How Should Fathers Deal With The ‘Touch Taboo’?


Social media and #metoo have made even the relationship of fathers with their daughters a moral minefield and the ‘touch taboo’ is a perfect example.

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have noticed that modern society is currently undergoing a major… what? Revision? Reckoning? Perhaps it’s a reappraisal of what is considered “acceptable” and “appropriate” behaviour.

This phenomenon is reaching into many areas of contemporary life but is perhaps most pronounced in gender relations between women and men. The most obvious manifestation is #metoo, a worldwide tsunami that has brought into the open predatory, abusive or just casually sexist behaviour by powerful men.

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But the movement is reaching much further, even into relations between fathers and their daughters. Of course, much of the ‘problem’ is caused by and exacerbated by that much-discussed another modern phenomenon: social media.


English football legend David Beckham experienced what is being called, the ‘touch taboo’ earlier this year when he was heavily criticised for a social media post of him kissing his daughter Harper on the lips.

Cleveland Cavs NBL star JR Smith drew plenty of outrage recently when he posted a photo to Instagram of himself and his baby daughter Denver sitting together naked in the shower. Smith’s post was described as “weird”, “goofy” and “wrong” by his followers while others thought many of those posters were over-reacting.

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My sign ain’t water but we #AquaBeingsOverHere

A post shared by JR Smith (@teamswish) on

What these reactions show, of course, is that even the seemingly innocent interactions between fathers and their daughters have become imbued with a distasteful and even sinister edge as a result of the global reappraisal of how males treat and view females. Is it ridiculous to extend this societal change to the relationship of a doting, loving father with his daughter? Possibly.

Is it unfair to do so? Probably.

Touching each other, however, is a basic of human interaction. Particularly between fathers and daughters, hugs and kisses are obviously a very important part of the bond they develop. I’d be distraught if my daughter didn’t seek me out for a kiss and cuddle when distressed or in need of comfort or just to say goodbye for the day. Personally, I’d never do the JR Smith thing of bathing naked together, even when she was very young, but for many people and cultures that is a very natural part of family life with none of the sexual overtone attributed to it by the likes of a sporting star’s Insta following.

The real ‘taboo’ part of this should be the oversharing encouraged by social media. Becks kissing his daughter should really not be invested with all sorts of meanings clearly not intended by himself or Brooklyn, but perhaps the impulse to post every personal, intimate moment in our lives is the one to be resisted. In this hyper-conscious, highly polarised age, celebrities as much as the rest of us should realise there’s no need for the rest of the world to see everything we do.

Feature Image: David Beckham Instagram

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