Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Professional Cuddlers
June 25, 2013 1:26 PM   Subscribe

“I think a lot of people don’t have someone in their life that they can receive comforting touch from on a regular basis." Since Jacqueline Samuels established The Snuggery in 2012, similar services have cropped up in Portland and Tokyo.

Japan's iteration [Maybe NSFW] seems a bit more sexualized than its American counterparts; its website features models in revealing outfits and its services include (optional) slapping.

New York Magazine visited the Snuggery [Maybe NSFW] and didn't enjoy it much: although the service doesn't discriminate on gender, both the author and her cuddler were uncomfortable cuddling another woman.

Metro has an interview with a bit more info.
posted by I've a Horse Outside (175 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I never thought I'd see something that I am so on the fundamental opposite point of view on that I literally can't imagine the thought process required to get there.
posted by The Whelk at 1:30 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is a brilliant idea.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


both the author and her cuddler were uncomfortable cuddling another woman.

OK, the author isn't obliged to feel any particular way, but... a "professional cuddler" being uncomfortable cuddling somebody of the same gender? Really?
posted by Wordwoman at 1:36 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Double Cuddle allows clients to cuddle with two Cuddlers concurrently.
posted by Corduroy at 1:37 PM on June 25, 2013


There is a place in Chicago called The Snuggery, and it's a regular venue for the pub trivia company I follow, so you can imagine my confusion.
posted by phunniemee at 1:38 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The lovers workstation
posted by The Whelk at 1:41 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, the author isn't obliged to feel any particular way, but... a "professional cuddler" being uncomfortable cuddling somebody of the same gender? Really?

I wondered about that, too. If it's about non-sexual touch, then why the discomfort? I mean, she gets to decide who she likes to cuddle best, but that struck me as odd.
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


At least it isn't some weird dude on the street with one of those "free hugs" signs.
posted by gucci mane at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


This seems creepier and more depressing than plain ol' prostitution.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow, I never thought I'd see something that I am so on the fundamental opposite point of view on that I literally can't imagine the thought process required to get there.

Yeah, I'd pay a sum to not have to touch people for a year.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think I will just stick to hugging my cat, thanks. If one doesn't want to, I've two more to choose (coerce) from!
posted by Kitteh at 1:45 PM on June 25, 2013


At least it isn't some weird dude on the street with one of those "free hugs" signs.

Yeah. You get what you pay for.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:47 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


similar services have cropped up in Portland and Tokyo.

Of course..
posted by goHermGO at 1:48 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry, but those pictures of "Jacqueline" on The Snuggery's web site are anything but non-sexual.

I can't help but think an essential unspoken part of their business model is that some fraction of the men paying for their services secretly hopes "Maybe if she likes me enough and I agree to just cuddle I'm the one she's going to go all the way with..." A business based on Jr High adolescence. Weird.
posted by aught at 1:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it's about non-sexual touch, then why the discomfort?

It doesn't seem so strange to me. If there's some kind of emotional component, a lot of people relate emotionally to different sexes in different ways. Lots of people prefer one gender or another when choosing a talk therapist or a massage therapist. This just seems part of the same process.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I jumped under the covers anyway and turned away from Colleen as she buckled me into the most awkward spooning of my life. We laid there for twenty minutes dead silent, listening to my stomach perform an impromptu jazz solo.
In the military they call this Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, I never thought I'd see something that I am so on the fundamental opposite point of view on that I literally can't imagine the thought process required to get there.


Now that this is a known thing, I am sure it will be banned in Minnesota and nobody will have a problem with that at all.



We should include that in our tourist literature, and put it on the sign as you cross the border:

WELCOME TO MINNESOTA

NO TOUCHING
posted by louche mustachio at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


sort of related: Cuddle Parties. Structured & social group cuddling.
posted by aka burlap at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2013


So long as everyone takes a shower, I don't see what the big deal is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


From that description, that's not non-sexual touch. It's just clothed sexual touch. It's like paying to make out. Come to think of it, I don't actually know if paying to make out is illegal. But it's not "the healing power of touch." That's what actual non-sexual massage is, and non-sexual massage is not meant to replace what you're not getting since you broke up with your girlfriend, and non-sexual massage therapists don't get ooged out by one gender. It's not that the snuggle-ee is uncomfortable that's suspect to me; I agree that some women are (for instance) not comfortable with one gender of doctor or another. But the fact that the alleged therapist can only undertake this therapy with dudes or else she feels super-weird about it makes me think it's a highly gendered transaction, which doesn't make it sexual, exactly, but boy, you're getting into a complicated area.

(I always imagine what they would say on Loveline in a situation like this. And for that, I apologize.)

It's kind of weird that while it strikes me as vaguely sexual, it also strikes me as the twee-est thing you could encounter outside of a unicorn tea party.

I'M VERY CONFLICTED.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sorry, but those pictures of "Jacqueline" on The Snuggery's web site are anything but non-sexual.

What about them strikes you as sexual?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2013


A business based on Jr High adolescence. Weird.

The notorious "cuddle boner."
posted by louche mustachio at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Snuggery. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by cgk at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2013


sort of related: Cuddle Parties. Structured & social group cuddling.

I overheard some university kids talking about doing one. They called it a 'cuddle puddle'.

I immediately became much older.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I actually think this is such a lovely idea, but I had imagined more of a drop-in service where you get a big hug on your way to work or after a rough day. Some people just don't have easy access to a comforting hug, and that feels like such a nice service to offer. What I'm seeing on these websites looks different - 10 hours (!) or even a few hours looks like something completely different and makes me feel uncomfortable.
posted by ukdanae at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


> Yeah, I'd pay a sum to not have to touch people for a year.

For the low, low price of $1.00 I will promise to never touch you. Send your cheques or money orders to Haphe Dude, P.O. Box...
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, at this unicorn tea party, are we having tea with WITH unicorns or ON unicorns?

This is an important distinction.
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cuddle puddles can actually be great if it's with your group of absolute best friends on a huge bed.
posted by gucci mane at 1:56 PM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Sensual Santa
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:56 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is kind of what I always assumed the drama and choir kids did during class.
posted by Think_Long at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Lots of people prefer one gender or another when choosing a talk therapist or a massage therapist

I can understand that, and kind of see it here...but the therapists aren't the ones (usually, anyway) saying that they will or can work only with men or women. But I do see your point.
posted by rtha at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2013


Cuddle puddles can actually be great if it's with your group of absolute best friends on a huge bed.

The fistfuls of MDMA required are just assumed in this situation.
posted by The Whelk at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I was feeling all around for the combination of feelings this evoked in me, and then I showed it to a friend, who immediately said, "So it's a whorehouse for prudes." Which I don't agree with, necessarily, but which is evocative and made me laugh.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Wait, at this unicorn tea party, are we having tea with WITH unicorns or ON unicorns?

The "tea" is actually unicorn blood.
posted by elizardbits at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's unicorn tea, silly.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:58 PM on June 25, 2013


This is kind of what I always assumed the drama and choir kids did during class

No drama club kids hug all the time.

It's so we can find a good place to stick a knife.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


I actually think this is such a lovely idea, but I had imagined more of a drop-in service where you get a big hug on your way to work or after a rough day. Some people just don't have easy access to a comforting hug, and that feels like such a nice service to offer.

Oh man! I could totally do that! I could even offer a "manly pat" variation where I growl "Whatcha gonna do, huh?" in a quietly sympathetic way toward other dudes.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


Karl Pilkington attends a cuddle party.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is how I imagine Portland's snuggery.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:59 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


WE SHOULD HAVE A HUG STORE. Like a 33 Flavors.

You can get the manly pat, or you can get the kiss on both cheeks and the "Oh my gawd, you look so amazing."

I may have been watching too much Long Island Princesses.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:59 PM on June 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Quakers teen youth retreats are famous for cuddle puddles. I miss being 15.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Rather, I miss that one aspect of being 15. I do not, in any other way discernible to mankind, miss being 15 in general.

ugh
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


I seem to recall this being a big thing back in the 70's, during the early heyday of the most recent lovey-dovey New-Agey I'm-OK-You're-OK wave. Can't keep a bad idea down.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2013


As with all things this would be far better if the humans were replaced by puppies. (or kittens if you prefer, although I have some concerns about expecting kittens to unanimously agree to being cuddled)
posted by elizardbits at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I liked the part about the slapping though.
posted by elizardbits at 2:02 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually think this is such a lovely idea, but I had imagined more of a drop-in service where you get a big hug on your way to work or after a rough day.

Actually, the way you finagle this (for free!) in real life is to have your neutralface look SAD. And so then when you're actually sad you just look like the most pathetic thing in the entire world.

A couple years ago I had just gotten broken up with by a pretty serious boyfriend, and was on my way back to my apartment with a carload of stuff I had accumulated at his place over several years. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home to get a storage thing to hold all of it, and some random woman saw me walking through the aisles, said "oh lord honey I don't know what is going on but it looks like you're having an awful day" and swooped me up in the world's biggest hug before I even knew what was happening.

In 20/20 hindsight I think about this and see how wildly inappropriate it was (I mean, who just goes up and hugs a stranger without consent?) but at the time it was exactly what I needed. And I'm really not a huggy person.

So I see things like this Snuggery thing and most of me is just really uncomfortable with the whole thing, like who would want to interact with people if they don't have to...but I can definitely see the value of offering an emergency services plan.
posted by phunniemee at 2:02 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


WE SHOULD HAVE A HUG STORE. Like a 33 Flavors.

You can get the manly pat, or you can get the kiss on both cheeks and the "Oh my gawd, you look so amazing."


I'm here for my 5:30 gratuitous Praise.

Wonderful sir, will that be fawning or non-fawning?

Fawning please, and set up a " He doesn't deserve you" pep talk for after.

Right away sir.
posted by The Whelk at 2:03 PM on June 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


WE SHOULD HAVE A HUG STORE. Like a 33 Flavors.

There is a Hug Deli that I imagine originated as a burning man project and pops up at far more festivals and events than I find reasonable.
posted by flaterik at 2:03 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"manly pat"

I could go for that, maybe with some manly banter "You old so and so, how the hell you been, wife and kids keeping you busy I bet, how do you like the Mets this year" "um...... buncha bums?" "atta boy"
posted by Ad hominem at 2:04 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh man! I could totally do that! I could even offer a "manly pat" variation where I growl "Whatcha gonna do, huh?" in a quietly sympathetic way toward other dudes.

Isn't that just a bar?
posted by Cash4Lead at 2:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


My wife and I are now having an argument about whether or not she'd make a good professional cuddler.

THANKS FOR NOTHING METAFILTER!
posted by R. Schlock at 2:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Isn't that just a bar?

No human being has spontaneously talked to another human being in a bar since 2007
posted by The Whelk at 2:06 PM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is the beginning. In six to eight years, these places will be all over the country. Getting a job at one will require obtaining a professional cuddler's license. Community colleges will offer associate's degrees in cuddling. There will be competing philosophies of cuddling, couch versus bed, warm room versus cool room, squeezing versus rubbing. Conferences on cuddling will be organized, professional associations created, a regulatory agency established. Cuddling will become a new service industry, one you can't possibly perform well at home.
posted by perhapses at 2:06 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


A snuggler with a heart of gold.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:07 PM on June 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hey y'all, five bucks for a professional, firm, three-pump handshake. For an extra dollar, I'll throw in a quick left-handed clap on your right shoulder. Another buck gets you eye contact and a confident sounding "It's really great to see you".
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The negative comments toward the therapists here are disappointing but not surprising.
posted by MillMan at 2:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


They called it a 'cuddle puddle'.

That's what I call it when I lie on the living room rug and my three large dogs come around to lie on me and lick my face. Which I prefer by far to being touched by people I don't know.

When I first started reading this FPP, I imagined the service as more standing-up-hugging. Or, maybe, sitting nice and close on the sofa watching sitcoms. It didn't even cross my mind you would just jump in bed and spoon someone right away! Boundaries!
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:16 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Therapists?

Q. Are snuggling sessions therapy?
A. Snuggling sessions are not therapy but they can be restorative, rejuvenating, comforting, playful and fun.

posted by Cookiebastard at 2:18 PM on June 25, 2013


Before I met my husband, I had a few friends that were mutual "cuddle buddies". It wasn't sexual, it was having a trusted friend to curl up with and watch a movie or TV, to be wrapped securely in their arms, or to fall asleep there. At a time in my life when I was pretty broken, it was a very healing thing.
posted by xedrik at 2:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


I am moving to Portland in six months. This is just firther proof that Portland can be scary.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2013


"So it's a whorehouse for prudes."

Tell Glen I said "ZING!"
posted by Taft at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Wow, I never thought I'd see something that I am so on the fundamental opposite point of view on that I literally can't imagine the thought process required to get there."

You can't imagine that many people live without physical human contact and, for many of those, their lives are much the worse for it? This is entirely outside your ability to conceive and process?

I'm not really aiming this your way, because your comment was (commendably) neutrally phrased and, in any case, it doesn't really imply anything beyond this particular context — but your reaction brings to my mind what I think is a problem here of people failing to understand that many people's lives are far more limited than they believe or are willing to imagine.

I recall an unpleasant thread where someone speculated, in all seriousness, that someone's hateful pathology was the inevitable result of their lack of sex. I challenged this, pointing out that many people — the severely disabled, the elderly living alone, for example — live without sex and so does this mean that they're twisted and damaged and misanthropic, too? Much to my surprise, this person didn't retreat from this position and, instead, basically argued that people being celibate for long periods is necessarily both the result and the cause of psychological illness.

I've gone years without sex (and this is the case for me now) and I have gone weeks and even months without even touching another person, at all, in any way. More sustained, comforting physical contact? That's pretty much congruent to having a sexual partner. So, for me, it's feast or famine. (When in a relationship, I'm very tactile.)

I don't have any problem with the idea that I'm notably far from average. But I'm certain that I'm not that far from average. Lots of divorced middle-aged people don't date, particularly single-parents whose lives are already complicated balancing work and home. Many of them do date — I've known examples of both types. I'm not saying that these sorts of conditions deterministically result in non-dating. But that's just one example among many of the types of circumstances in combination with personality types such that many people, far more than people commonly suppose, go long periods without sex or even much human affection. The parents have the latter, often, although there's a lot of older children that spurn physical affection from their parents.

"I was feeling all around for the combination of feelings this evoked in me, and then I showed it to a friend, who immediately said, 'So it's a whorehouse for prudes.' Which I don't agree with, necessarily, but which is evocative and made me laugh."

I think this is a mischaracterization, too.

There's numerous good reasons for something that exists within the terrain between massage therapy (as you were discussing it) and sex. When you cuddle with your child, that's not massage therapy and it's certainly not sexual. But it's affectionate.

It's hard in our culture to imagine affectionate touch with someone that's not family (or, to various degrees, a friend) that's not sexualized in some sense and so I think that people being people, affectionate touch with a stranger will for many also involve some sexuality. That's okay. Affectionate touch between friends can involve some sexuality.

The issue is that many, arguably most, people need some amount of affectionate touch but for those who aren't getting it, that doesn't mean that their choice should be nothing or sex or sex with strangers. Indeed, sex with strangers is often not about affectionate touch at all. Even if I thought that prostitution was an acceptable solution to this problem, which I don't, I wouldn't expect a prostitute to cuddle. The whole cultural context is different. But there's a truism about johns, which I don't know is actually true but it sounds plausible, that most of them are mostly just lonely. It's sort of revealing that, culturally, outside of family, it's either no contact or sex, with nothing in between.

Although I have concerns, I also think that the sexist/gender dynamics are different in the context of cuddling services as compared to prostitution. That is to say, there's reasons to think that it would be less exploitative of women. And women are much, much more likely to be clients.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:26 PM on June 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


No human being has spontaneously talked to another human being in a bar since 2007

A girl spontaneously talked to me at a bar the other day. She walked up to myself and a friend and said we should both be dancing (we had been) and that we shouldn't be afraid to get down (I'm really not), told me I'm not bad looking for a white guy but I should try to act a little more black (I am quite white. So was she.), put her hand my stomach and said I should hit the gym (I, uh, do, and I could stand to lose another 5-10 pound but damn are you just not used to the way people are shaped when they're not sucking in their gut to impress you?) and that she wouldn't date me because I obviously ate meat but I should probably do less of that and when I do it should be grass fed (yes that is already pretty much my philosophy).

After that I could've used a cuddle.
posted by flaterik at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


All y'all MeFites and your frickin' snark. Touch starvation is a real, visceral, painful piece of modern life for a lot of people. It's comorbid and complicating in so many mental and physical disorders but especially anxiety and depression. Clearly prostitution fills the niche for a lot of forever alones who are self-medicating, as it were, but this has many of the up-sides and zero of the down sides of prostitution, such as no STIs.

Frankly, I'd rather live in a world where being squicked out by touch was abnormal and where touch is normal. I think it would be a much more pleasant world. That being said, I'm not always so touchy feely myself but my best memories are of the times where a touch was unexpected, not wholly platonic but not sexual either.
posted by Skwirl at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [43 favorites]


I'm about to go to contact improv at Porter Square for touch starvation mitigation reasons tonight.
posted by oonh at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2013


No drama club kids hug all the time.

It's so we can find a good place to stick a knife.


This so perfectly encapsulates my experiences in college theater that I, um... hmm.

I think I need to go reflect on my life's decisions.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]



A girl spontaneously talked to me at a bar the other day. She walked up to myself and a friend and said we should both be dancing (we had been) and that we shouldn't be afraid to get down (I'm really not), told me I'm not bad looking for a white guy but I should try to act a little more black (I am quite white. So was she.), put her hand my stomach and said I should hit the gym (I, uh, do, and I could stand to lose another 5-10 pound but damn are you just not used to the way people are shaped when they're not sucking in their gut to impress you?) and that she wouldn't date me because I obviously ate meat but I should probably do less of that and when I do it should be grass fed (yes that is already pretty much my philosophy).


Was she wearing one of those "peacocking" hats? (I mean, in addition to the creepy racist hat, of course.) And did the negs make you desperate for her attention?
posted by Frowner at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I wonder if they realize how high a proportion of people who actually do use their service are going to end up sobbing in their arms.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:32 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the Snugglers says: "I studied at the University of Rochester where I received a Bachelors Degree in Brain and Cognitive Science. I'm presently completing my Master's Degree in Social Work."

And somewhere, her parents look at the empty college fund they spent decades filling, and they slowly shake their heads and laugh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:33 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And somewhere, her parents look at the empty college fund they spent decades filling, and they slowly shake their heads and laugh.

To be honest, at $60 an hour, with enough demand that she had to hire a second snuggler, she's probably doing much, much better financially than many of the other college grads I know.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is kind of what I always assumed the drama and choir kids did during class.

Sometimes, but mostly we had work to do (scenes to prep, etc) in class. We did a lot of cuddling before & after class (we called it cozing).

I really wish that this service were more about non-sexual/non-romantic cuddling, like we had among the drama majors in high school. It was really relaxing and it made you feel better. I pictured a big sunlit room with soft furnishing and mats, and with everyone cuddling in groups. But just the fact that they only cuddle two people at a time, in a private bed - this makes it more couply.
posted by jb at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


And somewhere, her parents look at the empty college fund they spent decades filling, and they slowly shake their heads and laugh.

To be honest, at $60 an hour, with enough demand that she had to hire a second snuggler, she's probably doing much, much better financially than many of the other college grads I know.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:36 PM on June 25 [+] [!]


Well they keep telling us to go into jobs that can't be outsourced.

I mean until this gets really popular and they start hiring cut-rate discount smugglers .
posted by The Whelk at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The free hugs thing is super creepy to me now that I know that a lot of people engaged in "conversion therapy" do it. Something called "healthy touch" is often a part of the process of converting from gay to straight, according to the snake-oil salesmen who prey on the desperate. Anyway, shudder. Watch out, Union Square.
posted by prefpara at 2:40 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


" I provide personal, private, in-office professional cuddling services for harried executives on the go. With my patented, scientifically tested Cup-Prong Method, I will provide the benefits of a full hours spent cuddling in a quick, efficient twenty mintue session. Learn to be be your best and be more alert and refreshed on the job. Try a risk free trial today!" Triple Diamond VIP Execucuddle Inc.
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


{mutter}professional cuddlers all kind of look like the one that got away{/mutter}
posted by Skwirl at 2:44 PM on June 25, 2013


Everyone needs a hug. Credit cards accepted.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


HUG THE FUCK OUT OF 'EM PHILIPPE
posted by entropicamericana at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man, if you ever need a free hug in any variety, try an AA (or NA, or Al-Anon) meeting. The trick is fending off the unwelcome hugs! But really, everyone needs (and gets) a hug there!!

I confess that earlier today I was thinking that I really needed that good spooning cuddle (but I always want to be the little spoon)... I'm seeing someone, so it's not impossible to get some cuddles, but when I'm really sad/overwhelmed/distraught/confused I find a peaceful spooning session really, really soothing. As someone with bipolar and other issues, I think there could be a biological component to the soothing touch of another person. It allows me to believe, if just for a moment, that things are going to be ok.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cuddling someone you love deeply is better than a random store bought cuddle.

But something is probably better than nothing if you have no one and are starving for affection. Affection is so important.
posted by discopolo at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


The free hugs thing is super creepy to me now that I know that a lot of people engaged in "conversion therapy" do it. Something called "healthy touch" is often a part of the process of converting from gay to straight, according to the snake-oil salesmen who prey on the desperate. Anyway, shudder. Watch out, Union Square.

I remember when the Free Hugs guy got pissy when the $2 hugs guy showed up and got more hugs.
posted by discopolo at 3:21 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am an absolute cuddleslut with people who are pre-authorized. The authorization process is lengthy and exacting and may require surviving extreme stress situations with me. (I always joke about how video game community managers always end up on a single couch at parties, no matter how many of us there are, but it's totally true and absolutely restorative for everyone.)

So while I understand the draw and deeply, tragically understand touch starvation, the odds of me arranging to snuggle with a complete stranger are approximately nil.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:24 PM on June 25, 2013


Touch starvation is a real, visceral, painful piece of modern life for a lot of people.

THIS. I understand a lot of the snark here, and I'm not sure professional cuddlers are the answer, but I think the existence of cuddling as a commodity is symptomatic of much larger issues within our culture. (Which is interesting, because America is considered more touchy-feely than most other countries.)

Human touch is critical, especially if you're dealing with depression, illness, crisis. For a long time I've been one of those people who pick up on other people's nonverbal cues (it could be years and years of therapy, mixed with my own deep-seated need not to feel as invisible as I did as a kid), and I have no problem offering a hug to a colleague or friend, hell even a sobbing stranger in an emergency vet clinic, if I think it might help the other person. In some cases people will say no, but they usually say yes, and since I'm a bear hugger, I hold on tight and don't let go first. Sometimes people let go right away, but more often people relax, and then some start crying. It's amazing, the power of a small gesture like this, and I wish more people could let go of their (understandable) fears and reach out. It's like a lesser version of the bystander mentality. Is it risky? Sure. But in my experience it's been worth it, even moreso when someone has seen me in distress and offered me one in return.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 3:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Just speaking for myself, I wasn't being snarky. I don't like touching most people and I don't like to be touched by most people and the idea of paying for it is mind-bogglingly bizarre given my predilections in that department though I know it's one of those things other people really enjoy.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh. This is the second time this week that somebody from my former department is on the Blue. And one of my favorite neighbors from that time went to work at the Snuggery for a while.

I'm almost famous.
posted by knile at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2013


"My First Cuddle Party". In quotes because it's not mine.
posted by knile at 3:30 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just speaking for myself, I wasn't being snarky. I don't like touching most people and I don't like to be touched by most people and the idea of paying for it is mind-bogglingly bizarre given my predilections in that department though I know it's one of those things other people really enjoy.

Ditto! Coworkers have invited me to strip clubs a few times (I used to work with a guy who was dating a dancer), and whenever the off stage dancers made their way to our table, I basically paid them to leave me alone.
posted by gsteff at 3:44 PM on June 25, 2013


The word "cuddle" is one of my least favorite words. It sounds like a portmanteau of "cud" and "curdle." I'd rather live next door to a clock tower that bellowed "MOIST PANTIES" every quarter hour than hear "cuddle" ever.

I don't really have a problem with a professional you-know-what service, I just can't stand that word.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:47 PM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


From NYMag:
Still, nearly 50 percent of her male clients get boners, she told me. And I secretly wondered if she gets offended about the other half.

Offended? Is the author really suggesting that the proprietor of this business is personally offended when men don't get boners at/on her? Gross.

Actually, this whole phenomenon feels that way to me. I develop an intensely visceral sense of disgust when it comes to the prospect of being touched like this by anyone I'm not sleeping with, to the point of distraction. When people talk about giving or receiving massages, I need to either change the subject or leave the room altogether because it makes me so incredibly uncomfortable.
Moreover, while I suppose I can understand, in a very detached and limited way, that other humans might enjoy practices of this nature, I'm exceedingly wary of any business that encourages women and women only to market their bodies as props meant for other people to use to achieve some sort of personal gratification. I haven't seen hide nor hair of a man offered up on any of these websites. Curious, that.

Everyone knows Tairy Greene is the best at it, anyway.
posted by divined by radio at 3:51 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I doubt this will catch on, because it's too "out there" for most people, but I do wonder what would happen if visiting a snuggery became commonplace. I'm willing to bet people would have less casual sex. I think a number of people resort to random hookups simply because they need someone to hold them.
posted by evil otto at 3:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm willing to bet people would have less casual sex.

I... respectfully disagree. Oh, I'm sure there are people who would give up casual sex for a chance at casual cuddling. There are also probably ten times as many people who would proceed directly from casual cuddling to casual sex. It's a gateway hug, is what I'm saying.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Besides erections, I wonder how do they deal with other natural, potentially unpleasant bodily issues?
posted by tservo at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2013


WE SHOULD HAVE A HUG STORE. Like a 33 Flavors.

You can get the manly pat, or you can get the kiss on both cheeks and the "Oh my gawd, you look so amazing."


The realization that you've hit a new low is free with every purchase!
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


A girl spontaneously talked to me at a bar the other day. She walked up to myself and a friend and said we should both be dancing (we had been) and that we shouldn't be afraid to get down (I'm really not), told me I'm not bad looking for a white guy but I should try to act a little more black (I am quite white. So was she.), put her hand my stomach and said I should hit the gym (I, uh, do, and I could stand to lose another 5-10 pound but damn are you just not used to the way people are shaped when they're not sucking in their gut to impress you?) and that she wouldn't date me because I obviously ate meat but I should probably do less of that and when I do it should be grass fed (yes that is already pretty much my philosophy).

You did even better than we had hoped, Carlton. You could have easily proven her wrong on the dancing front, but we admire your restraint.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2013


Was she wearing one of those "peacocking" hats? (I mean, in addition to the creepy racist hat, of course.) And did the negs make you desperate for her attention?

Holy crap I did not even realize how much she was wearing an invisible fedora.
posted by flaterik at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we have a divide between country MeFites and city MeFites.

City MeFites are nameless faceless specks in a vast sea of people who haven't spoken to someone in a bar since 2007. They are constantly surrounded by strangers who they secretly fear. They want hugs but are afraid to show weakness in front of the very people who will give them. Professional snugglers are for us.

Country MeFites talk to everyone they see, know everyone's name at the cafe in the middle of town, are given food by neighbors, say all y'all, own dogs and cows. Professional smugglers may not be for you, you got cows and in a pinch whoever is working at the cafe will give you a hug.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:34 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


If your daddy already gave you the watch that is your birthright, professional smugglers may not be for you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't want anyone who isn't a very special friend touching me in any way whatsoever, thank you. My personal space has a two-foot radius and by golly, it is inviolable.
posted by Decani at 4:37 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your daddy already gave you the watch that is your birthright, professional smugglers may not be for you.

Shoulda QFTed that shit, now nobody know I wrote smugglers instead of snugglers.

Edit window saves my ass once again.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, touch therapy seems the very antithesis of an internet community. I want to interact with you, but at a distance is just fine, thanks.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Professional snugglers are for us.

Professional smugglers may not be for you

Goddamn it iPad! You changed it to professional smugglers twice.

I give up.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:41 PM on June 25, 2013


Need a huge?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I mean*... hug?




*probably
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:45 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine a hug negative impact
posted by yoHighness at 4:52 PM on June 25, 2013


imagine scabies
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:53 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stay away from me I have pepper spray.

oh god, I'm so alone.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


wow totes awko taco.

I didn't mean to make it weird or anything. By all means, Keep snuggling.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2013


awko taco....?
posted by louche mustachio at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one problem I have here is that I, ahem, don't use sleeping attire. So, I get to show up naked then? And boners are okay?

I mean, nude sleepers have rights and needs too, you know. I should show up here, book a cuddle, then strip down, and sue them when they require I be dressed.

Also, if they have cuddle calluses, that is a big no go.
posted by Samizdata at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2013


Human touch is critical, especially if you're dealing with depression, illness, crisis.

I think maybe if you go by this thread you will see that it is not the same for everyone! And that is okay!

don't touch me
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I, uh, have actually looked into the Cuddle parties occurring around LA, as I don't have much day-to-day interaction with people other than strangers and it frankly sounded nice. For several months, the only ones here were being run by this person who also led tantric and erotic classes, and gave me a skeevy feeling. Now that I look again, there's nothing happening 'round here it looks like.
Feast or famine indeed.
posted by ApathyGirl at 5:40 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's about non-sexual touch, then why the discomfort?

I immediately thought of Pulp Fiction.
Vincent: Would you give a guy a foot massage?
Jules: [pause] Fuck you.
posted by Justinian at 6:04 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would try this at least once.
posted by yonega at 6:14 PM on June 25, 2013


With the reaction they're getting in this thread I'm glad they're not being honest about what they're really selling: tenderness. There is nothing more foreign to these parts than being gentle and tender with one another.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:14 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Too out there for me. And the thought of a cuddle party with my friends? Even my closest ones? Blergh. Uck. No. No no no no.

But that is my personal reaction to this. Whatever floats yer boat.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2013


both the author and her cuddler were uncomfortable cuddling another woman.

I'm willing to bet that neither of them have sisters.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've got a brother but I don't think I'd be doing the cuddle thing with a male cuddle buddy...
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2013


There is nothing more foreign to these parts than being gentle and tender with one another.

"Nothing more foreign"? C'mon. Because many commenters find the idea of purported non-sexual intimacy for pay with total strangers to be an odd one doesn't make the site cruel and cold, or whatever it is you're implying.
posted by aught at 6:38 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


divined by radio: "Everyone knows Tairy Greene yt is the best at it, anyway."

THANK YOU! I can't believe you, metafilter, how far down this thread had to get before the obligatory SNUGGLER....
posted by symbioid at 6:43 PM on June 25, 2013



Wow, I never thought I'd see something that I am so on the fundamental opposite point of view on that I literally can't imagine the thought process required to get there.


I think this is an awesome idea, honestly, since human touch is so important. I wonder if this would work in Australia, since it has legalized prostitution, but it probably would since the need it meets is different.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



sort of related: Cuddle Parties. Structured & social group cuddling.

I overheard some university kids talking about doing one. They called it a 'cuddle puddle'.

I immediately became much older.


I remember this being a big thing at the CTY ('smart kids camp') i went to. Lots of gothy awkward kids having cuddle parties and being cuddle buddies.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:52 PM on June 25, 2013



Oh man! I could totally do that! I could even offer a "manly pat" variation where I growl "Whatcha gonna do, huh?" in a quietly sympathetic way toward other dudes.


yeah you could have a bro-hug fest, like at folk punk gigs where dudes are just offering manly hugs all the time. its still good
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the other hand if people want to have human versions of Temple Grandin's hugging machine then more power to... wait a second
posted by danny the boy at 7:13 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I immediately felt extremely self-conscious but tried to get into it. "Come on, Rose. Let her heal you! You can do this!" But I was too uptight.

At one point, I needed to shift positions. I ended up on my back with Colleen’s face burrowed into my neck. I felt like I was doing “the guy part.” Yuck. Then we shifted positions again. I couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, I broke the silence, “I feel weird,” I said. “Me too,” she admitted. Turns out she was more comfortable doing her job with men as partners, especially ones who weren’t reviewing the experience publicly.


Surnow attributes her cuddler's discomfort to their shared gender, but she doesn't actually quote her on that, and I am not convinced - who would be comfortable cudding someone who so obviously hated it? The author seems like she really didn't want to do this story, and she certainly seems pretty cynical about the whole experience.

(It might sound like I am a toucher. No. Human touch is very important, yes, but I need to be elsewhere right now, thank you, no, goodbye.)
posted by gingerest at 7:44 PM on June 25, 2013


On the other hand if people want to have human versions of Temple Grandin's hugging machine then more power to... wait a second

To Serve Cuddle Man
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:51 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recently read a story about how we need a certain number of hugs to survive. I have only have one person to hug on a regular basis and she's a pre-teen who finds this very annoying. So, i could go for rtha's idea of a quick post-work hug.

Speaking of pre-teens, my kid and her friends have this elaborate handshaking routine which ends with a shoulder bump and jellyfish hands. it's pretty awesome.

Note to self: get to the next meet-up early (instead of my usual late) so I can hug everyone! (note, I probably won't do this, unless you all want me to.)
posted by vespabelle at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like cuddlin someone you don't actually have emotional intimacy with would get weird when you brush her boob by accident. Last time I got a pedicure my foot accidentally grazed her boob like twice, I was mortified.
posted by bleep at 8:07 PM on June 25, 2013


I have a friend who does the free hugs thing. He is simply compassionate and brave. No particular baggage.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:47 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those of us who have never known the reassurance of a human touch, the snark in this thread seems unkind.
posted by SPrintF at 8:59 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is nothing more foreign to these parts than being gentle and tender with one another.
"Nothing more foreign"? C'mon. Because many commenters find the idea of purported non-sexual intimacy for pay with total strangers to be an odd one doesn't make the site cruel and cold, or whatever it is you're implying.


It's not that people find it odd, it's the rather snarky way that some have chosen to express it. Snarkiness is sort of the opposite of being gentle and tender.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:03 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


As with all things this would be far better if the humans were replaced by puppies. (or kittens if you prefer, although I have some concerns about expecting kittens to unanimously agree to being cuddled)--elizardbits

Of course, they have those in Japan too. Previously.
posted by eye of newt at 10:30 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do y'all not hug your friends when you meet/leave them? Maybe not those you see daily, but those you go out for supper with every few weeks? Must suck to only shake hands, or not touch at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would be a very good professional snuggler, I think. I already hug pretty much everyone. I am fluffy, soft, warm, and I usually smell of sandalwood and lavender. Snuggling, quiet chatting or just listening, as the client needs, hold their hands if they want.

Sometimes, people just need to feel warm and cared for. A gentle hug, a soft touch, and a kind word can go a long way toward comforting someone in need of human warmth.
posted by MissySedai at 11:07 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]



Do y'all not hug your friends when you meet/leave them? Maybe not those you see daily, but those you go out for supper with every few weeks? Must suck to only shake hands, or not touch at all.


Yeah, my crew always gives massive hugs, and i remember my weirdo group in high school doing the same, but it isn't sustained cuddling.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:19 PM on June 25, 2013


It's not that people find it odd, it's the rather snarky way that some have chosen to express it. Snarkiness is sort of the opposite of being gentle and tender.

jessamyn - "MetaFilter can best be described as slightly hostile to nearly everything, except for the few things it is entirely hostile towards. And then there are pancakes and kittens."
posted by benito.strauss at 11:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your local NICU takes volunteer baby snugglers, to give skin-on-skin contact to preemies (for whom it increases good health outcomes) and to snuggle and soothe infants whose parents are incarcerated, high, dead, or missing, as it is an important form of early socialization without which humans can't develop normally. It's really sad, though, because a lot of the infants die.

It's more obviously therapeutic than adult snugglers, but it also illuminates why human touch is necessary and maybe we should find less "weird" ways for adults to get it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


OMG Charlemagne_in_Sweatpants what session were you
posted by gottabefunky at 11:39 PM on June 25, 2013


How funny, I just saw a flyer for the Portland one on the bulletin board at Zupan's yesterday and was all like, Srsly?, but a look at her website confirmed it was real. Whatever floats your boat.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:42 PM on June 25, 2013


Do y'all not hug your friends when you meet/leave them? Maybe not those you see daily, but those you go out for supper with every few weeks? Must suck to only shake hands, or not touch at all.

No, we do not, and no, it does not.

The thing you seem to be struggling to understand here is that not everyone sees the appeal of casual physical contact. Not everyone buys into the idea that a "social hug" is necessarily a pleasant thing. In fact, many of us actually dislike it. Getting up close and personal with another human being involves smelling their body, their breath and their clothing; it involves feeling the contours of parts of their body, even if only fleetingly. Touching another person is a very intimate thing to do, and some of us see this as being not only inappropriate but actually rather repellent when done as if it were no more than saying "Hi there!". It feels to me a little bit like rendering something that ought to be special, mundane. Casual huggers remind me of those people who constantly need to be saying "Love you!", as if those words were no more than a nervous tic, a knee-jerk, an unconscious scratching of the ear or flicking of the hair. It reduces words or acts that are supposed to - and should - carry great power, and in doing so makes them trivial and routine. It cheapens them.

Also, it most definitely has nothing to do with any latent homophobia. I feel exactly the same way about casual physical contact with a woman as I do with a man, and I know from talking to people who share my attitude that the same is true for them. If you are a friend of mine that means I like you, to some degree. I will be pleased to see you, but the extent of that pleasure will be to engender a sincere smile and some jolly words of greeting. I like you, but I have no desire to touch your body. We're just friends, man. Or woman. Let's keep it in proportion.

And if you're just a casual acquaintance what the hell are you even thinking, coming at me for a grapple? Eww. Back the hell off.
posted by Decani at 12:29 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not everyone buys into the idea that a "social hug" is necessarily a pleasant thing. In fact, many of us actually dislike it. Getting up close and personal with another human being involves smelling their body, their breath and their clothing; it involves feeling the contours of parts of their body, even if only fleetingly.

I've just been reading Stan Tatkin's Love and War in Intimate Relationships, which discusses how the attachment patterns established in early life influence people's psychological and physiological responses to physical closeness/contact with other people. Avoidant types tend to shun it (the side huggers of the world), citing exactly this kind of repulsion, while other types are more comfortable seeking it out. This can be a fairly serious hurdle for couples with different attachment styles. Or for Mefites sharing the same thread.

I love getting my tactile fix but really, spooning with a paid stranger? I get a similar experience for free every morning on the Tube.
posted by stuck on an island at 2:44 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be a very good professional snuggler, I think. I already hug pretty much everyone.

That's very nice, and I hug my friends too when greeting or leaving them. But that has nothing at all to do with getting into bed in a professional setting with a stranger in pajamas and cuddling for a set amount of time for a fee. Not everyone skeptical of the pro cuddlers is averse to touch in general - I think the two are being conflated quite a bit in the pushback here.
posted by aught at 5:59 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do y'all not hug your friends when you meet/leave them? Maybe not those you see daily, but those you go out for supper with every few weeks? Must suck to only shake hands, or not touch at all.
No, we do not, and no, it does not.

The thing you seem to be struggling to understand here is that not everyone sees the appeal of casual physical contact.
I would also like to add (as a member of the doesn't-really-hug-friends contingent) that if I had to see my friends daily I would probably go batshit crazy.

People are wired differently. It doesn't mean our lives our crappier than yours, it just means they're different.
posted by phunniemee at 6:14 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is this a part of that "everyone is becoming autistic" trend I've been hearing about?

Many people have friends and mothers, right? not just me?
posted by eustatic at 7:32 AM on June 26, 2013


1. I think their clientele demographic is a whole lot smaller than "everyone".
2. Lots of people live fairly isolated lives for all kinds of reasons; lots of people are estranged from their parents, among those whose parents aren't dead.
3. That's kind of a callous way to throw autism around.

I think there's plenty to talk about about the biz model and the cultural and social ideas surrounding it without taking lazy shots like that.
posted by cortex at 7:40 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd like to pimp out my cats to work at a Snuggery.
posted by haplesschild at 11:54 AM on June 26, 2013


A few comments in this thread mention human touch and human affection, touch-starvation, and touch therapy, and I'm idly wondering what people get out of non-sexual human touch that they can't get out of petting a cat or hugging a big dog. Any suggestions on something to read to get started, or is this something that I'm not really going to grasp unless I experience touch starvation?
posted by knuckle tattoos at 12:02 PM on June 26, 2013


Knuckle, it may just be different for different people. I have a super snuggly cat, and I don't experience touch -starvation- because it never really goes that long, but when it's been a while since I've had (even entirely non-sexual) physical affection from a human I definitely notice how happy and relaxed even just sitting closely with friends will make me.

Thank god for being a filthy hippy raver.
posted by flaterik at 12:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


"...and I'm idly wondering what people get out of non-sexual human touch that they can't get out of petting a cat or hugging a big dog"

Aren't there good reasons to believe that, in general (individuals will vary), there's a difference between human contact and animal contact? I'm confused by the assumption that they'd be identical.

I won't rule out a qualitative difference, but in my own experience there's a pretty big quantitative difference. Even so, I get quite a bit from my cat and I'm certain that my mental health is substantially improved by her companionship. But she's not a (sufficient) substitute for affectionate touch from other people. I still feel a large deficit.

"Not everyone skeptical of the pro cuddlers is averse to touch in general - I think the two are being conflated quite a bit in the pushback here."

and

"People are wired differently. It doesn't mean our lives our crappier than yours, it just means they're different."

Right! This works both directions. It's a mistake and insulting to argue (or imply) that people that aren't touchy-feely with others all the time are abnormal or unhealthy or unhappy. But it's also a mistake and insulting to argue that everyone can have those needs met easily because your own personal standards and life-situation is universal and that even considering these needs being met by strangers is abnormal and unhealthy. People are wired differently and their situations do vary greatly. Some of the skepticism of the pro cuddlers is clearly the result of normalizing from one's own personal preferences and experiences. Some of the skepticism is for other reasons which are far more legitimate.

As a defender of cuddling services, at least in principle, I don't fit this presumed division because I'm like Decani and others — I'm uncomfortable with most touch, and especially with strangers. But I'm also touch starved. So I recognize that there's a real need but my own preferences don't lead me to believe that cuddling services couldn't work for other people who have different preferences. Partly that's because I can maybe kinda sorta imagine that the right cuddling pro, under the right conditions, could be someone with whom I would be comfortable enough. Maybe.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting - I am a very touchy-feely person and love nothing more than a big cuddle pile on the sofa with my family (including the cat), and have even attended cuddle parties in the past, but I'm not sure how I would feel about paid one-on-one cuddling.

Part of what I've enjoyed about the cuddle parties is that there are many people to interact with, and it's always optional - the rules are very big on consent, and you're never supposed to touch someone without asking first. For me, that was a really great way to practice saying no to people, and to get used to turning people down and being turned down in a safe environment. (Though I always figured it would really suck to be someone that no one wanted to cuddle with.)

When I contrast that with the professional cuddler model, I'm not sure it's as appealing to me. What if you don't click with the other person? An hour of solo physical intimacy with someone sounds really intense - I'm sure you get to take breaks if you want to, but even still, it sounds like it could be overwhelming, and I'm someone who is high on the touchy-feely scale.

Either way, though, I'm glad these opportunities exist - I've had periods where I've been deprived of caring, physical touch, and for me personally, it makes a big difference in my mental health. Of course there are people who aren't into it, but for those who want it, I'm happy there's that option.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2013


At least it isn't some weird dude on the street with one of those "free hugs" signs.

I saw a dude with a Free Hugs sign and a cape at Albuquerque Comic Expo last week. There was a conventionally pretty woman (with a fabulous dress on) walking past him and he smiled and tried to make eye contact with her and she just kept walking (probably not noticing him at all) and his face fell in real time, making him look slightly crestfallen before he moved on. It was basically a summary of a large portion of geek culture in microcosm.

Before I met my husband, I had a few friends that were mutual "cuddle buddies".

I was in drama in high school and almost everyone was pretty snuggly like this. It wasn't sexualized exactly but there were frequently undertones-- there was never unwanted touching or anything like that, but it was a way to get physical contact with people you had a crush on without actually having the guts to make a move. It was also a pretty queer-normative space, so I think some of it was exploring that. I suppose there could be sketchy elements of this-- it could get really problematic for people who didn't like to be touched and weren't good at asserting boundaries-- but for a lot us I think it was really nice because a lot of us weren't actually ready for actual sexual contact but still craved the sort of physical contact it was inappropriate to get from family members or peers in most situations because of being in such a sexualized culture. High school was hell for me, but I think the dosage of oxytocin that I got from those cuddle piles did help.

My partner now has a lot of friends who still are like that and they're a lot better, I think, at establishing boundaries and making sure no one's cuddling in a way that makes them uncomfortable. So their cuddle piles aren't ever an excuse for that one creepy guy to touch women. It's not something I'm usually into-- every once in a while, maybe-- but I think he finds it really fulfilling. He's an extremely touch-sensitive person-- we spend a lot of time cuddling too-- and it's something that seems to make him happy. Because he is a human kitten.

Speaking of kittens, I think this is actually a part of why people have pets, and it's probably one of the reasons pets are linked to lower blood pressure/stress levels/etc. The whole "contact with another person thing" isn't really limited to, you know, people. There's a certain amount of oxytocin you can get, I'm betting, from having a purring kitty in your lap or a dog to flop on. A lot of people here talked about their dogs and cats or about having dogs and cats fulfill this role instead, and I think a lot of people have pets as a sort of stopgap for the famine parts of their lives when they aren't in relationships. There's obviously shades of grey here between sexual and comforting contact, and animals are (hopefully) on the comfort end.
posted by NoraReed at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2013


there is no rejection more painful or tragic than a kitteh who snubs your scritches.
posted by elizardbits at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aw, elizardbits, but doesn't it make you feel so much more appreciated when the kitty does eventually permit pats? I really like the standoffishness of some cats.

Uh, yeah, I am right there with Decani except that "cheapening" part - if all y'all want to go around hugging each other nonstop, more power to you, enjoy! just leave me out, please. My husband is a big-time toucher, so if I lose him, I can imagine going instantly into a touch-starved state but still shuddering at the idea of snuggling with anyone else, and it is actually easier for me to imagine paying for non-sexual close touch than asking for it or comfortably accepting it from most of my friends.
posted by gingerest at 7:25 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Services include (optional) slapping.
posted by storybored at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2013


Aren't there good reasons to believe that, in general (individuals will vary), there's a difference between human contact and animal contact?

For one thing, humans don't tend to shed on my face.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:45 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


At that point it's definitely gone a couple of steps beyond non-sexual cuddling.
posted by flaterik at 11:59 PM on June 26, 2013


I realize everyone is gone, but you are WAY off if you assume thinking this sounds gross has to be about not appreciating touch as important and intimate and personal.

I think it sounds gross exactly because I think touch is important and intimate and personal, and paying people to cuddle with you is gross for the same reason paying someone to tell me they love me would be gross. In some ways, this is more intimate than sex, and you are more explicitly paying for what is, to me, a pantomime of personal closeness rather than just a physical release.

So please, if you have to get on people for "snark" about this, keep in mind that thinking this sounds horrible doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being against touch or hugging. If you opened up a business called "We Think You're Great," and its purpose was to compliment people insincerely for ten dollars, I would find it distasteful in the extreme, even though I believe receiving positive comments from other people is important. Some things that are lovely, precious, and necessary for the perpetuation of a soul when they come from emotion squick me out completely when they're done by strangers in exchange for money. Sorry if that offends, but "WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST HUGGING?" is an off-base reaction except to people who have, in fact, said they don't like hugging.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:19 AM on June 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Offended? Is the author really suggesting that the proprietor of this business is personally offended when men don't get boners at/on her?

I seem to recall reading years ago about an old time actor about to play a love scene with his leading lady, whom he did not know very well. He apparently took her aside and said sotto voce, "Look, we are going to be in very close contact out there, and I just wanted to apologize in advance if I get an erection." After a moment's thought, he added, "I would also like to apologize if I don't."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Some things that are lovely, precious, and necessary for the perpetuation of a soul when they come from emotion squick me out completely when they're done by strangers in exchange for money."

I can see why that would be the case, but I think you're begging the question.

You're assuming, I think, that when it's done by a stranger for money it cannot be genuine. And while I am totally fine with asserting that this is often the case, or more likely to be the case, I don't agree that it's necessarily the case.

There's quite a few genuine, caring human interactions that occur within the context of people's jobs that involve interactions with strangers in exchange for money.

I think it's more likely that with various personalities involved, and with various kinds of interactions, and just varying coincidentally over time, that this is a continuum and therefore for some people, on some occasions, cuddling-for-money could be an entirely genuine, caring interaction. Being squicked-out about it indicates that you fundamentally deny this possibility — that's a disgust reaction and not a considered, rational evaluation. Which, again, isn't to say that you're not right in that, in practice, this wouldn't often be totally mercenary and thus lacking the genuine caring component that you (and I) feel is an essential part of this.

But, you know, I don't assume that every other person beside me and you requires the emotional intimacy component of human touch in order for this to alleviate their touch starvation. I've always had approximately zero interest in casual sex, despite being sex-positive, because for me the emotional component is extremely important. But I think that sex with strangers is fine for other people and I won't deny their own attested experience if they tell me that it meets an essential need for them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:30 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're assuming, I think, that when it's done by a stranger for money it cannot be genuine.

Not to speak for Linda, but for me the possibility that it isn't genuine is sufficiently squicky. How could you ever tell?
posted by restless_nomad at 5:00 PM on June 27, 2013


"Not to speak for Linda, but for me the possibility that it isn't genuine is sufficiently squicky. How could you ever tell?"

I'm not sure how to answer that question because I think it applies to all sorts of other things. And with those other things, we sort of just make informed guesses. And, ultimately, one important characteristic of a formalized interaction such as this, but which includes other kinds of institutionalized caregiving, is that in the end what mostly matters is what the person being cared for believes not whether absolute genuineness has been or could be established.

I think this is a flawed example for a number of reasons, but it's coming strongly to mind so I will offer it: mental health counseling. I think counselors will tell us that trust is a vital component of successful therapy and, for that reason, a client will usually need to believe that a counselor is genuine in their attested desire to be helpful. "Caring" is a loaded word, but I think that most clients would prefer to believe that their therapists care for them and their welfare in some sense, though perhaps most would realistically limit this expectation to the confines of a professional, formal relationship. But, mainly, my point is that clients expect some form of "genuineness" in their interaction with their therapist, and justifiably.

But how can they know? Well, depending upon the therapist and the character of the relationship, that can range from "somewhat easily" to "nearly impossible". And, ultimately, what's most crucial is that the client has a sufficient level of trust and comfort such that they will be able to benefit from the therapy. I think we could naturally argue that it's more helpful for a therapist to actually care (within limits) than not to care, but I also suspect there are effective therapists who truly don't much care and their patients aren't aware of this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:17 PM on June 27, 2013


That example really doesn't work for me. I do not want my therapists emotionally involved in my life. That makes their professional judgment suspect and their objectivity nonexistent. I'm sure some people want their therapists to be their friends, but I, personally, have friends for that.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:37 PM on June 27, 2013


Well, that's why I thought it wasn't the best example. Even so, I thought I was clear that I wasn't saying that the genuineness would involve friendship, just the genuineness of a caring interaction, for some value of "caring".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:16 PM on June 27, 2013


Even so, I thought I was clear that I wasn't saying that the genuineness would involve friendship, just the genuineness of a caring interaction, for some value of "caring".

And I'm saying that the emotional downside for me for dealing with the realization that what I thought was affectionate physical contact was a purely commercial transaction is way, way bigger than any fleeting oxytocin hit.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:33 PM on June 27, 2013


I can see that. I don't think that's true for everyone, though. It may or may not be true for me, I'm not sure.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2013


I haven't been there (yet)(and I hope not to be) but what I've been trying to say is that I think that it's probably true for me: i.e. if I need that oxytocin hit and I can't ever get it from my partner again, I would be more comfortable with a commercial transaction than affectionate physical contact from most of the people I love, because I am wired that way. I would probably just get by without either, because I would feel pretty judged. (I already feel pretty judged, actually, and this hasn't even happened, but my bad for admitting I'm prickly.)
posted by gingerest at 7:51 PM on June 27, 2013


Not everyone skeptical of the pro cuddlers is averse to touch in general - I think the two are being conflated quite a bit in the pushback here.

I'm... kind of baffled by your reaction to my comment. I made no judgment about those who wouldn't be interested in being a pro cuddler, I merely remarked that I might be good at it. Why so preemptively defensive?
posted by MissySedai at 8:12 PM on June 27, 2013


I don't think that's true for everyone, though.

Obviously not. You're the only one trying to generalize personal reactions in this exchange, dude.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:33 PM on June 27, 2013


"You're the only one trying to generalize personal reactions in this exchange, dude."

No, I don't think I have been. I mean, it's weird that you would say that in response to my response where I explicitly made it clear I wasn't disputing your personal preferences or experience. With regard to people's expectations and preferences about touch, I've been extremely careful to emphasise that there's different strokes for different folks. I feel like I've been countering claims from both sides where people have been normalizing their own preferences. I have no idea where you're getting the idea that I've been doing the opposite.

I mean, you initiated our exchange by responded to my comment where I wrote this:

"I think it's more likely that with various personalities involved, and with various kinds of interactions, and just varying coincidentally over time, that this is a continuum and therefore for some people, on some occasions, cuddling-for-money could be an entirely genuine, caring interaction."

That's pretty much the opposite of generalizing personal reactions about cuddling.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:00 PM on June 27, 2013


I mean, you initiated our exchange by responded to my comment where I wrote this:

Yes, in an attempt to clarify my personal reaction. In a response to your attempt to educate Linda about her personal reaction.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:14 PM on June 27, 2013


"In a response to your attempt to educate Linda about her personal reaction."

No, that's not what I wrote. She wrote:

"If you opened up a business called 'We Think You're Great,' and its purpose was to compliment people insincerely for ten dollars, I would find it distasteful in the extreme, even though I believe receiving positive comments from other people is important. Some things that are lovely, precious, and necessary for the perpetuation of a soul when they come from emotion squick me out completely when they're done by strangers in exchange for money. Sorry if that offends..."

I think that reads as a value judgment about other people's interactions, not merely an attestation of her own preferences. The sentence I quoted in my comment alone reads just as personal attestation, but I think the context of her whole comment shifts it pretty strongly in the other direction. And so I interpreted her "squicked-out" part not as a statement about her own personal reaction were she involved in such a commercial interaction with someone, but rather generally about all people's — other people's — interactions of this sort.

I take no issue with her own preferences and reactions, I think that's an okay way to be.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:29 PM on June 27, 2013


Some things that are lovely, precious, and necessary for the perpetuation of a soul when they come from emotion squick me out completely when they're done by strangers in exchange for money.

Sorry, but this is judging other people's interactions. And it's wrongheaded judging, at that - I was once a med-surg nurse, and as you might guess from my previous comments, I did not revel in the delight of touching other people to comfort them. I did it because it was part of the job of taking good care of them. I patted people, I held their hands, I stroked their arms and hair, and sometimes I held them to my so-tender bosom. They were scared, in pain, and needed to comforting touch badly enough they were willing to seek it out from a stranger who was getting paid to be there and who went away when her shift ended. My patients weren't repulsive for needing touch, and neither was I for providing care for pay.
posted by gingerest at 12:13 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reading Linda's comment as a judgment on the medical profession seems fairly far afield, to me, and I'm all but certain that objections like that are part of the reason that she started her sentence with "some."

The businesses outlined in the OP do not involve people of all genders paying trained professionals for a non-sexual service, or people of all genders who are tender-hearted and generous comforting others in a time of need. They specifically involve men giving women money so that the men can create a sense of intimacy with the women's bodies (so long as nudity and genital touching are out of the picture). This is a practice that is much closer to prostitution than it is to nursing.

From the NY Magazine article, which is topped by with a photograph of two nude women in bed and pictured only from the waist down: "...clients are allowed to caress their designated snuggler's face, hair, and arms. They are also allowed to intertwine legs and play footsie. As long as it doesn't involve lady parts, it's basically fair game."

The actual practice as it exists is not a pie-in-the-sky "but everyone loves cuddling and hugs!" or "hey, we did this at band camp!" sort of deal, it is an explicitly gendered monetary transaction. This is an aspect that seems to have been altogether ignored in the discussion here in favor of repeatedly insisting that people who don't like to be touched are sad, or that they must be somehow otherwise lacking in basic human decency for only being comfortable with that level of intimacy when it involves people with whom they are actually acquainted. Here we have "professional snugglers," a group that consists exclusively of women, being paid to provide caricatures of affection to a client base that consists exclusively of men.

NYM: "The Snuggery is not a service for straight women, it turns out, but an outlet for men who feel either lonely or alienated." Color me surprised! They don't even need to say outright that their businesses are specifically designed for male customers; their customer base is self-selecting, and their so-called "professionals" are uncomfortable providing service to other women, which means their claims of simply providing an outlet for "non-sexual touch" are not nearly as magnanimous and noble as people seem to want them to be.
posted by divined by radio at 7:11 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between "I find this distasteful" and "I judge you if you don't find it distasteful." There are many, many, MANY things I would choose not to do that I don't judge other people for doing, including things that I find icky but judge no one for enjoying. All I was responding to was the eye-rolly "It's really sad that people make fun of this because they don't understand the importance of human contact" stuff. All I'm stressing is that appreciating something as important is not the same as thinking that moving it as commerce is a great idea, let alone thinking that a particular business that sells it seems tasteful. I didn't appreciate the leap from making fun of this business to devaluing human contact, and in fact, there's a way to interpret it as quite the opposite. That's all.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Reading Linda's comment as a judgment on the medical profession seems fairly far afield, to me"
That's the opposite of what I meant. The point I was trying to make is that we take for granted comforting touch, for pay, in the one instance, but we deride it in the other. I see your point that the service is gendered and sexualized (although I don't find that NYM article a very credible source - it's color work, not reporting).
I would point out, though, that nursing (which, by the way, is a discipline and profession distinct from medicine) is very gendered. In the US and Australia, in 2011, 90-92% of nurses are female.
posted by gingerest at 7:06 PM on June 30, 2013


I'm not convinced that everything that's gendered is automatically sexualized. I also think there's a lot of room to navigate between the poles of "magnanimous and noble" and "skeevy and dirty."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:21 PM on June 30, 2013


Make peace and hug it out, y'all.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:03 PM on June 30, 2013


« Older School violence prevention programs typically focu...  |  President of the United States... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments