A Rub of the Tummy

 Posted by on January 10, 2013
Jan 102013
p7270047-300x225-3251839My former housemate in San Francisco has a Cairn Terrier, similar to Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Her name is Bella Rose — Rosie for short. She’s a great dog and I still occasionally care for her when her owner goes on vacation. We joke that I’m the absent step-dad. One of Rosie’s favorite activities is to receive a good rub of her tummy, and really, what dog doesn’t love that?  The abandon to which she rolls over and exposes her belly, and to so eagerly display such a vulnerable spot for the express purpose of being touched is something many animals do instinctively.

Just about anywhere on Rosie’s blond fur is a spot that she loves to be touched — tummy, lower back, behind her ears, under her chin, and who can blame her? Furthermore, she has nary a hesitance to use her body to ask for the touch she wants. You’ve probably seen it in all kinds of animal behavior, but domesticated animals sure have figured out how to get their affection out of us. She’ll walk right up into my personal space to coax me into giving her attention.


I can guess that most of us have similar stories about how innocently willing our pets receive and give physical attention. Yet, the sexologist in me can’t avoid contrasting how we treat these bundles of affection and how differently we treat our own bodies’ need for touch. “Need” I say that the difference is stark?


We now have nearly a century of research showing that our bodies need touch on a regular basis simply to survive! Yet, our society is way beyond touch deprived. What excuse do we really have to avoid the deep longing of being known by touch and the healthy, life-giving experience of skin stimulation? Do we dare give ourselves or our loved ones the kind of rigorous petting that the cute and cuddly animal in all of us longs for and deserves?


For those of you who only have your own two hands to stimulate your needy skin, there are ways to create pleasurable touch with brushes, feathers, vibrators, and anything really (not just for your genitals and orifices). Have you tried those circular wire framed tools on a handle that can sit around the crown of your head like a dozen tiny little fingers massaging your scalp (I’ve seen them called “the Tingler”)? I’m doing it right now (eyes rolling back into my head…). All of these things can give you a kind of touch that energizes and keeps your skin responsive.


Furthermore, what would be so outrageously “out of line” about asking a good friend to, instead of going to the umpteenth movie, you give each other mutual, non-sexual massage for an evening? If this possibility made you uncomfortable (it makes even me a little uncomfortable) – it just goes to show how far we have distanced ourselves from our basic, innocent need for touch.


To those in relationship who have lost the drive to connect physically, you are depriving each other of a true basic need. The simple act of unconditional touch can be greatly healing to the body, mind, soul and even the relationship. Yet, partners can get so comfortable with each other that it doesn’t occur to touch anymore. It’s hard to get out of that rut, but definitely not impossible. Beliefs about rejection, vulnerability, competition and dependency can keep partners isolated.
So as we head into another year, maybe this could be part of a New Year’s Resolution. Why not go to a loved one right now. Tell him/her you want to try an experiment, and then gently, lovingly give a good tummy rub lightly on the surface of the skin, just like you would a beloved pet. Do it until this person relaxes and then have a casual chat about giving and receiving more touch. If it’s good enough for Rover, Bongo, Lassie and Rosie, it’s good enough for all of us!

  7 Responses to “A Rub of the Tummy”

  1. What a great article, Jallen! Thank you for the reminder. I plan to go home and ask my partner for some loving touch and massage!

  2. Great article, Dr Rix ! I agree with you – it’s too easy to forget how pleasant it can be to give and receive a little physical contact.

  3. Awesome article and a great picture! I wanna rub both your tummies!

  4. I know Rosie. I love Rosie. And I love being petted too. Thanks for the great article.

  5. Spot on once again, Jallen! Oh, how I know how important and gratifying touch can be for all parties. I miss a tummy to rub something fierce. ROLL OVER!

  6. Great article! I always joke with my hubby that I’m like a puppy and that I need to be touched! :-) I also cheekily threaten that if he doesn’t touch me, I’ll find someone who will… hee hee! ;-)

  7. Super sweet article. I did want to point out that different cultures have varying levels of comfort with physical contact. For example, my Italian family is much more likely to touch each other as a form of communication, on the arm or hand, and though this isn’t specifically the same as a tummy rub, it does create a form of intimacy and connection that differs from others. Which is why I always speak in Italian to my pets. ;)
    Thanks for bringing it up, Dr. Rix!