By: Cherish Kim, Opinions Section Editor
Students at IMSA tend to partake in frequent physical contact with their friends and acquaintances alike. This consists largely of hugging, hand-holding, and other forms of affectionate intimacy that took me by surprise when I first came to the Academy. This custom is campus-wide, and not exclusive to hall type; residents in all dormitories tend to be receptive to casual physical contact with their peers. The reasons for this physically casual atmosphere are unknown, and, for this article’s purposes, irrelevant. What is of importance, however, is the impact this atmosphere has on individual students.
Physical contact is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, it is a necessary component of human health, starting from infancy; if they are not touched frequently enough, babies will sicken and die. Older humans also rely on physical contact as an important facet of interpersonal communication. Because of this, that many IMSA students don’t mind friendly touch might not seem surprising.
Regardless of how many casually physical individuals there are in IMSA’s student body, the opposite case is far from rare. Those students uncomfortable with such frequent touch feel exceedingly more so in asking their friends or acquaintances to stop, for fear of being accused of overreacting or offending their peers. Considering that so many of IMSA’s students are so open to casual physical contact, those who are uncomfortable with it tend to choose not to speak up for fear of going against the tide and being considered an oddity to the friends whose opinions they value. While this may seem like a weak reason, keep in mind that opposing what each of your friends seems to support and tolerate makes speaking up exponentially more difficult. People who resent being touched so often don’t remain silent because they are cowards. They remain silent because their friends treat what bothers them as no big deal.
Even though much of this physicality is of an innocent nature (much like Korean “skinship”), remember that just because you are comfortable with casual touch does not mean all your friends are as well. If you have not done so already, learn to respect others’ personal boundaries.
The author would like to thank each of her anonymous interviewees for their input on this topic.