We could all use a hug
We’ve all had those days. The ones where you have so much going on in your life, and you just want to share it with someone, and preferably as you embrace one another. It doesn’t even matter if the day was good or bad, it was just overwhelming, and you want to find that safe island of calmness where you can just relax and be yourself.
We all deserve a safe and good touch, and not everyone has access to it - that's where Professional Cuddling comes in.
Many of us are lucky, and have someone in our lives who can give us that; however, we should not take that for granted. Many people do not have access to this simple and precious hug for whatever reason. Whether there’s a pandemic raging in the world, or they have trouble connecting with others, they might be in a minority group that gets disenfranchised from safe touch or have never found someone safe enough to be so vulnerable with.
We all deserve a safe and good touch, and not everyone has access to it – that’s where Professional Cuddling comes in.
What is professional Cuddling?
For us to know what Professional Cuddling is, we first need to understand what is cuddling. “What do you mean, what is cuddling? It’s cuddling! We all know what it means…” Well, just like with sex – when you look deeper, you find more to it.
The practice of cuddling has many definitions, but it’s basically the sharing of non-sexual consensual touch. It is a practice where you can share intimacy with others in a platonic way and receive someone’s attention while communicating consent. The way I see it, there are two main aspects to cuddling: touch and consent.
Touch is pretty self-explanatory, and we all understand what it is. From when we were babies to who we are today, our life includes touch with others in one way or another, and it has pretty amazing effects on our body and our mental wellbeing. When we share touch with one another, our body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which does many things in our bodies, some of which include the feeling of euphoria, a deep connection with others, relaxation, and emotional vulnerability. Some say that touch boosts your immune system and allows for a deeper connection to yourself and others. However, there is very little research about it, so it’s hard to say for sure.
Remember that hug at the end of the day? Those are the reasons why it feels so good. However, hugging is only one type of touch. There are endless ways for you to share touch, in ways you haven’t even thought of! That’s one of the reasons I decided to write The Book of Cuddles so that people would get to try out all sorts of different positions and see what feels right for them.
Touch does not feel good unless we feel safe enough to share it. Without safety, the touch we experience can feel anywhere from merely unpleasant and unwanted to hurtful and devastatingly traumatic. So, we use consent as the basis of our practice. This allows everyone to participate and receive the benefits of touch while still making sure that they are doing what they actually want to be doing.
Consent is like a muscle, you have to practice it to get good at it, and we facilitate a place for you to practice saying Yes and saying No, to learn how to hear Yeses and Nos from others, and very importantly – you get to ask for what we want. Since in everyday life, we don’t consciously and deliberately practice consent with the people around us, Professional Cuddling will provide you with a space to train these abilities and get naturally better at them.
Professional Cuddlers are people who have learned to communicate consent and have gained experience in sharing this valuable touch to find what’s the best way to spend your time together.
What are the types of Professional Cuddling?
Now that we have a general idea of what professional cuddling is, let’s talk about the two main types of professional cuddling and what they look like: one on one sessions and cuddle events.
In a one on one session, a client hires a professional cuddler to cuddle with. They are hiring the practitioner for their experience, knowledge, and safety. A few companies offer these services, but each one focuses on a different aspect of the practice. Some offer extensive training and support to their practitioners, while others don’t train or provide safety to their practitioners at all and are less strict about their code of conduct, which can lead to disasters.
While there are a few more local based companies that you should check out if you’re in their area, such as Cuddle Sanctuary in Los Angeles CA, or Cuddle Up To Me in Portland OR, I work with Cuddlist which allows you to find practitioners all over the US and some even internationally. The Cuddlist training teaches practitioners what it is to be a professional cuddler and how to empower your clients to ask for what they want. You learn the importance of consent and how to build your practice while being a part of a community of other Cuddlists.
“But what actually happens in a cuddle session?”
Well, actually, it can be anything! As long as the client and practitioner follow the code of conduct, practice consent, and only do what they want to do – they can choose to do anything. Talk, hold hands, share back rubs, spoon, play with each other’s hair, breathe together… Really, anything.
Remember that I said earlier that cuddling includes Touch and Consent? I lied. It doesn’t actually need to include touch. A session could go magnificently and have no touch at all. The session is time that the practitioner spends with the client, gives them their undivided attention, and is just there for them—holding space for them if you will. I call that giving someone intentional attention, and it can be very impactful.
Nowadays, in the days of COVID 19, there are a few practitioners that provide virtual sessions, which do precisely that. They provide a space for the client to be seen and heard and do a few exercises to self induce oxytocin. You don’t believe this works? Try this:
"OK, so those are one on one sessions, but what are cuddle events?"
Close your eyes. No, wait, you need to read this first, so scratch that… Take your right hand and place it on your spleen – that means on the left side of your body, just where your rib cage ends. Now take your left hand and place it just above your right elbow, kind of like you’re hugging yourself. Now squeeze yourself slightly. You can also gently rock yourself from side to side for a bit. Do this for at least 30 seconds with your eyes closed. Now open your eyes and take a deep breath. Feel it?
“OK, so those are one on one sessions, but what are cuddle events?”
While there are a few companies that provide one on one services, very few organizations train people to run cuddle events. The most prominent organization that trains people worldwide is Cuddle Party. A Cuddle Party is a cuddle event that is run in a specific way by someone who is certified by the Cuddle Party organization. It’s an event that allows people to learn and practice consent while having the opportunity to share touch if they wish to.
A Cuddle Party is 3-4 hours long, and it starts with an hour of learning and practicing the 11 rules of Cuddle Party and how they help us share touch in a safe environment. We experience and practice saying Yes and No, learn how to receive a Yes or a No, and practice asking for what we want. After that first hour, we transition into what we amicably call “Free Range Cuddling,” which means people can ask to cuddle with one another, switch between groups, or choose not to cuddle at all. The feeling in the room is amazing and unique. And by the end, we circle back together to close the event and send people on their way, feeling floaty, relaxed, and connected.
I’ve been running my Cuddle Parties once a month for three years (until COVID hit), and I must say that every party is different, and I’ve heard from multiple participants that it has changed their lives.
That’s understandable, this is not common yet, and you can’t really get it until you try it out. But let me answer some more frequently asked questions, and maybe that will help clarify things further.
Some common questions:
Isn’t it weird to hug strangers?
For some, it is. For others, it isn’t. But most importantly, once you create a safe environment for people, they quickly shift from being strangers to becoming people you share non-sexual intimate moments with. It’s quite magical, really.
What do you do about erections?
The most common question is, what do we do if someone gets aroused! First off, you don’t need a penis in order to have an erection. Erections are a natural thing that can happen. But here’s the deal – having an erection doesn’t mean that you have to do something with it. You can move on and not take it further, or you could shift position to lower the arousal or even take a break altogether. Once you understand that you can continue sharing touch without the need of taking it in a sexual direction, a whole new world of experiences opens up for you.
How do I know what to ask for?
I believe this is one of the most challenging questions in our lives – “What do I want?” I won’t lie; this can be difficult at times. Not only figuring out what we want but then asking for it! For some, it’s the most difficult part in all of this; for others, it’s a breeze. But cuddling also means that you get a chance to practice finding out what you want, and you get to try asking for it in various ways. You can see how other people cuddle and build your own cuddle-vocabulary that you can use in future cuddles.
Shameless plug: Or, you can also get the Book of Cuddles and read about more options.
I’m already a sex-positive, kinky, polyamorous slut – what do I need cuddling for when I can have sex?
Great question! I found that practicing a non-sexual touch can teach you a great deal about your sexual touch. Not only do you hone the consent skills that make you a better communicator and lover, but you also learn about your own sexuality when you practice finding what feels sexual to you and what does not. Knowing that you don’t have to rely on sexual touch to create intimacy makes you more secure in your connection, and it makes others feel safe and cared for while they are in your arms.
Ultimately, we all need a hug. And once this pandemic is over, we can all indulge ourselves and share lovely touch with our fellow humans in a safe and consensual way. Some will be dancing in the streets, while others will be putting on their onesies and work to rebuild our precious and missed human connections.