The Importance of Consent in Platonic Relationships

Why Asking For Hugs and Kisses Should Be a Thing

  • Graphic Aiden Locke

I was having a bad day the first time a friend asked if it was okay to hug me.

I don’t remember why I was having such a hard time, I just remember wanting to lie down and not talk to anyone, let alone touch anyone. But I had to finish an article and I had a meeting—responsibilities to my editor and to the publication. To the whole world, it seemed. So I walked into the office space, trying not to drag my feet, and plastered on a face of pleasantries.

I think she saw the strings of my mask, because she went out of her way to come up to me, with a big smile and bright eyes, and asked if she could have a hug. Her arms were down, palms floating around her thighs, expecting either response. Being okay with rejection. There was zero pressure.

And i thought,

“Woah.”

For the first time that day, I felt I had control over something. It made me feel more solid. More present, if that makes sense. Before I felt like I was in a daze, kind of like I was just floating in routine and adultness until I could finally take a nap. Or, more aptly, I was being dragged through it.

It’s going to sound cheesy but my heart blossomed in that moment. There was this tingling feeling in my chest that radiated toward the rest of my body, filling me to the brim with warmth. Talking about platonic love is so rare, but it’s just as important as romantic love. Sometimes, it can be even stronger. I’m going to sound a bit dramatic too, but I teared up a little, and said yes.

She made me feel like a person again, who can make choices, and that made my entire week. The hug was great, too. The right amount of pressure. Not too short, but it didn’t linger. And most of all, it felt like support. She put me back together a little—and she probably didn’t even know it.

There is so much emphasis around consent in sexual relationships. More damage can be done, and it’s infinitely more intimate and personal. And yeah, it’s hella important and necessary. But you know what?

Asking for consent in platonic relationships is just as important. Maybe someone’s having a bad day like I was, maybe they have a pre-existing trauma, or maybe they just don’t like being touched in general. But asking before hugging someone gives them their right to their own body back. And it feels super cute when you are hugging, knowing the other person wanted it and is getting some of that platonic love. Or maybe it’s just a greeting, or a farewell, but it’s mad cute because you’re on the same page.

Perhaps asking before hugging someone every time could be kind of laborious, but it’s good practice to ask sometimes.

It’s become the norm to automatically hug someone when you’re leaving an event; a friend of a friend that you just met, or a family member, or a friend. Why is that?

The norm of hugging and kissing without consent starts with the family, from young. Whenever I see extended family, as a greeting and as a goodbye, the hug and two cheek kisses are mandatory. You’re rude if you forget or don’t want to hug an uncle or cousin. Even if sometimes you’re basically strangers who only see each other during the holidays. Sometimes it felt super uncomfortable for me, and was incredibly forced. I think that’s wrong.

People should be taught from a young age that they are in control over their bodies. Hell, maybe if we are taught that, boys who grow up to be men wouldn’t treat women as objects, as they sometimes do. Food for thought. Or I guess a fleeting hope. And don’t start with that “my body’s nobody’s body but mine” bullshit. Actively allow children to practice it, instead of just giving them a song they’ll never forget.

As a woman, I feel like sometimes that right gets lost when I go out in public. Men feel like they have ownership over a woman’s body in a club, or even just walking down the street. Because what else can she be there for other than to satiate your desire? Other than to be a toy to entertain you? Or to fetishize? Chill, dude. Just trying to exist, here.

But yeah. Asking someone to hug them instead forcing it on them is beautiful. It could result in a bit of awkwardness depending on the person, but you should try it sometime. If someone says no, that’s totally okay. Don’t be offended, humility is good. And two mutually consenting people hugging is even better.

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