A side hug is a display of affection in which a person hugs another by putting one arm around their shoulders, rather than both arms around them.[1] This can be useful for example when posing for a photograph, or if an ordinary hug for some reason is considered too intimate for the situation.[2][3]

A man and woman demonstrate a side hug

Religious attitudes to physical intimacyEdit

Abstinence-only movementEdit

Public displays of physical intimacy between intimate partners in romantic relationships are discouraged by many religious organisations that seek to discourage sexual intimacy. Brio magazine (published by Focus on the Family) advised readers to refrain from front hugging members of the opposite sex in 2007.[4]

2009 rap songEdit

A rap song was performed by Ryan Pann as a skit at the 2009 Encounter Generation (EG) evangelical youth conference, hosted by The Fathers House church in Vacaville, California.[5] A video of this became a YouTube meme in 2009 and was remarked on by such blogs as Feministe[6] and Feministing[7] and from there the mainstream press.[8] The song's lyrics include such phrases as "This ain’t no front hug zone" and "Jesus never hugged nobody like that."

Pann has said the song was satirizing the Christian habit of side hugging.[5]

Avoiding accusations of child sexual assaultEdit

Many volunteer organizations including faith-based organizations like churches mandate that adult staff members and volunteers not fully hug children in their care. They encourage the use of side hugs as a rule for adults and staff members, especially when dealing with people of the opposite sex or children. This allows for intentions to be evident. While a normal hug may be preferable between close friends neither person truly knows the desires of the other[citation needed]. In situations with children and youth this distinction is very important. If an adult employee or volunteer of a church does not use a side hug they may be accused, rightly or wrongly, of inappropriate advances. These rules are intended to protect both the potential victims and the potentially wrongly accused.[9]


  1. ^ Harmon, Leon (13 October 2013). "Only Christian Side Hugs Before Marriage!". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 24 August 2014. ...Yes, now it's abstinence only for Christian teens ... message is that 'front hugs' should be saved until marriage...
  2. ^ Johnson, Steve (30 November 2009). "'Stuff Christians Like' author says he deliberately chose side hugs as the cover image". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 24 August 2014. ...meet and greet at church, there's a lot of side hugging going on...
  3. ^ Rivera, Zayda (17 September 2013). "Jessa Duggar, Ben Seewald dating: 'All of our family is involved in this relationship,' says Jim Bob Duggar". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 24 August 2014. ...'Dad allowed them to do a side hug when they were officially courting,' ... the only contact they should have...
  4. ^ Shellenberger, Susie (9 November 2010). "Youth - Christ of the Bay Lutheran Church - Green Bay, Wis". webcache.googleusercontent.com. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Christian side hugs: The joke's not on fundamentalist Christians". Chicago Tribune. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  6. ^ "Do you think they know what "rough rider" means?". Feministe. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Abstinence-only rap: 'Gimme the Christian side hug'". Feministing. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  8. ^ Shea, Christopher (24 November 2009). "Jesus Never Hugged". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  9. ^ Turney, Andrew (July 2006). "Safe Sanctuary Policy" (PDF). Texas Annual Conference. Retrieved 21 April 2012.