thumbs-up when something about someone tickles our fancy. Either way, I know that the massage from my boyfriend was definitely worth a whole week’s worth of coffee.
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