RichardWassersug

2009: Human Posture in Public Space: Handholding in Same-Sex Couples

The act of touching between men and women is an important means of expressing intimacy. Touching conveys different messages or meanings related to intimacy, status and power. Touching also varies with gender, culture and age. Handholding is a little-researched, major form of reciprocal touch between men and women. However, when it comes to handholding in same sex couples, we know almost nothing.

Both men and women rate handholding as the most intimate and least dominating form of touch. While handholding has been characterized as a nearly equal non-verbal practice between sexes, the details of the act could be seen as fitting traditional male superiority: studies on hand-holding in heterosexual couples have shown that men’s hands were significantly more likely to be the upper one in couples of differing heights, ages, hand preferences, ethnicity, and culture. Men’s hands were more likely to lead, regardless of the sex of the initiator of public handholding, indicating possible sex, status, and power differences (real or perceived) between partners.

We hypothesize that hand-holding posture might be predictive of the dynamics within lesbian dyads. Due to previous studies’ conclusions about handholding and their possible indication of status and power differences in heterosexual couples, we hypothesize that the same may be true in terms of who has the leading hand in same sex couples. This will be the first study to look at the significance of hand holding in adults that factor out sex differences in a couple.