Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2643: Is this Hug More Sexual or Affectionate? Student Suspended One Year for Hugging a Teacher (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Sam McNair, a 17 year old student, was recently given a one-year suspension for hugging a teacher. The senior at Duluth High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia - like everyone should be very aware of just how entering any other person's interpersonal space will be interpreted. It is very possible that an innocent hug can be interpreted as one with sexual motives. It appears that this is one of those cases.

When the phrase "innocent hug" is used, what is usually meant is that there was affection present - but no sexual intent or other motive. Of course a person can have affection for a person to who he or she also has sexual attraction. In the same respect, every encroachment into another person's personal space is not (nor should be treated) as one with sexual motives. Affectionate displays are not sex.

At the 0:01 mark in the video, McNair approaches primarily from the teacher's right side and slightly from behind (not from behind as was stated in the video).

 At 0:06

A very crucial nonverbal cue that the intent of this hug was not sexual is that his feet stop approximately six inches or so from the teacher and "he leans in". The exact amount is impossible to determine from this video, however the "leaning in" body language can be clearly seen. Sexuality is expressed when the feet of the hugger come close to the other person.

Thus McNair's mid-section/lower abdomen is not in contact with the side of the teacher's torso. When the intent of the hugger is primarily sexual, the lower abdomen/groin is in contact with the "huggee". And while it is possible that such lower abdomen/private area contact is also seen when there is strong affection present, if sexual expression/desire is the primary driver, the genital area of the hugger will make contact with the person being hugged. 

Note also that McNair's Face defaults to the back of his teacher's neck. In the context of a hug, this nonverbal component also speaks to less sexuality as a primary emotional driver of his behavior. The head/face/neck contact does indicate a high level of affection McNair has (had) toward his teacher. The teacher said that his lips came in contact with her - and of course this is possible and even probable, but this is not sexually driven (She did not say a kiss occurred, and while a kiss would not recommended in such a context - they can and often are affectionate). Indeed with any hug where significant levels of affection are present, the lips will always be very close to the huggee while the heads will always make contact (unless significant suppression is being expressed also, e.g. embarrassment).

McNair's higher arm configuration also has less sexual propensity.

Image at 0:08

The teacher is pushing McNair away.

Image at 0:09

It is also important to note, that hugs with a significant sexual component have a strong tendency not to be initiated from the side as seen in this example.

In summary, while it is very important for any person to always respect the social and legal codes as well as others' personal biases, this hug has a very low likelihood to be driven by sexuality and a very high probability to be driven by the emotion of affection. Affection may very well be unwanted, and even "inappropriate" (thus always subjective) - but be very careful with labeling affection as sex.
Affection and sex may of course coexist in some relationships, yet they are two very different things. Affection is not sex.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2319:  Dennis Rodman Hugging Kim Jong-un ...  Body Language Tells

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2317:  "The Rescuing Hug" -  Body Language of Human Touch & Kangaroo Care

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1898:  Heat, Hugs & Head Surrogates

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2108:  Rihanna's and Chris Brown's Kiss and Hug  What are they REALLY feeling?

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1423:  Head First Affection &  Head Surrogate Hugs 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2179:  Mitt Romney & Barack Obama -  Sincere Hugs and True Affection

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2:  Body Language of Blake Lively and Penn Badgley  Strongly Suggests an Impending Break-up in Near Future