January 21st is National Hugging Day. Beginning in 1986 National Hugging Day was originally created for family and friends to hug often and more freely. No one can deny the power of a hug. Human beings crave connection and science has shown hugging has many benefits to our health and well being. Hugs can help lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, and can alleviate or eliminate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and stress.
I’m a hugger and maybe you are too which is great. However there are a lot of people who aren’t into hugs and that’s okay as well. The problem is we don’t walk around with “hugger” or “not a hugger” on our foreheads, so how do you know? Simple! ASK! In other words: Get consent!
Like so many others, when I was a child I didn’t have much say in whether I wanted to hug someone or not, especially around family members. It was almost mandatory when attending family gatherings, upon arrival being told – not asked – to give hugs to everyone. More and more parents today are giving their children the freedom to hug or not to hug instead of insisting upon it. We believe the earlier in life you’re able to make decisions for what you want to do with your body the better. It teaches kids about boundaries and that their “no” means something and is respected.
Even as adults unexpected touch or hugs from people we barely know or don’t know at all can bring on feelings of fear or anxiety. A simple touch on the shoulder to one person may signal danger even if there was no harm intended. You would think that asking for consent would have always been important in our society but we know that’s not true. Times, however slowly, are finally changing and in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp it is important to ask for consent in any and every situation. Related to the larger concept of consent, the Center for Positive Sexuality created a framework with three additional, co-related, elements that are interconnected, these are: communication, caring, and caution. Together these make up the 4Cs. (For more on how the 4Cs were developed read this article.)
Here’s an example of the 4Cs in action:
“Hey there, it’s National Hugging Day, is it okay if I give you a hug?”
Asking for the consent to hug gives power to the person you are asking. It eliminates expectations and empowers them to accept or reject the request.
Consent shows you Care about this person’s feelings and well-being and you respect their response. Asking for consent is a part of the third “C,” Communication. Taking a moment to ask before assuming this person wants to hug you is great communication. Caution shows you are concerned with their safety and want to ensure they are take care of. To some people a simple hug might not be a big deal but we have to keep in mind not everyone feels that way. The easier thing to do is ask, especially if it is your first time meeting someone.
Just remember the 4C’s and enjoy National Hugging Day.
Special shout out to my Mom celebrating her 72nd Birthday on National Hugging Day. Nothing beats a hug from my mom!
–La Terra McDaniels, Center for Positive Sexuality Board Secretary and Event Coordinator