Love is Transmitted by the Skin
An Essay by Dr. A. Pelo, Rotterdaml
"What Does Love Have to Do with Reason?" Goethe
This essay is about sexuality in a very broad sense. The expression of tactile sexuality is not new. Some readers will be of the impression that it is about stroking, caressing, and ensuring well-being, including physical well-being. The well-being of one's own body, and that of one's beloved.
We have deliberately called this brief text an essay, because it actually represents a non-scientific assessment of the topic; a sort of philosophical one, even if not in the modern terminological sense. By the same token, neither is this text a treatise, for it does not present and discuss different opinions or theories.
And so, with this transmission we seek to convey certain intuitive insights, in an effort to arrive at a synthesis – this is, as always, what we are striving for. Synthesis and analysis are polar opposites. They are equally important in getting at the truth. But when we get stuck in analysis, and, to a certain extent, synthesis goes by the wayside, what we have is a kind of nuclear fission. This sort of nuclear fission leads to abstractions which, though they sound very nice, and even, to a certain extent, appear to be objective, in terms of lived reality they really aren't applicable, at least not in their pure terms. This is just as true of the straight and clear lines – which are to be found nowhere in nature – as it is for certain hackneyed thought-patterns which have shaped abstract and analytical thinking. We may characterize such thought-patterns as categories, as firmly circumscribed conceptual frames.
And some thought, which is exclusively determined by such categories, we must logically define as categorical thought. Concerning the sphere of sexuality, these categories include:
We shall leave it to others to pursue such analyses further. Not that we would be opposed to analyses or analyzing, or against analytic thought in general. We have already explained that this is, in fact, important in terms of getting at the truth. But we should not, I believe, remain stuck in analysis. After the analysis, when we have gone over everything with a fine-tooth comb and dissected it, we must, so to speak, tidy up, re-focus our vision, and put the puzzle back together again.
After psychoanalysis comes, logically, psychosynthesis. Although most people, if they get anything out of it at all, do so only initially. But we live once again in an era of theories which, by the way, also has its advantages. Above all, that earlier orthodoxies have long since been weakened, and have vanished. Then, the admittance of various theories concerning particular topics or vital issues leads to a more or less pluralistic conception of the world, and thus, to a certain extent, a tolerant one. And what, coming back to our present subject, do we actually have in terms of a required tolerance?
We would not want to go so far as to say that the fundamental error consists of the word sexuality itself, in the sense that this word comprises the bare facts of its existence, the possibility of splitting sexual functions off from love.
Now the reader might say that it of course happens quite frequently that sexuality, as it were in its cold form, is experienced as being divorced from love, as loveless, or, that sometimes, we respond with even greater sexual excitement when the person whom we sexually desire, evinces no particular warmth or love. This is quite true; nevertheless, sexuality accompanied by love is experienced as being more satisfying and joyous than is a disintegrated form of sexuality, divorced from love.
Here, we represent the view that the mere classification of sexual desire into more or less firmly demarcated sexual categories, a sort of typology of sexual habits, 2 is not able, in and of itself, to bring about an increase in tolerance among the relatively enlightened. It is then also possible to separate out the fundamental functions of sex – joy, physical pleasure, and the components of such felicities – from the aforementioned schema.
It is indisputable that, in practice, classifications of this kind serve a labeling function. This has positive and negative consequences. Looking at them in a positive light, they provide individuals with group classifications which give them feelings of belonging and emotional security, a sense that one's being is at home and accepted somewhere, just as he or she is. On the negative side, though, they can generate anxiety, because one can never be certain whether one really is such-and-such thing, and not something else. By way of example, a boy-lover who sometimes loves older and other times younger boys, may feel initially that he is a member of the gay community, and then, at yet another time, that he is a member of the pedophile community. The usual consequence of which is, of course, that he never feels completely at home in any of these groups, and perhaps then decides that he does not wish to belong to any of these three groups.
And so, once we discard the aforementioned classification-schema, we see that sexuality, whatever form it may take, initially is focused on our skin and that of our beloved, and then, later on, on contact between our skin and that of our love-partner. From this obviously palpable truth, we now wish to proceed with our little investigation.
In Praise of Skin
Erasmus of Rotterdam praised folly. Nevertheless, all the world dismissed it as folly. And yet, folly is, simultaneously, universal; what is usually overlooked is the fact that there are parallels between folly and the skin. Because, in terms of our body, skin is, indeed, universal: it covers us entirely. And this is usually overlooked, because it is so obvious. Now, mind you, it is not overlooked by lovers, who gaze upon their beloved, and are proverbially drawn to every fiber of his or her being. It is, rather, overlooked by highbrow science, which required centuries in order to notice the obvious benefits of skin-stimulation vis-à-vis mental and physical well-being, as well as the integrity of our immune system.
Without skin, we would be like a barrel with no bottom to it. The skin is what our bodies are wrapped in, which are, essentially, water bags.3 In addition to that, the skin is our warm blanket, our temperature regulator – just like a spacesuit is for an astronaut.4
But aside from its protection and support function, our skin takes on an equally important role in our well-being and health. When we are massaged and stroked, when we are lovingly touched, it feels good, and we experience a deep sense of well-being.
In a study spanning more than thirty years, Ashley Montague has verified the paramount importance of tactile stimulation to children and youth. Her book is, therefore, a guide to the relevant literature in the arena of skin research.5 With numerous examples, this researcher verifies how harmful the widespread taboo in Western culture against touching is for children first and foremost; the lack of tactile pleasure produces an imbalance in the child's psychosomatic system. By the same token, such pleasure is equally important to all people.
Drawing on studies from the zoological arena, Montague finds that, in mammals, maternal licking is of vital importance to young ones' very survival.6 Moreover, it is striking that the mother even licks the genitalia; or to be more precise, the zone between the anus and the genitalia. Lab animal experiments in which this postnatal licking was prevented led to such affection-deprived offspring getting serious or even fatal infections in the gastro-urinary and/or gastro-intestinal tracts.7
Furthermore, Montague found that such behavior even occurs in human beings. Among the Ingalik, an Eskimo tribe, Montague found that the mother licks the face and hands of newborns, in order to clean them, until the baby is old enough to sit on a bench.8 It appears that human parental skin stimulation happens more with the hands than the tongue; or, to put it more universally, via eye contact and skin contact. Moreover, numerous researchers have discovered that stimulating children' s skin is especially important to the formation of a healthy immune system.9 In this context, Montague notes that love would be defined as "the harmony of two souls and the contact of two epidermises." In this sense, physical pleasure between mother and child is the most fundamental, natural, and agreeable form of sexuality known to nature. It goes without saying that this is what pedophilic sexuality is all about.
Skin, Tactility, and Pleasure
The skin is our true sexual organ. All stimulation of the sexual organs is brought about by the stimulation of the skin which envelops them. That is why it seems bizarre to want to label tactile, pleasurable interactions (particularly without penetration) as non-sexual. That is because Sigmund Freud has also defined sexuality in a much broader sense than the one whereby pleasure is, in some way, obtained via the sexual organs. But admittedly, this does beg the question as to whether such pleasure must be obtained via the sexual organs, in order to take on the quality of 'sexual.'
Now, it is certainly also a form of pleasure to drink a cold beer or eat one's favorite meal. This pleasure is, however, of a rather oral nature. One could characterize it as nutritive. But scarcely anyone would think to characterize it as sexual.
But what about stroking the breasts or the genitals? In order to characterize such an act as sexual or non-sexual, does it ultimately come down to the type of stroking, the intent of the stroking, or the area that is stroked?
Perhaps the reader is getting some idea of how difficult and nebulous such delimiting questions really are. And how arbitrarily the answers to them are often left out, even – and especially – in matters relating to the sexual criminal law.
It is possible that, given the fact that most sexual laws are quite old, the legislator has given little thought to these questions, or, to the possibility that we are penalizing behavior which is not only not worthy of punishment, but, on the contrary, is loving, healing, and agreeable? This hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that the aforementioned protection laws, and thus the law itself – which says that only after a certain age or under particular conditions are people entitled to exercise sexual responsibility – originally came out of the ecclesiastical laws. This may already be well-known to many readers. But, few know that these church laws never had anything to do with what we, today, would characterize as tactile or stroking related sexuality; rather, they were concerned with prohibiting the rape of children. Because the ecclesiastical laws go back further than Roman law, which, for its part, was based on the old Greek law. And this probably prohibited the actual rape of boys, not mutually agreed-upon sexual acts between men and small boys of the upper classes.
Only later, at the time of the beginning of industrialization, was the scope of these laws expanded, thereby encompassing more and more even consensual love and sexual relationships between adults and so-called minors. One can also see that respect for children decreased somewhat, whereby one's free decision to engage in a particular fulfilling love-relationship was no longer honored, and characterized as legally invalid.
Even after the Middle Ages had passed, it was still customary for people from various age groups to sleep, naked, in the same bed, which is still the case today with Eskimos and certain native peoples. Physical touching and occasional caressing, which arise more or less spontaneously, tempted neither cats nor legislators.
Today, it would be regarded as rather unusual to allow children to cuddle with one another in bed, or even for children and adults to engage in horseplay with each other on a bed or on the floor. This despite the fact that it has now also been confirmed scientifically that direct skin-to-skin contact, warmth, togetherness, affection, nakedness, stroking, and massage are equally important and essential for people of all age groups.
Various researchers have closely examined the consequences of a deprivation of the sustenance of love, and have come to surprising and even alarming conclusions.11
Unfortunately, such studies are frequently focused on primates, although, on the grounds of genetic similarities, the value of such studies cannot be entirely denied. Nevertheless, it would be seen to be preferable to also simultaneously observe such phenomena among human beings. Pediatrics, and above all, more recent child psychology, have done us a service in this regard. All of the experts and other professionals who work with children are in agreement that children who grow up without love exhibit substantially greater adjustment problems and learning difficulties than children who are reared with love and warmth, and above all, with skin-to-skin contact during their younger years.
The former children are, first and foremost, those who are especially likely to be characterized as restless or fidgety, who stand out in school due to an inability to concentrate, as well as having relatively little intercourse with others, or who, indeed because of aggressive and uncooperative behavior are, unfortunately, allowed to excuse themselves from the group. They are frequently dismissed as "difficult," or even disparaged as delinquents.
But, what is actually the specific pathology of their behavior, and under what conditions has this behavior emerged? Was it, in a word, a family lacking in affection? Is it not, first and foremost, a matter of its children not being touched?
As far as young children are concerned, it is generally agreed that tactile stimulation is essential for their physical and psychological wellbeing as well as their proper growth and development, and it has been proven that close and extensive skin-to-skin contact between babies and mothers or fathers (or other tactilely nourishing persons) decisively strengthens their immune systems, thus rendering children relatively impervious to illness. At this point one might go even further, and put forth the view that such stimulation, which we might characterize here as skin-eroticism, is vital not only to small children, but also for older children and youth. There's a lot to be said for that.
What Does Love Have to Do With Violence?
We have, above all, the studies of the American social psychologist and social harmony researcher James W. Prescott, who garnered public attention by elucidating the connections between child-rearing, sexual behavior, and violence-potential in various world cultures.12
The quintessence of these studies is the thesis that certain cultures go a long way towards raising children in a love-starved, tactilely-nourishing-deprived environment and moral code in which pre-marital sexuality is prohibited, an environment in which they are drowning in chaos and violence. That is because violence, as Prescott established scientifically, originates from a compensation reaction on the part of the mind to a lack of (tactile) pleasure.
These research results are especially understandable when one examines them alongside the findings of the British neuropsychologist T.W. Campbell13 who, synthesizing forty years of neurological research, has concluded that the impetus for every kind of human act of human aspiration is pleasure. If we now prevent the attainment of such pleasure, the human mind compensates for this lack by stimulating the brain's violence center. Neurologically speaking, the pleasure and violence centers are regarded as being in a zero-sum stasis. The more the pleasure-center is activated, the less active is the violence-center, and vice versa.
Based on that, one is able to say that love and violence are mutually exclusive. The more lovingly, affectionately, and tactilely nourishing someone is raised up, the more physical joy he or she has already experienced as a child, the less violent he or she will be in later life.
But what is truly surprising is Prescott's further finding that tactile-nourishing deprivations in childhood do not inevitably lead to a violent character, but rather, that they are compensated for by subsequent, pre-marital sexual activity.14
Herein lies perhaps the particular appeal of these studies, in terms of attaining political harmony by granting freedom to child and youth sexuality, and even acknowledging it legislatively.
Unfortunately, the degree of public awareness of these studies is not very high, although their importance to the future of mankind, as well as future world peace, should not be underestimated.
Caressing and Pleasure: Is There a Sexuality of Caressing?
The question of the existence of a tactile sexuality is actually also a fittingly modern one. It is part and parcel of the New Age, and originally springs from an intention to declare act-fixated sexual conceptions of the past as invalid and arbitrary. Because, wishing to limit sexuality to particular acts, and acknowledging it only within the context of certain acts, is part and parcel of the Cartesian-mechanistic worldview of ages past. Today, even among the conservative portion of the expert and professional literature, such a conception of sexuality is regarded as outdated. Often times, many of the social and ethical consequences of this paradigm shift are not teased out.
To this extent, our examination of the issue can only provide food for thought. The problem with today's debate is that it has become stiff, rigid, and permeated by fearsome clichés. The wicked man next door does not only haunt American talk shows, and the general hysteria surrounding child eroticism and its generation of pleasure by adults is of no benefit whatsoever to the tactilely needy child. Baby massage – as Frederic Leboyer came to know in India, and as, likewise, was propagated by a birth-practice guru in the West15 – is, then, only one possible form of tactile stimulation, of skin-to-skin contact. A hundred others are possible and conceivable, whether or not one would now wish to characterize them as sexual.
Child-Love Also is Transmitted Through the Skin...
Paedos-philein (Greek for child-love) is a form of tactile-nourishing love and sexuality. It was historically the case that liberal sexuality – meaning skin-to-skin contact with the experience of pleasure – was acknowledged as natural among children, and that even sexual contacts between children and older persons, in certain institutionalized forms, can be traced back to the earliest evidence of human existence.l6
In addition to that, as was reported, for example, in the book by Françoise Dolto entitled "The Cause of Children"17, in the l7th century, love and sexual contacts between women and young boys (who were not directly related to one another) was not at all rare.18 During this time, women did not, by any means, think it unnatural to affectionately enjoy themselves with small boys. It has traditionally been the case that pedophilic eroticism was explained away as being part of the maternal instinct – and so it still is today. That is why such contacts were and are tolerated as being relatively non-problematic.
Therefore, dividing love and eroticism into various sexual groups or classifications would appear, after all, to be a little mechanistic. Such sexual mathematics may correspond closely to scientific needs for categorization. But they are not drawn directly from real life, because, in practice, the transitions are typically fluid. A similar phenomenon is found even among a portion of those within the pedophile movement itself, who still have trouble accepting bisexual pedophiles. When will we see an end to the vivisection of love?
According to most of the studies into the field of pedophilial9, it is, to a great extent, a tactilely-saturated interaction between adult and child, a cuddling and touching sexuality, a truly tactilely-nourishing sexuality in the sense meant here. It would seem inappropriate to dismiss it as perversion, or as a form of feeblemindedness. Rather, it represents a highly advanced form of love and tender devotion, a form of child love which the child also appreciates and values. It is, in addition, a sort of poetry, a way of looking at life. Devotion to all that is little, lovely, and worthy of protection, and, in the form of ephebephilia, a particular form of friendship and educative interest, it is a sublime, if not the most sublime, variant of human eroticism.
Accepted pedophilia also leads, then, to greater creativity and a more secure instinct for the child within us as well as the children around us, and their needs for a very particular kind of affirmation: affirmation through tactile contact, acceptance through touch.
Love is Without Words – and Without Fear
As far back as the Babylonian era or biblical times, there have been people who have responded to love with paranoia. The written record – and not only of our own culture – is replete with evidence of this fact.
It doesn't appear to be any different today, at least as far as love between persons of different age groups is concerned. In its historical course, its so-called evolution, humanity has not learned greater tolerance. Human history is, rather, a pendulum swinging between times or cultures of greater or lesser tolerance. This raises the question of whether what we today call science, and what, in the end, has been a return to the ideal of enlightenment and rationalism of the l8th century, has the power to counteract blind intolerance. Although we have not sought to answer this question here, it remains an open one. We have merely endeavored, in this brief essay, to ascertain what the question evidently is, or, even better, what is palpable.
What is evident is that all of modern science, all enlightenment, and all the good will in the world was not able to prevent the reality that today once again, in sensitive areas of life, a sort of dark Middle Ages has dawned, an era of paranoid fear and superstitious, in part abstruse ideas which are out of touch with real life. Our view is that science cannot teach us what love is. Only love itself can do that. In other words, anyone who, as a child, has personally experienced love, warmth, and skin-to-skin contact, is also positively and openly disposed to engage in such experiences later on, including with his or her own children, as well as children in general.
The problem – or so it appears, anyway – is not that most people are insufficiently informed or are not scientifically interested, but rather, that their own value judgments are too heavily based on what they hear from others, or what is deemed by authority to be true, as opposed to listening to their own bodies, to their own sense of touch, their own skin!
Every scientific study confirms the fact that, in every case in which persons were allowed, as children, to experience their sexuality positively, whether that be in contacts with similar-age peers or older persons, whether it be with their own or the other gender, such contacts, and the possibilities therefore, are also evaluated positively later on.
Having said that, it is possible to prepare oneself against both the allergic reactions of our environment as well as our own sexual fears. Admittedly, this does require just a smidgen of belief in the goodness, which is within all of us, the goodness, which is actually concealed within every love-relationship, every attraction, every sexual form.
It makes little sense to undertake one crusade against another. It would appear to be more prudent, for those who find themselves in a struggle against love, to discard their rigidity, and not lose their own flexibility - and their own sense of touch.
No one wants to be touched by someone whom he does not like. And everyone seeks contact, skin-to-skin contact, with those whom he loves. Our skin is a touchstone, a signal-giver. It is also the gate between our internal and external bodies. "That feels good," we say, when we sense something pleasant on our skin. Our body, and above all our skin, signals to us which persons with whom we desire contact, skin contact. We listen to and respect our skin and its signals (and that/those of others); we need no dispensers of love, no prescription pads with protective age limits through which to try to channel our tactile needs.
In order to arrive at a suitable value system for our lives and our natural yearning for love, warmth, and physical pleasure, we must again learn to think in natural terms, meaning, we must again learn to feel, and allow the osmosis of love to permeate our skin.
1. At this juncture, I would like to convey a very heartfelt thank—you to Dr. Frits Bernard for his indefatigable encouragement and his not only scientific, but also humane assistance and support.
2. We are probably proceeding based on the assumption that such typologies are never absolute, but instead, are only ever able to represent predominant forms of sexual activity. This was, by the way, often explicitly stressed in the research of Dr. Frits Bernard, Rotterdam, particularly in relation to the area of pedophilia and its sporadic appearance in the lives of persons who did not, or would not have, personally describe(d) themselves as pedophiles.
3. Our body consists of over 90% water.
4. Grant's Method of Anatomy, 10th ed., by John v. Basmajian, Baltimore, London: Williams & Wilkins, 1980, pg. 61.
5. Ashley Montague, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.
6. Montague, op. cit., pg. 15.
8. Id., pg. 234.
9. Ibid., pp. 20-21. Concerning this, see also the alternative French birth guru Michael Odent, in his book Primal Health, Paris; Payot, 1986, pg. 26.
E10. See Montague's evidence, op. cit.
11. James W. Prescott, "Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 10-20 (1975), in part also published in The Futurist, April 1975.
E13. H.K. Campbell, The Pleasure Areas, London: Eyre Methuen Ltd., 1973.
14. J.W. Prescott, op. cit., pg. 13.
15. Frédéric Leboyer, Shantala.
16. See. e.g., Susanne Cho, Childhood and Sexuality Throughout the History of Cultures: A Study of the Meaning of Child Sexuality, with Special Emphasis on the 17th and 20th Centuries, Zurich, 1983 (Dissertation); Constantine, Larry & Martinson, Floyd (Eds.): Children and Sex: New Findings, New Perspectives, Little, Brown & Company, Boston,;1981 ; Frits Bernard, Child Molesters? Pedophilia: On the Love of Children, 3rd
ed., Foerster Verlag, Berlin, 1982; Gisela Bleibtreu- Ehrenberg, Rites of Manhood: On Institutional Pederasty Among Papuans and Melanesians, Ullstein Materialien, Frankfurt/M., Berlin, Vienna, 1980.
17. F. Dolto, The Cause of Children, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1985.
18. Ibid. This fact is also confirmed in descriptions of the customs of the French royal family, as well as those by Ludwig's physician in the 1300s, Heroard. See J. Heroard, Journal of Jean Heroard On the Childhood and Youth of Louis XIII. Paris: Souilie/Barthelemy, 1968; concerning this, also see Lloyd de Maude (ed.), The History of Childhood, New York (The Psychohistory Press), 1974, pg. 23, and, Phillippe Aries, Childhood and Family Life in Antiquity, Paris: Plon, 1960, pp. 102-105 (in English translation: Centuries of Childhood, New York: Vintage Books, 1962), as well as Susanne Cho, op. cit., pp. 55 ff.
19. See Constantine, op. cit., Bernard, op. cit., and the reader with various contributions: Joachim S. Hohmann (ed.), Pedophilia Today, Foerster Verlag, Frankfurt/M., 1980, and Angelo Leopardi (ed.), The Pedosexual Complex , Foerster Verlag, Berlin/Frankfurt 1988.