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My Forbidden Desire

Our first installment of the Uncomfortable Topics series comes to us from Laura Holcomb (She/Her). Laura is a great friend and former coworker of mine. In her own words:

Laura is passionate about connecting deeply with others. An outdoor enthusiast, maker, and project manager, she spends her time working, playing, volunteering and resting in the PNW.

Without further ado, here is Laura Holcomb's "My Forbidden Desire".


I long for the pressure of another body in full contact with mine, arms and legs wrapped in embrace, the firm caress of a warm hand against the skin of my shoulders, back, sides, stomach, hips. All of this, and nothing else.

Society teaches us that intimate physical affection is not allowed outside of sexual relationships, and is certainly not acceptable within friendships.

I didn’t date much in middle or high school, and it wasn’t until college that I realized my desire for intimate touch without sex, and its forbidden nature. I didn’t know then that my orientation was both asexual and aromantic, meaning I have little to no sexual or romantic attraction. I also have a very low libido and complete disinterest in sex.

How could I find the touch I so keenly needed? To satisfy my high “touch libido”? I struggled with social stigma and I lacked the words and ability to communicate my identity and my needs, whether to potential cuddle partners or other close friends. My struggles were compounded because no one in my social circles or in our broader society seemed to have the same need as I. I struggled in silence, isolation and shame. As a woman and Christian, it was perfectly acceptable to not want sex. But to want non-sexual intimate touch? I was an aberration.

Throughout my 20s, I had several cuddle partnerships, each one both fulfilling and incredibly confusing to both of us. All of these friends were allosexual—they experienced typical sexual attraction—so although they were respectful, they struggled to understand my particular need for touch.

Of course we never talked about it. I didn’t know how to talk about this forbidden desire. We would touch and explore and fumble in the darkness, whispering occasionally, to learn each other’s boundaries. I never felt like I could ask for what I wanted because I was afraid that they would ask for something I couldn’t give. So I hoped, and longed, and pined, in silence. These were not healthy relationships, and I felt I couldn’t even talk about them with other friends because of their forbidden nature.

With some friends, I would ache to be held during moments of awe in nature, or moments of pain and grief. I would ache for the comfort, the connection, the fulness of touch. I couldn’t ask for this touch, so I would resist my forbidden desire and mis-attribute my resistance to strength rather than to shame. I would fall asleep alone, replaying the memories of touch—a hand on my shoulder, a lingering high-five, a close hug—feeling the fading echo of their warmth.

Fortunately, I have always been able to count on hugs. Torso-to-torso, sometimes thigh-to-thigh and head nuzzled in chest, they are like miniature cuddles, and I give as many as possible. But they fall painfully short of the intimate contact I want and need, from like-minded partners that I have yet to find.

After years of struggle, I am starting to learn that shame proliferates like mold in the damp and dark. And the antidote to shame is light and fresh air, exposing deep darkness to the world and bringing it into the sunlight where it can breathe and heal. I slowly began speaking of my forbidden desire to close friends. Little by little, I learned that my needs, if uncommon, are not unnatural or shameful. Most of my acquaintances and friends have been validating and accepting of the authentic self I’ve shared with them; I’ve even started to make new friends who share my need and appreciation for non-sexual touch.

Through this vulnerability and openness, my desire has become less forbidden, and I have become less of an aberration from the normal societal order. My shame has diminished, and I can now glimpse what was never before imaginable: the incredible possibility of asking for the touch I need and receiving it.


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