Ends on

Touch (#93)


Open: October 7, 2021 to November 7, 2021

When we began planning for the theme of Touch, we weren’t expecting the topic to remain so, well, touchy, for so long. After a year and a half of pandemic-altered daily life, the contact so many of us were able to take for granted—handshakes, hugs, nights at dance clubs, visiting hours at hospitals, public transportation—remains a source of fear, unease, and even anger. Touch is one of many ways that humans connect, and one of the senses we depend on to understand ourselves, those we love, and those around us. To touch is to know, to feel, to confirm. But in a time of restricted contact—as anyone who has attended virtual birthday parties, planned online memorial services, or discovered ASMR videos on YouTube can attest—we have also found ways to rethink what it means to touch.

Still, touch is precious, and can be exploited. Violators, abusers, and harassers pervade every echelon of society all the way up to White House, weaponizing touch as a manipulative tool of patriarchal domination that reinforces harmful gendered power dynamics. Talking heads debate the definition of an unwanted touch on national television while actual consequences for perpetrators are few and far between. The boundaries of consent are negotiated and sometimes neglected entirely, especially for people in feminized professions like bodywork, massage, nannying, manicuring, and physical therapy. On an individual level, we also see the disregard of personal space for Black folks, trans folks, and people with historically marginalized identities—all those who are ignored when they say, “Don’t touch me.” Conversely, the notion of “untouchable” depends on race, class, and geography: In India, the Dalit comprise the bottom rung of an unforgiving social hierarchy, but in the west, we see celebrities as untouchable because money and fame preclude them from accountability.

With this issue, we seek to explore the significance, the joys, the burdens, and the limitations of touch. What does the touch we culturally embrace and the touch we suspect say about our ideals and fears? What does political media’s fixation on—and perpetuation of—rural/urban binaries tell us about physical space as a metric of value? How is medical technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics changing the context and conception of touch as a human sense? What are conservative culture warriors who decry public discussions about personal boundaries and sexual harassment so worried about? Can lucid dreaming help us to foster intimacy and work to heal physical trauma? Why are reality shows about making things so much more comforting than ones about getting things? What do social, political, and cultural rituals tell us about the future of friendship? If the world is at our fingertips through smartphones and social media, why do we feel so isolated? We’re looking for a range of essays, analysis, reportage and interviews that explore the ideas that touch us and interrogate what these connections say about our culture today.

KEY WORDS: connection, intimacy, healing, sensation, stimuli, ritual, reactivity, handmade, hands-on, movement, closeness, vibes, allergies, scars, denseness, alienation, consciousness, texture, contact, fight, caste, communal, punishment, contagion, claustrophobia, ownership, recoil, wellness, pressure

SECTIONS: Features, Culture, Front-of-Book


Dispatches (1200 words) are missives from the frontlines. We’re looking for underreported and fascinating stories from across the country, the globe, and the realms of fiction that introduce Bitch readers to stories and topics they might not have encountered before. A great dispatch could be from Argentina or Tennessee just as easily as San Junipero or Panem.


Features are deep dives into the intersection of feminism and culture. Everything is culture to Bitch, including pop culture, social-justice movements, and technology. Longform and essay writers examine, ruminate, and push boundaries. The writing is tight, top-notch, and original. We are looking for pieces that not only dive deep, but dive where no one else is looking.

Investigative Essay (2300 words): You smell a buried story and want to tell the world what’s going on. Complete with research, reporting, and clear, concise writing, this piece braids information and intrigue and takes the readers on a journey through something underreported, unknown, or in need of a spotlight.

Cultural Feature (2200): Nonfiction feminist critical essays are not about the “I” statements—a Bitch essay critiques a larger systematic or cultural problem by centering a marginal community and exploring the impact of that issue for a particular demographic.  At its heart, it's a soaring cultural critique. This feature establishes your chops as a writer who is unafraid to go there. It’s an essay that demonstrates that you have cultivated your own distinct voice and your work unapologetically expresses an unforgettable message that centers your community, resistance, and establishes new ground with unchartered possibilities for how to live free.


This section is where Bitch brands and solidifies its cultural authority. From celebrating significant pieces of pop culture that are turning 20 to analyzing the Impact Of directors, producers, and screenwriters (600 words), Culture examines elements of our lives that show up in books, on screens, in music, and all over the internet.

Culture features three essays (800 words) that look at themes springing up in books, screen, and music, and explore the cultural context for that theme and why it’s significant. Are multiple TV shows depicting abortions? How is YA literature handling sexual assault? We want to know.

Culture wants to know the people behind-the-scenes who are making television and movie magic (1000 words). Who’s the next Ava DuVernay or Joi McMillon or Shonda Rhimes? These interviews highlight voices that are rarely tapped into.

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