It was kind of bizarre to have someone appear and post something negative about the idea of cuddling relative strangers, but it's a reminder of the preconceptions people can have.
What are some specific doubts / objections people might have about cuddling, and what is a helpful, positive answer to give them?
I have never viewed cuddling, snuggling, hugs, and so on as anything more than just something done casually between friends (or people in a relationship). I'm not sure why people would have a negative view of it.
I think the concept of the site might be taboo to a lot of people because they see people getting paid to do something as simple as cuddling and it bothers them because it is different than what they are used to (going to a 9-5 job for example).
I'm on another site called RentAFriend where people can rent your friendship out for the day as well (in addition to this one). A lot of people find that site to be taboo because there is a lack of understanding about it in general. People don't realize that friends can be used to line sit, do odd jobs, go shopping with someone who needs an assistant...really the possibilities are endless. They just see the basic concept of renting a friend and think it is weird.
Anyway, regardless of what you do, there is always going to be people who want to judge it or think it is weird because it isn't what normal people do. I never wanted to have a normal job. That is why I do the freelance thing. So I don't care if people want to call me weird for it. :P
In response to the notion that being on here somehow makes you desperate, and that you are not capable of meeting people outside of being online,. I say its not desperation but rather just streamlining the process. It is not easy as a grown ass adult to find other grown ass adults who want to cuddle without muddying the waters with a sexual relationship. Many people do not understand and may think it a bit odd. So it stands to reason that it is much easier to find what you are looking for in a site like this that attracts like minded people. If you want pizza you wouldn't go to a burger joint would you? No. So this is like a pizza buffet.
Agree with @pmvines . It's also just generally harder to find new stuff in general, the older you get. I've lost a lot of friends to people getting married, having kids, or just plain building their own life. I'm a homebody and somewhat introverted. I also tend to not fit in places and to be misunderstood by general society. I don't consider myself a "loser" or anything. I'm just weird, lol. I actually love who I am. Anyway, the people I have met in cuddling are some of the best people I've met in my entire life. I see getting into the cuddling community as a way to meet genuinely good people who accept me, and maybe even mostly understand me ;-) I find it more sad that we can't easily find love and acceptance out in the world everywhere. Maybe if more people joined the cuddling movement, then "out in the world" will become just as loving and awesome as in our little world...
@pmvines @ubergigglefritz I think that you guys bring up very good points.
I personally have depression, social anxiety, PTSD, OCD, anemia, agoraphobia, and some other physical, emotional, and mental disorders which make it hard for me to have 'normal' relationships with people.
I'm okay with casual snuggling and making surface level friends. But because of the extensive abuse I faced growing up, at school, and in the workplace, if anything progresses past a 'casual' friendship, I have panic attacks frequently and have other health-related issues.
This has driven me to seek more freelance work throughout the years where I don't have to commit to any long-term relationships with people.
Sites like these are good for people like myself who do better in environments where you work freelance and don't have to dedicate to forming long-lasting relationships with people.
One misconception about professional cuddling is that it is "paying for affection".
In this article the writer says:
"Is it not inherently contradictory to be aware of the fact that the cuddler is paid to make you feel relaxed and that the relationship you build with them is artificial, to say the least? Can it replace real human empathy, or can empathy be bought?"
There is a response to that aricle here:
I've had my share of managing the client/snuggler relationship. There's people that shouldn't use this service-- of course, none the least being people that are looking for a sexual side to it, but there's also people that force the emotional aspect to be something it's not. On my end, every emotion, every word I say to a client, and every bit of the relationship I build with my clients is genuine.
I'll never forget when someone who had seen a few cuddlers said to me while cuddling, "Tell me you love me." I paused, considered how to respond to this request, and said, "I can't in good faith say that to you and mean it. I do really enjoy cuddling with you though." He laughed heartily at that. "Some cuddlers are good actors, but I like that you don't do that." He said. I think that moment built our client/snuggler relationship because he could trust that what I gave to him was honest and real.
This all said, yes we can only give so much to our clients. We're not meant to replace romantic partners, but we can give in a very specific capacity that may be missing in in their life right now.
I also liked what Fei Wyatt said in her interview:
There's so much controversy about paying for professionals, and confusion about what that exchange of money means. When you hire me for this service, I'd like you to know that all you are paying for is my time, my full attention, and my skills. The love and care I have for you comes from the heart. It can't be bought, and is absolutely free -- regardless of whether we ever see each other in another session.
Fei has said so many things that perfectly state something I feel. That is beautifully honest and perfect :-)
Another misconception is that there is no such thing as "platonic cuddling".
People sometimes insist that all cuddling must be sexually related:
"The challenge is to understand why the mere presence of clothing [...] renders a very intimate physical act "strictly platonic." [...] Simply because these sessions do not include sexual intercourse does not mean they aren't sexual. They are." (from this article).
"No offense to men, but I don't know any man who wants to just snuggle." (Madison District Attorney Jennifer Zilavy here).
To people who regularly cuddle platonically, this all sounds kind of silly.
The issue for some might be past experiences cuddling someone who didn't really want it to stay platonic. But that's a very different context to people having discussed and agreed to definite, clear boundaries (especially in the case of pro cuddling where there is a written client agreement). For example, at Cuddle Santuary Fei Wyatt writes:
"To us, G-rated doesn’t simply mean that nothing overtly sexual occurs, but that even the intention, and energy of the space does not have a hidden or underlying erotic tone. We want to make sure that if a pre-schooler were to walk in, no changes would need to be made."
Some other responses:
"In our culture, the only experience someone has with this kind of touching has been in a romantic sense. It's not always easy for people to switch their brains to simply being platonic about it." (Samantha Hess in an interview).
"If you are cuddling a cuddle buddy or a professional cuddlist, you have agreed in advance to platonic cuddling, which has only friendship and affection as its goal and goes no further than that." ( @BlueIris in her article, Platonic cuddling is not a prelude to sex)
"It’s hard to explain how relaxing and liberating it is to get all this in a way that’s completely free of sex and all that goes with it." (Professional Cuddling is the Business of Bliss)
"I think I’ve confused sex and intimacy my whole life. I’ve always been afraid to get close to people, because I always thought I had this uncontrollable sex drive and that any physical contact would inevitably end in sex. There are a lot of people I have had sex with who I really only wanted to cuddle with." (from a Cuddle Santuary article)
"What’s lacking in our society is [...] access to real intimacy [...] Cuddlist.com’s slogan is: We’re sex obsessed but touch deprived" (from an article about cuddlist.com).
I guess there is a segment of the population who would be unable to keep things platonic, but that's not a valid argument against there being (many) others who can.
This article makes some arguments against professional cuddling:
"Cuddlers claim they can help people with intimacy problems, severe depression, autism, and other mental health disorders. They say they can be a vehicle of healing for those who are victims of abuse and other trauma. [...] I reached out and talked with three psychologists and two psychiatrists to get their take. Each of the five gave almost identical answers, all of which were deeply troubling.
"The mental health professionals all agreed with the professional cuddling industry that touch is an important part of well being for humans. However, the psychologists and psychiatrists I spoke with all stressed that this does not mean that paying for cuddling creates happier, healthier, or more well-adjusted adults. In fact, they believe that there is a significant risk of professional cuddling causing real harm, especially in the cases of those at-risk populations the industry targets as clients.
"Trauma victims and people suffering from depression can actually be made worse by people who don’t know what they’re doing -- and these people don’t. [...] When cuddlers talk about being careful with an at-risk client, are they familiar with how to look for those people’s triggers or how those triggers affects their lives outside of their sessions? [...] With the types of people they cater to, cuddlers might truly believe they are helping without realizing their actions are actually re-traumatizing their clients."
I think this is misinformed in several ways:
-- no professional cuddlers claim to be a replacement for therapy / counselling, just that touch can help with these types of issues. They would certainly want people to get the professional support they need.
-- pro cuddlers do not "target as clients" people with these issues. The only claim is that they benefit from touch.
-- there are cases where a trauma victim needs to be wise about how to approach cuddling, but again -- pro cuddlers aren't at all trying to replace therapists.
The Snuggle Party Guidebook has some good advice for victims of trauma (p.60-61):
"Snuggle parties can be a valuable healing strategy in a comprehensive trauma recovery plan. However, this is only after one has already started work with a professional counselor or therapist. Snuggle parties are not a replacement for therapy [...] Keep [your therapist] posted on your snuggle-related plans, so that you can process things with them as needed. Otherwise, an otherwise potentially healing activity could trigger further trauma in you, and possibly even harm others".
As Sam from snugglewithsam.com says, Please keep seeing your therapist.
Later the article says:
"The mental health professionals I spoke with insist that the relationships being formed between professional cuddlers and their regular clientele aren't what the cuddlers might wish to believe.
"Dr. Brillhart points to Hess’s three marriage proposals as proof that you can’t have a cuddling relationship without it becoming more in the mind of the customer. “Regardless of what you’ve told a client, when you rely on intimate touch and intimate verbal messaging you’ve muddied the waters. You’ve created a situation where, to that client, you are romantically linked.” "
This argument seems a bit silly to me -- three instances of people needing to be redirected in the area of romantic attachment is not "proof that you can’t have a cuddling relationship without it becoming more".
Romantic feelings are important to address if they come up (see the post on cuddling and romance later in this thread), but it doesn't mean something sinister or scary is happening.
@respectful There are a lot of misconceptions about platonic cuddling. Fortunately sites like these are working to help make this sort of thing more accepted.
Another one is that people who are into platonic cuddling are basically weird.
Becca Close says in this video:
"There are some misconceptions about what cuddling actually is and who seeks it out. Most people I talk to think that it's a bunch of losers that do it, but they're actually the kindest, smartest, funniest, most amazing people I've ever met in my life."
And in this video Amanda Anatra was asked what kind of people hire a cuddler. She replied:
"People hire a cuddler sometimes after a breakup; I have a lot of people who have been separated or divorced, who are just lonely, or often people who are really busy -- who are really focused on their career and don't really have time to date, but they want to get that need met for connection and physical touch. So for a lot of people who come into my office a core thing that it serves is loneliness, but secondly just feeling blissed out and connected."
A male professional was asked the same thing:
"I think mostly the kind of person I am seeing, is someone who is solidly into their adult years, is over-worked, under-appreciated, or has realized that the intimacy in their life has a pattern they are tired of and want to break up. A lot of people come to the Cuddle Sanctuary meet up looking to challenge their comfort zone and learn to connect better with people and break down their own walls. A lot of people need a friend and help to feel some amount of peace when the world is just f-ing them hard and they do not feel seen."
He also said:
"When I go to our Cuddle Sanctuary meetups, there are tons and tons or "normal" folk pouring in, looking to challenge their comfort zones and connect with more people. Over-worked types. Under-loved types. Emotionally scarred types. More people are starting to take love back into their own hands and learning healthy ways to ask for it."
@respectful Thank you so much for starting the conversation and sharing all of the invaluable information. Not to mention all the references to articles, books and statements. I would love to share this conversation on a couple of my cuddling groups. There are two groups: The Business of Cuddling and DC Metro Cuddles both on Facebook.
Navigating through the negative_ bullshit _,for lack of a better word, can be exhausting. People's views on cuddling are anything from "I need a hug" to "there is no way you can create intimacy through cuddling a stranger" and everything in-between. It really is a person by person view. However I believe through starting the discussion and rallying behind the Cuddle Movement, we are bringing the hard truths to light and that is; loneliness, touch deprivation and consent must move out of the "taboo" realm and into the daily discussion without people being ostracized or deemed awkward losers.
In the mental health professional's defense, they do have a point that professional cuddlers can harm those suffering from chemical imbalances and dependency issues. I refer to those cuddlers who have not been trained in cuddling or other therapeutic healing modalities, and, those who walk the line of sex worker. It is extremely important for the practitioner to always be transparent with their clients. Consent is of the utmost significance when dealing with an industry that is unregulated. It is the reason professional cuddlers have developed a Code of Conduct to differentiate ourselves from a therapist and sex worker. The moment those waters get muddy it become exactly what Dr. Brillhart said "you can't have a cuddling relationship without it becoming more."
@JazzyPants That was very well stated. It is interesting how cuddling has evolved into its own community. From my perspective human contact is very important but it is also something that is sadly lacking in modern society. Many people I have cuddled with (before joining the site) had never been hugged or touched by someone else before they got into the cuddling thing. This was very surprising for me to hear. But the more people told me similar things, the more I realized that hugging, cuddling, snuggling and so on are missing from our modern society. One thing I like about being in the cuddling community is that we are introducing this back as something that is normal.
@MoonlightSonata Gosh I couldn't agree more that there is a need for touch however people, men especially, do not have the language to ask for it. Sometimes they are too embarrassed or scared of rejection.
May I ask, what was your reaction when you first started hearing clients say they'd never been touched like the way you were touching them?
@JazzyPants My reaction to hearing clients (or even just people I casually snuggled with, like friends) say that they hadn't been hugged, cuddled, or snuggled with by anyone in their life (even their own family members) was really shocking to me. I grew up in a dysfunctional family (I was also abused at various levels of school and at jobs) but at the very least my mom always made sure to hug me and make me feel special. So to hear that so many people had never even experienced human contact (before getting into snuggling of course) was really eye opening for me.
I think she was curious how you responded directly to the person...
Yes, I was asking how you responded to them directly. I ask because I struggle with allowing myself to be just be present in the moment and letting the client be vulnerable and open up about their past, present and future life.
So, what I work hard at doing is shutting my mouth....which is very hard sometimes....and letting the client release without me trying to give advice or suggestions or "fix" the problem. Also, without encouraging feelings towards what or whoever affected them. I am getting better at it but I have to be so present and aware. I find that only when I wait for the client to ask or say something like "you probably think I'm crazy" or perhaps "I bet you've never hear anything like that before have you?" then I open my big mouth haha! But only if I'm asked.
Yes, and also important to make people feel accepted for their feelings, not weird, and that it's ok, you're not judging them, etc. :-)
@JazzyPants @ubergigglefritz Oh I see, I didn't realize you were asking specifically about how I responded to them as individuals. Sorry about the confusion there.
Well when people share things with me as friends, clients, and so on I listen to what they have to say and I try to be as understanding as I can.
It depends on the individual I suppose when it comes to these things. Some people just want someone to listen to them. Some people want advice.
I usually will just listen unless someone is specifically asking for advice. In most situations it usually helps to be comforting and let the person feel like they aren't alone. It is important for people to feel like their emotions are important and valid (and they are).
A quiet ear goes a long way. Thanks ladies for sharing. Big hugs!
@JazzyPants You are very welcome. Many hugs to you as well.
Another misconception is that cuddling always involves romance.
As quoted in a previous post in this thread:
"Regardless of what you've told a client, when you rely on intimate touch and intimate verbal messaging you've muddied the waters. You've created a situation where, to that client, you are romantically linked."
That statement seems very misinformed to me: many people here (me among them) are familiar with platonic touch that is affectionate and intimate but not romantic. Actually, that's the basis of platonic cuddling!
However, the reality is that it is still possible to develop a romantic attachment to someone who you cuddle. But (1) it is not unavoidable, and (2) this whole area isn't nearly as scary as people sometimes think.
The thread on Plato and the philosophical end and nature of cuddling has some helpful advice:
@Scarlette: "I think being open and honest with your intentions and holding strong to boundaries is the key to keeping a platonic relationship platonic. When I say boundaries, I don't just mean where you can and can't put your hands or no kissing, etc. I mean boundaries in regards to not crossing the line that you have both established."
@reurbo: "If the intention of both people is to form a platonic friendship of cuddling, talking, and spending time together with the known limit to both that nothing will go any further than this, it can work out well. [...] With both people entirely on the same page on what "this" is and no other intentions, both people are free to enjoy the others company, friendship, and intimacy of being able to open up to someone."
If romantic feelings do arise though, it doesn't always have to mean the end of the cuddling relationship (although that can happen unfortunately).
@HugsWithFei writes in her article Help! I’ve Fallen in Love With My Professional Cuddler:
"Our bodies are wired for connection. We all need to love and be loved. We also have been conditioned to view cuddling and emotional closeness as reserved for romantic partners. This can be tricky to rewire, and can feel confusing. And that's ok.
"Feeling the desire for romantic or even erotic connection in a platonic space is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it doesn't always mean that you have to act on those impulses.
"Your cuddler will be equipped to have an open-hearted conversation with you about the romantic feelings you’re experiencing, without encouraging you to continue developing them.
"Speaking about your feelings openly can feel counter-intuitive, but it can take a lot of the charge out of the situation. It can also be very helpful to have a supportive place to process these complicated emotions.
"Facing your professional cuddler's unavailability to reciprocate romantic love can be difficult – it can bring up feelings of rejection from previous lovers, or even childhood. But I can't think of a safer place than a cuddle session to feel these difficult feelings."
@KeeleyShoup also talks about the importance of straightforward communication in her video What if I have feelings for my Cuddlist:
"It's OK for you to feel whatever you're feeling. We're going to talk about it, we're going to be honest about it. I'm probably not going to feel the same way that you are feeling in the session [...] With a cuddlist it's a really safe place for you to practice what that emotion feels like when it's not reciprocated [...] so it becomes less scary."
So hopefully if romantic feelings do come up for someone you are cuddling, you can navigate your way through it.
Some other general advice: sometimes it can be simpler not to cuddle with people you are attracted to in the first place; and having multiple people you cuddle (if that's possible) can help as well.
In college, I learned a form of listening that may be disconcerting to those that are unfamiliar - Focused listening, in which you turn your full attention to the person talking and what they are saying without making any interjections, no nodding, responding, anything like that, just let the other person talk. It can be a little uncomfortable initially, someone not giving the usual indications of listening, but also amazing if you get going without the listener derailing you partway through.
Another misconception is that professional cuddlers are paid to "do nothing but lie there."
"There is so much work that goes into a session - cleaning, getting yourself ready, ambiance, being emotionally available and really listening as well as carrying on interesting and pleasant conversation for sometimes hours. Sessions can be emotionally draining" - @caitleesi (post).
"Being a high quality professional cuddler requires a ton of knowledge, time, and expense (which we don't tell clients about, usually, and certainly don't let them see) to provide a sanitary, comfortable, healing, and overall great experience. This is what clients are paying for and why they come back." - @PinkLipstick22 (post).
"If I didn't enjoy providing the healing and relaxation to clients I wouldn't have done this for so long. But there is also a reason I will never schedule back to back sessions. I need that refresh and decompression time because there is an emotional and physical cost to each session." - @GeekCuddles (post).
"While anyone can cuddle, doing professional cuddling well takes a lot more skill than people realize. Besides being a caring person, there are cuddling poses and caressing techniques, skills around holding a container, active listening, compassionate communication and boundary setting, safety protocols, sound ethics and business practices etc." - @HugsFromFei (post).
"A lot of people say to me, "Wow that sounds like the easiest job in the world", and it certainly is not. Especially if you care about the work you are doing and the quality of service (cuddles) you are providing. I care A LOT and understand that people are being vulnerable and are coming to me for a specific experience and type of nurturing so I really tune into that. I suppose if you didn't care that much it would be an easy job, but that would not be fair to the cuddlers that are coming to you and paying you for a quality cuddling experience." - @Tiffaknee89 (post).