When Is It Okay to Hug?

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Sometimes people want to hug other people. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, but in general there is too much hugging in today’s society, and people should really lower their expectations of when and where they are entitled to hugs. I personally do not love to hug but society makes me.


When It’s Okay

  • Between consenting adults, in private or in a circumscribed social setting (i.e. a party), hugging is...fine.
  • Between family members , but don’t push it.

When It’s Not Okay

  • There should be no hugging in professional settings whatsoever.

If you are a boss saying “hello” or “goodbye” to your employee. (The false conviviality of the inauthentic hug is corrosive and crazy-making, serving only to reinforce the insidious lie of the “horizontal” workplace—the pernicious notion that employees and business owners are all part of the same “family.”)

  • If you just met.

In a conversation between Jezebel employees, one staffer told a harrowing story about an individual who, after making the her acquaintance, hugged her and told her that she loved her. “It was nice,” the staffer said, “but too much!”

  • If you are a man hugging a woman so you can feel the woman’s breasts push against you, holding on for a little bit longer than necessary.

Sometimes internalized misogyny prompts people to show men’s personal space more respect than women’s, resulting in offering handshakes to friendly acquaintances who are men and initiating hugs with friendly acquaintances who are women—often one right after the other! Whoops.

  • Every other situation.

Some people apparently think regular hugging is fine and good (which maybe it is for you) but you should not assume that everyone shares your love of hugs and if they don’t like to hug that something is wrong with them! Nothing is wrong with not wanting to be unexpectedly touched! Also, don’t ask if it’s okay if you hug someone who maybe doesn’t want to be hugged, because then they’ll feel like they have to hug you and will resent you for it because our society expects that we are just all always dying to hug one another and will jump at the opportunity to do so.


Actually, there is maybe not only too much hugging but too much touching altogether. “One time my friend’s dad tried to kiss me on the cheek and I accidentally turned and we kissed on the mouth” one Jezebel writer disclosed in our conversation. “I got used to the cheek kiss in Europe, but I only do it with close friends here,” another writer added. “Yeah, in Europe, sure,” an editor responded.

Apparently even dogs might not like hugging that much? Which is sad! But also validating. Anyway, why take the risk? Nothing wrong with a nice firm handshake.


Mental Iceberg

I’m not a hugger...at all.

The only times I hug is: My son, my mom. Someone I haven’t seen in ages that used to be close with. Boyfriends.

Other than that, when someone comes at me for a hug, I literally look at them like: