A great read for more and less experienced Cuddlists thinking through their own ever evolving answers.
So, you’ve heard of cuddling and you have questions, right?
Let me address a few of the most common questions and concerns in a quick low down.
I would never cuddle a stranger!
I am not asking or expecting you to cuddle with a stranger. I don’t cuddle with strangers either! Is that a surprise? I hope not. When I facilitate Cuddle Parties, the Welcome Circle format is there to help us get to know each other and create community while we go over our Agreements with each other to create a safe space for all. It takes about 30-60 minutes to go through the Welcome Circle discussion and workshop exercises and part of the purpose of that time spent together is to get to know each other and find out who we might want to connect with. I always recommend the first good question to ask someone is “may I talk with you”. Get to know a new friend or spend some time with an old one. Cuddle only when you find someone you are comfortable with and want to connect with through touch. A lot of the people who attend Cuddle Parties have been to many of these events together and have become close friends.
What about professional cuddlers? Aren’t they strangers?
Most professional cuddlers have an intake process for new clients that will allow you to see if you are good fit for working together before they agree to book a session. Even if the intake process is fairly short, you always have the opportunity for get to know you time at the start of your first session where you figure out together what you want to share with each other. You should only cuddle when you are ready to share cuddles. Get to know your cuddle buddy as much as you need to in order to be comfortable before you share touch. Only when you are comfortable sharing connection together will you get all the best benefits cuddling has to offer.
Paying for cuddling? Shouldn’t that be something you only get from your intimate partners for free?
In a perfect world, we would all have an extensive support system of family, friends, and intimate partners there for us whenever we needed them. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of us. Our personal relationships may not be all that we wish or we may have decided to focus our attention on other things and have no time to develop personal relationships. The exchange of money allows me to be there in full service to you without asking for any emotional energy back from you as I would expect in a personal interaction. I wish I could cuddle everyone in the world for free, but I also have to pay my bills, so I can’t offer that. A professional relationship means that we can focus completely on you and that I have the time, resources, training and support to be able to be with you in full presence.
I don’t get this question out loud very often, but I know you all are thinking it – Isn’t professional cuddling pretty much the same as prostitution? Someone is paying to touch you!
The short answer is NO, not at all. A lot of people make the assumption that the commodity they are paying for when they hire a cuddler is access to touch their body. This is not true for the form of cuddling I practice and what is taught in the Cuddlist training model. When you hire a Cuddlist, you are paying for my time, my Practice, my education, my investment in this profession, my training, my focus, my energy, and my full presence that I will bring in to service for you. I am not going to do anything with you that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with you. I, personally, also have a lot of information and resources I have found during my own journey so I love to talk (offer connection through quality conversation) and share ideas about relationships, boundaries, consent, and communication during my sessions. I will Hold Safe Space for you to be your authentic self and listen to you as I witness without judgement. This real connection between us is necessary in order to get the amazing benefits a good cuddling session has to offer. If I am faking it or uncomfortable and letting you touch me just because you paid me, that will not bring you the benefits and bliss you are looking for that is available from a good cuddle session.
Why cuddling at all?
There are so many benefits to spending quality time with another human being. Skin hunger is a real thing and can make you feel like you are in withdrawal if you don’t receive healthy connection through touch on a regular basis. Oxytocin is the cuddle hormone that is released when you share wanted, healthy touch with someone and it can help you feel relaxed, at ease, and even blissed out. Oxytocin is my drug of choice. It is a totally renewable and sustainable resource that is as close as the nearest hug. Most people’s reaction when they interact with babies or small children is to want to hold them, hug them and cuddle them. It seems safe and obvious to cuddle with children, but for some reason we think it isn’t the same with adults. That happy, blissful feeling you get cuddling a 3 year old on your lap when you read stories together can also be had when you share consensual, wanted touch with anyone you are comfortable with. Healthy, wanted touch has been shown to lower your blood pressure, help you relax, help you release or work through emotions, raise your immunity and just make you feel good. Touch is something we all need. Babies who don’t get enough touch fail to thrive and may even die. We never outgrow this need, we just talk ourselves out of it. Just like sleep or food, we can short ourselves for a long time and survive, but our mood goes down and our general well-being suffers as well as our mental and physical health. For optimum health and well-being, we need healthy food, adequate sleep and quality connection and healthy touch shared with other human beings.
How do you cuddle without it being sexual?
Many people feel this need for connection or touch and think it must be a need for sex. Most people have only shared cuddling with small children or with a sex partner, so of course cuddling with other adults is tied to sex in their experience. It doesn’t have to be that way based on your intentions and your communication of expectations or agreements ahead of time. You have a lot more choices for getting your needs met that fall between sex or nothing. There is an entire spectrum of connection available to you between closing yourself off and sex. You can share connection through simple eye contact, holding hands or leaning shoulder to shoulder. It can be very satisfying to put your arms around each other or stroke your partner’s arm while talking. It doesn’t have to be a gateway to something else or create an expectation for more; you can enjoy holding hands just for the sake of holding hands. I dare you to try it.
What if I get aroused?
This is a question that most often concerns men when they think of cuddling. They are very worried about what their cuddle buddy might think when they find out they are aroused by an interaction that is supposed to be non-sexual.
Liking someone, being attracted to someone and even getting aroused are all completely natural physical responses and are totally fine. No good cuddler will get annoyed if their partner gets aroused. In a non-sexual interaction, we agree that we are not seeking out arousal, and we won’t try to sustain it or further it if it happens. The only thing that will be a deal breaker for me is if you break our agreements with your actions by seeking to further arousal or turn the interaction sexual.
If you do get aroused, you don’t necessarily have to do anything. You could say – ‘I’m ready for a change, can we sit up and talk for a bit?’. You could adjust your position, or you could even tell your partner, ‘that feels really good, but I am starting to get aroused, could we do something else?’ (I have actually said this myself at a Cuddle Party – yes women get aroused too). There are a lot of easy ways to handle it. As a woman who has cuddled many times, I can tell you that I usually only know a man is aroused when he intended to let me know by leaning against me intentionally or telling me.
I can also tell you that in all of the Cuddle Parties, Cuddlist sessions, and other workshops and sexy events I have attended, I have actually only noticed an erection out of place once. He didn’t bring focus to it and it was a total non-issue for me as his cuddle partner. Most of the time cuddle events are so relaxed and peaceful that sexual energy just doesn’t manifest itself.
I saw this cuddler and they [fill in the blank].
Every cuddler is unique. Every cuddler can run their practice the way they choose to run it within the laws of their area. Even within my own chosen format with Cuddlist and Cuddle Party, there is room for me to put my own spin on how I provide this service which involves quality time and personal connection so therefore is highly individual. Your experiences with a cuddler may inform you, but it shouldn’t create expectations or preclude you from working with another practitioner. I hope you will experience cuddling in many formats until you find what works best for you.
Mary Sorensen is a Cuddle Party Facilitator, Cuddlist practitioner, writer and speaker who wishes she could quit her day job as an office manager in Salt Lake City. She loves to sing, work in the garden, read and talk about communication. She also loves to facilitate events and opportunities for fellow explorers as they seek to become the highest and best version of themself. [email protected] www.MaryCuddler.com