Another interesting site of non-verbal behaviour is the couple
relationship, where a greater amount of touching behaviour occurs.
Stereotypically romantic images, e.g., Mills & Boon book covers, wedding
photos, often employ images of women being held against the chests of their
male partners, with the man’s arms around the outside of the woman.
Symbolically, in this position, the man is in physical control. The woman’s
arms are pinned to her body and she can be cuddled or lifted, she is in a
physically less powerful position than the man. Thinking about this led to the
realisation that, unconsciously, I had opted for everyone who hugged
me to enfold me in their arms (placing their arms around the outside of mine).
In situations of greeting, affection and intimacy I was getting hugged, rather
than hugging. As Henley suggests, women are expected to ‘cuddle to’ touch
rather than assert their physicality onto others by touching them and I had
been doing this. The unintentional message was that I wanted or needed to be
protected. This is not the case so I am giving the other way of hugging a try,
and predictably it’s more difficult to change than I’d anticipated.
research has shown that heterosexual women commonly
stand on the side of their partner’s dominant hand
This kind of awareness rapidly escalates, like all the best awakenings.
When you hold hands which side do you stand on? You may not be aware of any
pattern but research has shown that heterosexual women commonly stand on the
side of their partner’s dominant hand (right or left), allowing men increased
access to touching women comfortably (Major, 1981). Now as my partner dislikes
holding hands I’m mostly free of this one (phew, no experiment necessary!).
However then I began to think about sleeping positions in a similar light.
Which side of the bed do you sleep on? Does it give your partner access to you
with their dominant hand but not you? It depends on how you are lying of
course, and people move around more in bed so it’s not as simple to identify –
but it’s worth thinking about, as all of these small behaviours contribute to
the communication that makes up our relationships. What about where you
usually sit on the sofa or in the car?
Additionally I noticed some time ago that where pavement space is limited
women tend to drop back behind male companions, like children walk behind a
guardian or characters in films follow their action-hero/ine leaders who have
the major weapons, to protect them from oncoming hazards. Women may move aside
because they are more aware of the needs of others passing by and bound by
politeness to make room for them, however if this was the case shouldn’t women
step in front of male companions at least some of the time? Until this
occurred to me, I always dropped back, now I often drop forward. I do not
require any companion of mine to police my path by moving to walk in front of
me and therefore influencing my pace and progress. It’s just another thing to