How common are not overtly hostile slaps, shoves and hits among adults?

Apart from openly abusive behavior and taps on the arm to get someone’s attention or pats on the back, how common is it for adults to slap, shove and otherwise hit each other with varying levels of intensity? I’ve only encountered it a few times but perhaps that’s just because of my sedate milieu and it’s quite common in others. I suspect there is a question of subcultures involved.

My exposure to that behavior hasn’t left me with a positive impression. The first time it was shoving from a woman I was dating who had just told me she liked me and I hadn’t said it back. The second time it was with a man whose only way of showing friendliness towards other men was by hitting, shoving and physically dominating them even if they told him to stop. The third time it was from a man who was a little too eagerly trying to make friends with me and seemed particularly afraid of rejection. Overall, I got the impression that they were acting like six year old boys who have a crush on a girl and don’t know how to express it. But perhaps there are perfectly fine ways to engage in that behavior.
For those who engage in it, is there a sense that if others don’t like it, they just have to give as good as they get? Do you think the onus is on you to read them for consent before/after you hit/shove/etc or for them to communicate their absence of consent after you’ve done it?

I have only seen this in movies. IMHO, it’s incredibly rude and immature to hit someone as a response to anything. The last time I slapped a man was in 6th grade, because I thought that’s what adult women do when a guy says something offensive.

I would say that I don’t know because this never happens to me.

But that’s not really true. I’ve known plenty of people who will try to get my attention or emphasize a point by hitting my chest or arm with the back of their hand.

And I think a lot of people try to prove something by going for the crush in a handshake.

I’d say it’s still relatively common until you enter your 30s. I’ve never been slapped by anyone, but back then it wasn’t unusual for a girl to give a hip bump as we walked side-by-side, playfully hit my arm, or shove. It still happens with younger women, though none within the (age/2)+7 range considered dateable.

A friend of mine is 6’5" and 300+ lbs, while his wife is a 5’ pixie, and he frequently grouses that she never dropped the habit of playfully hitting him, assuming the size difference makes him invulnerable. They’re in the early 40s with two kids.

SO’s little boy has been trained by his Neanderthal father that that’s how men communicate.

Some men are so emotionally stunted. Women too, I suppose, but it’s mostly men who act like this.

It sounds like you’re talking about what people used to call “horseplay” back in the day. Charlie horses, back-slapping, chest bumping, shoulder punching, stuff like that. I don’t think it’s all that common for adults. I also get a sense that’s probably less common for kids and young men these days. They just seem less physical and boiterous than we were as kids.

I remember an episode of Friends where Joey was dating a tiny girl who kept play-hitting him. She didn’t believe him when he told her to stop because it felt like “being hit with very tiny, but very REAL, baseball bats”.

My SO and I still do some of that stuff. Exploding fist-bumps, chest pumps, “menacing” (playfully glaring and hovering over me until she gets what she wants), picking her up, play hitting (which she includes a Miss Piggie kiai), sitting on me. It’s cute because I have like 6" on her. If I was dating Gina Carano, it might not be as cute.

My husband hits me with pillows and socks, and pretends to saw off my limbs. If he says something smart-ass, I reply, ‘‘kidney punch!’’ and enact a slow-motion combat sequence in which he is punched in the kidney. We make contact but I wouldn’t call it hitting. That is pretty much the extent to which I’ve seen people hit one another for fun. Even when I lived in college with 5 rowdy boys, they didn’t hit one another.

It’s all horseplay all the time at most of my jobs. Most especially my newest one, we’re like a bunch of 5-year-olds despite the fact that 90% of us are over 25 and self-supporting adults.

Funny story: my friend got mad at her husband for being a smartass while she was cooking and hit him very hard with a hot spatula. He retaliated by pinching her so hard on her arm she had a black bruise for a week. For their next wedding anniversary she had an artist friend paint a picture of the incident (her abusing him with the spatula, specifically), which is now hanging in their bedroom. They are 33 and have been together for over a decade. I find this rather adorable…

Does she behave similarly towards people who aren’t her husband?

I keep my hands to myself, and would not tolerate this sort of behavior from others. I grew up in a time and place where physical altercations were common, and the line between “horseplay” and serious violence was ill defined and fluid. Fooling around as described in the OP was often dangerous.

A group of friends from secondary school always clapped each other on the shoulder. I should stress that this does not hurt at all, but you lurch forward a little with the force. It’s meant to be friendly.

Then at the graduation ceremony, one of them did it to our maths teacher. The teacher was an oddball, I think a little autistic perhaps. He always really liked me, but most of the others were perpetually in trouble with him. But he was an absolutely fenomenal teacher and his students persistently scored the highest in the country on the final exams. So the clap on the shoulder was meant, by my friend, as a way of saying “we didn’t always get along, but you got me there in the end”.

Unfortunately that’s not how he interpreted it. He called the police and had my friend arrested during the graduation ceremony. The charges were dropped when my friend explained and when it was shown that he wasn’t even bruised. The teacher is still angry about it, he thinks my friend should’ve been locked up. I say still, this was 10 years ago.

The school stood by him as a matter of policy, but it was clear they thought he was being silly.

Still, it wasn’t a particularly good idea to clap this guy on the shoulder. Intention is all very well, but this kind of behaviour is just not the most efficient way of showing appreciation. A gentle handshake and a thank you would have conveyed the same, with no risk of misunderstanding.

A playful (light) slap across the top of the head when someone has done something extremely stupid isn’t totally unheard of in some of the gaming groups I have played with.

Other than that, nada.

Romney did this to Rick Perry during their debate (starting 0:51 here)

That seems to be as gentle a contact as can be and is in no way an impact or a shove.

I guess I was thinking more something along these lines:

I had a boss that use to give me a ‘hey buddy’ punch in the shoulder. It would jolt me and hurt a little. I didn’t know if he didn’t know how hard he was hitting, or if he was trying to mess with me. But I remember a few times I wanted to punch him in the head in return.

Me and my friends all greet each other with a punch in the nose and a kick to the groin. If it’s a really close friend you kick him in the ribs while he’s down.

Ok, seriously, some milder horse play can work while people are young. But as you grow older you find out people are more sensitive and fragile than you might think, and in my case I might not realize my own strength when I slap you back.

In groups of three or more people, it is my experience that the initiators of “horseplay” are generally resented. Especially when their compatriots feel obligated by social convention to pretend they don’t being poked or hit by a casual acquaintance. It often serves as a not-so-subtle reminder of dominance of the molester over the molestee.

If I worked in a place where it was common, I’d do my best to find employment elsewhere.

People who have pinched or hit me “playfully” and not stopped until I showed them the bruises they were causing include my mother and a boss. There was a guy in my uni who never graduated due to an apparent inability to comprehend “no horseplay in the lab”; among other “jokes”, he once slapped my butt while I was standing on a stool dropping H2SO4 into the biggest Erlenmeyer in the building, causing a sulphuric acid “volcano” - he got away with his life because the rest of us were busy getting me to the emergency shower. It’s been 20 years and those of us who ever lost work or got hurt because of him still want to slap him across the ocean.

I’m old friends with a bunch of guys who engage in some horseplay. Punches to the shoulder after a painful burning verbal zinger are the most common but the old kick-your-foot-while-walking-behind-you-and-you-stumble still makes appearances. Chase and tackle are around, too. All mid to late 30s.

At work, we’ll sometimes punch a shoulder, stiff shoulder when passing or rib poke each other. Oh, there’s also the grab right shoulder with left arm and stop just short of devastating stomach blow with right arm maneuver which come to think of it winds up looking like a homoerotic manhug. An old timer who is now retired would make a habit of stomping your feet when you showed up with new shoes. Not everyone engages but those who do know if it friendly. No one is getting picked on. Just males acting dumb around with each other and comfortable enough to show some affection.

None of these sound as malicious as described in the OP, though.