It’s one of the simplest things in the world, but what makes us hold hands and who takes the lead hand?
A Canadian researcher is asking just that and he’s calling on the gay and lesbian community in Australia to take part in a worldwide study on hand-holding.
Dalhousie University professor Richard Wassersug said the research idea came to him when a student asked why people hold hands, and he didn’t have an exact answer.
“We’re trying to find, essentially, what does hand-holding mean, once you get rid of sex/gender difference,” he told Sydney Star Observer.
“If you look at couples when they’re holding hands, traditionally there’s a natural way.
“One hand is grasped and the other hand is being grasped, so one hand has to be at the front, and the question is, what determines which hand is at the front?”
It’s not the first time hand-holding has been the subject of study. Two papers on the subject have been published in the US, however, they both used heterosexual participants.
As Wassersug explains, the findings in the heterosexual study chiefly point to a height difference between men and women, with men typically taller, and a traditional male dominance often dictating that men take the lead hand.
In same-sex couples, where relationships are perceived to be more egalitarian — with even height likely to be similar — the varying factors change.
The study originally focused only on lesbians in a bid to take any male ‘status’ difference out of the equation but now also includes gay men.
Wassersug, who is currently working with the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), has the same online survey in the UK with the help of the A Day In Hand campaign website which encourages same-sex couples to hold hands as a ‘silent revolution’.
The online survey takes about 15 minutes and requires participants to be in a partnership for at least six months.
The study takes into account age and where participants live. Wassersug admits these factors can have a profound impact on the way people hold hands.
“If you’re a same-sex couple in your 50s, then you’ll probably not hold hands in public and if you’re in your 20s, you probably do.”
The study also asks about the couple’s dynamics.
“It’s too quick just to assume someone has the lead hand because they are dominating the person in the back.
“Watch parents and children. Parents have the lead hand — if they are walking forward in the traffic, they cautiously go forward in a protective position.
“With same-sex couples, someone has to take the front hand. Does it link to anything other than height? What does hand holding mean? That’s what I’m asking.”
info: Find the study at http://anatomy.medicine.dal.ca/wassersug/Handholding.html