Hi all, I just wanted to take a moment to share how wonderful cuddling has been in my life, and my hopes for the community. I know a lot of people read this forum, all over the world, and there are new comments every day. I know people appreciate success stories and other contributions of positive energy. Below is my cuddling story — I know it's long, but hopefully an interesting read for some — followed by some takeaways for professional cuddlers and this community.
I'm 33, male, and I separated from my wife last year. We have young kids, and while it was a mutual decision, it was still rather sudden, and not easy. I originally started looking into professional cuddling services as a way to meet my needs for affectionate touch without threatening my marriage, but soon my marriage was over anyway.
My first cuddle experience was with an amazing professional, Jamie, with SnuggleSalon, in San Jose. I went to her house, and I was momentarily thrown when her teenage son answered the door. "Mom, he's here," he called over his shoulder. Internally, I decided to just own the fact that I was here to cuddle his mom. Jamie was older than me, and beautiful, and led me into a large front room, which was full of a bed and blankets, crystals, dreamcatchers, and the like. I asked about the fact that the doorway to the room was only covered with a curtain, because I can be sensitive to lack of sound privacy. She explained that her husband and son were going to be mostly hanging out on the back porch, behind a sliding glass door, and I think she offered to have them leave, but I said that was fine. She also had housemates, but they were out.
After the initial awkwardness, our time was unforgettable, as much for the vibe as the cuddles. Having met another professional cuddler or two since then, I appreciate it even more, now, that she did not act reserved or with therapeutic detachment, but was always warm, open, and authentic. She told me she had been cuddling, in one form or another, for at least 10 years, since Yvonne started holding cuddle parties in Santa Clara. In addition to being a "cuddle goddess," she was a massage therapist, and a doula. She was polyamorous and in an open marriage of many years, which I was interested in hearing about, because I was starting to identify as poly myself. She had a serene, always-grounded, never-judgmental way about her.
In our first session, Jamie insisted that we follow cuddle party protocol. We'd practice asking permission before touching, and waiting to receive a verbal "yes." For example, "May I give you a hug?" "Yes." She assured me that she was pretty much going to say "yes" ("be a yes") to anything platonic. Cuddle party guidelines also say that if you are a "maybe" about something, say "no," and that you are encouraged to change your answer (in either direction) at any time.
Practicing this kind of asking and answering was amazing in more ways than I can count. Receiving consent to give someone a back massage, say, is fun — especially someone you've already started to like and appreciate as a person. Asking and hearing "yes... yes... yes..." feels great. It also establishes consent as the basis for cuddling. It's not just two people avoiding sexual contact together, it's two people doing exactly what they both want to do, within the broader cuddle container of platonic touch. Your partner might not want a back rub right now; who knows. They might not like nuzzling faces. Being able to hear "no," and say "no" when you don't want something, is important even in the safest environment. AND, when you are both good at saying "no," it means the "yes" is real. You both know that what you're doing is wanted, and you know it's known that it's wanted. You can also ask for what you want, of course.
I use "asking to touch" in everyday situations, and it's changed how I navigate physical affection. If someone is upset, I'll ask, "Would you like a hug?" Sometimes the response is a look of surprise, followed by, "yes!" I use it with my three-year-old son, when he's feeling a mix of mad and sad and we're trying to get out of a fight and back to good. I ask him if he'd like a hug, and more often than not, the answer is a quiet "Yeah..." (Just thinking about it makes me well up a little, it's so sweet.) I use "asking to touch" on dates. When a date feels mutually comfortable and I find myself wanting to touch, I just ask... and it's actually not that awkward! "May I put my arm around you?" In a restaurant, when we're done eating: "May I sit next to you?" For the record, I'm socially anxious and don't consider myself to have "moves" or be at all smooth or suave, though I am good at reading vibes, and I've been told I am good at putting people at ease. I'm generally a "nice guy" who tries to be as uncreepy as possible. Anyway, on a couple occasions I've "seduced" a woman almost accidentally, just by continuing to ask. "May I put my hand on your leg? May I kiss you?" Conventional wisdom says that, at a certain point, asking instead of just "doing" would be a turn-off, but that hasn't been my experience, as long as there's a vibe of mutual attraction. Being totally willing to hear "no" comes across — as confidence. A woman who doesn't want to be verbally asked, at the right time and in the right tone, is probably not a fit for me, anyway.
I continued to see Jamie several times over the following months. We had a "cuddle picnic" once in a park, to which I wore my PJs on Caltrain, carrying scones and clotted cream. She later said that our cuddle picnic inspired her to go on a "cuddle hike" with another client. We corresponded lightly via email between sessions. In the depths of processing my divorce and trying to remember that women can be kind and nurturing towards me, Jamie was one of my anchors, even when I hadn't seen her in a few weeks or a month. It helped just calling up her energy and remembering her sweet, nonjudgmental way, and the feeling that she genuinely cared about me. I haven't had a session with Jamie in a while now, since finding cuddle friends (which are free), but I consider her a friend. We've both expressed interest in hanging out non-professionally, but we live an hour apart and have busy lives. I'm sure I will see her again, at a cuddle party if nothing else.
I attended my first cuddle party in March, with Jamie's encouragement. I was initially nervous about what the social dynamic would be. I knew that more men signed up for cuddle parties than women, and even though Yvonne's parties were gender-balanced, I worried about feeling like one more male looking for female attention. (I'm only interested in cuddling with women, for the most part, and I accept this as my cuddle orientation.) I also worried about my social anxiety, which sometimes causes me to totally lock up and withdraw in a new environment. Fortunately, once I got there, I couldn't have felt more comfortable! I think it helped that I already felt welcome — like an "insider," even — knowing Jamie, who was there, and I had also crossed paths with Yvonne as a SnuggleSalon client, though I found out later she didn't remember me. There were about 30 people in Yvonne's large, pillow-filled cuddle room, and I cuddled with six or seven women at the party. At the beginning, we went over the rules and philosophy of cuddling, at length, and then we went around the room and everyone shared something personal and vulnerable about what was going on in their lives, and what brought them to the party. (The whole process took over an hour, but fortunately I was already cuddling with Jamie, and then I hopped into someone else's lap, with permission.) Everyone's shares were met with warmth, and some with great depth of sympathy from the group. One woman shared that she was a massage therapist who was unaccustomed to receiving caring touch herself, and when I later gave her a back rub, she started crying. "It's a good thing," she reassured me softly, in her thick accent. I made two friends that day who I still keep in touch with (though we don't cuddle that regularly), not counting Yvonne, who I later got to know. I now visit Yvonne's house most Wednesdays for a discussion group on living a more connected life.
On this site: I've been a member for about a year. I've messaged with maybe a dozen women in some form or other (including unanswered messages). I've met up with three in person, two of whom are current cuddle friends: one in another state (hi V), and one who has become a close friend (hi Becky) who I cuddle with at least once a week and do activities with such as camping, climbing, and concerts. I live near Santa Cruz, CA and consider San Jose and even Palo Alto (which is over an hour away at most times of day) to be in my range, though less enthusiastically. I prefer to message users who have a picture and a description, for several reasons: I'm looking to cuddle with a person, not "anonymous user age 24"; it feels more like my cold-call might actually be invited and welcome; and it signals that someone has enough comfort with, and commitment to, this whole thing to meet a stranger from the Internet for cuddling. Some descriptions say that the user is not actually looking to cuddle, which I take seriously, or that they aren't sure, which in my limited experience is a bad sign. I'm good at making people feel comfortable, but not that good, at least via online message, and I sort of need to hear some enthusiasm to meet mine. I also like to get to an in-person meet pretty quickly. Anyway, if you take those criteria, plus "online in the last six months," say, there are only a dozen or so women total in my search results. I'm sure the numbers must be far lower in other areas. That said, I am quite happy with the site. And it's free! The key, in my mind, is to treat it as a long-term thing, have low expectations, and not try to force anything that isn't meant to be.
Boundaries and asking: Consider teaching the "cuddle container" which consists of not just overall boundaries (like no touching over erogenous zones) but also "asking yes/no". Far, far more importantly, though, remember that cuddling is about mutual consent, and either of you can say "no" to anything at any time for any reason. You must model this. There should be no calculus about whether denying a client something they ask for will affect your business, even if they get upset. Just know your boundaries and answer honestly. Teaching clients to handle rejection is an even more beautiful way to go about this. At every cuddle party (in Santa Clara), people pair up and practice getting rejected. "May I kiss you?" "No." Even though it's role play, this exercise actually pushes some people's comfort zone! And like I said above, "asking" is a skill that improved my life after one session. Being willing to take clothes off for a client, or shower with a client, also undermines the idea of a standard cuddle container. I'm not saying that nudity or even nude cuddling can't be platonic, or that you can't offer whatever services you like, but be upfront about the boundary and stick to it, and think about whether one of your goals is to prepare a client to attend cuddle parties or make cuddle friends, most of whom will want to keep their clothes on.
Being real: Be as authentic as you can. I believe that many or most (I'd like to think all!) cuddle providers genuinely care about their clients, even clients they have just met. There are many people in this world with good hearts who are eager to give love in a safe context. At the same time, I think it's common for a provider to put on a "persona" to try to enhance the experience, and also create a bit of distance. The provider may also be reluctant to share at a personal level, in order to keep things "professional," given the nature of the intimacy that's going on. That's ok, but I encourage you to think about whether this distance or detachment is really necessary to keep things professional, and whether any acting is really required to provide an experience of feeling nurtured and cared about, if that's already how you feel. Believe me, if you can simply be authentic while giving love and enforcing the container, that is the biggest gift you can give. I don't think I'm saying anything too new, but maybe it's a useful thing to think about. Some people might object to my using the word "love" in this context, but that's how I think about it.
Cuddle culture and rules: My first cuddling experience with Jamie made me feel like I had been inducted into a subculture: cuddle culture, analogous to poly culture or kink culture, with certain norms and shared reference points. I wish this website conveyed the same feeling. It does give a sense of being a part of something, namely a community of people who believe in platonic cuddling as a thing that exists and is something reasonable to meet up and do without expectations of more. However, there is something about enshrining rules and minor rituals for cuddling that takes it to another level. No one leaves a cuddle party with any doubts that platonic cuddling is a thing, and not just an ideal, but a practice, and a powerful practice. It's people with clothes on in a room, with rules, having an awesome time being freed by those rules. I would love for this site to have official rules and guidelines for having a good cuddling experience with someone from the site, clearly posted somewhere in the flow of messaging with someone. Right now there's the "How to cuddle" forum thread, with users weighing in with "tips," and the "How it works" graphic that assumes we all know what cuddling is and how to do it. There's nothing that aims to teach about healthy cuddling. [Edit: maybe there are rules that you click through to agree to? I forget.]
Cuddle parties: A few thoughts here. One is that people at local cuddle parties often don't know about this site, and people on this site often don't know about cuddle parties. The site could do a lot more to help communicate that cuddle parties exist, and help people find their local cuddle parties. It could also be advertised at cuddle parties... though it's a free site, and members would have to do it... but it could be a thing. Everybody wins when more people come to the site. This site could also be a catalyst for making more cuddle parties happen, with members getting together for local parties. Besides someone to organize and host the party, this idea depends on the previous ideas of having rules for cuddling and a way to advertise cuddle parties. I think it would be a really positive direction for the community, though.
That's all I've got. I hope this super-long post made you think about how awesome and important cuddling is! It's certainly been an awesome addition to my life.
That is so beyond incredible! I love that they helped you show a new way of life you sound like a delight as a client as well.
Hugs and Good energy your way,
Earlier today I silently opened up the blog to guest posts as I think it would be good to have the community own it.
If you could slightly polish and restructure your written experience into an article format, I would really appreciate you posting it as a guest blog. Please take a look here if you'd be willing to do that:
The cuddle party I tried to organize fell through at the last minute , but it was to follow every step you mentioned. I'm glad that you brought this subject up, it needs to be discussed more often.
WOW! Utterly nailed it, and with such authenticity and honesty. Exactly. The dialogue of consent IS the the dialogue of boundaries and cuddling. It allows both parties to feel (and BE) respected and safe.
Thank you for sharing your wonderfully elucidated experiences. Crystal-clear to me why your partners welcome you into their hugs and their lives.
Thank you for the kind words! They mean a lot.
Yes to a blog post. It'll take me a few days to get to it, since I have my kids this weekend. I sent SnuggleSalon a copy of my story, and they want an edited version for their blog; I assume there's no problem with publishing versions in both places.