My snuggle events are pretty small, and that’s one of the things I think my regulars like about them. But early on, when I realized I was getting snuggle events with me and 3 or 4 cisgender guys (who didn’t want to touch each other at all), I began to wrestle with how to make my events more accessible to women.
Part of the benefit of being involved in CuddleXpo is that it brought me in touch with a lot of people across the industry. I heard from them that, across the country, when a cuddle community is being established the men show up first. Having an over-abundance of men at events can make them less welcoming to women, who may begin to feel obligated to cuddle with someone they would rather not cuddle with After all, women are strongly socialized to make men comfortable, even if their own discomfort is an inevitable price of doing so.
I decided tocreate events specifically for people who are not cisgender men. As I was thinking about doing this, I talked to lots of people about it – and heard from a lot of women that they would be far more comfortable at a women-only event than at an event that was also open to men.
Once that decision was clear to me, the next step was to figure out how to communicate my decision out to the world. That turns out to be a nontrivial challenge. I don’t want to define my events by who’s not welcome – so I need to find language that describes who is welcome.
I want to welcome cisgender women, transgender women, and nonbinary people presenting as women. In addition to being awfully lengthy for an event title, that sentence has a problem in that it specifically calls out transgender women as different than cisgender women. That’s a tactic TERFs often use to talk about how transgender women aren’t really women – and I do believe that transgender women are women. But I live in a part of the world where I can’t assume that everyone reading my ads will understand that to be true.
Knowing that I’m hoping to reach a variety of people with my advertising (and knowing that at least a part of my audience is very conservative in their mindset), I began talking to people who know more than I do about gender about how to communicate what I’m trying to communicate. I asked them to help me find language that would make it clear that:
- the event is for women,
- woman is a term I define more broadly than a strict gender binary would, and
- nonbinary people are welcome at this event if they are in a femme state.
The wording I settled on was “women and femmes only.”
It’s not perfect language, but I don’t know how to better communicate my intent.
I haven’t yet been trolled for this event description – though I am waiting for that shoe to drop one of these days. I have had men RSVP for these events (to which I respond with a clear, firm electronic message that they are not welcome at that event but would be very welcome at my next Open Snuggle event.) I haven’t yet had a man show up at my door to try to attend, though it is clear to me that I will turn away any man who does. After all, it’s part of my job as a professional in this industry to hold boundaries in the world – and what would that be but an opportunity to hold my boundaries.
My next Women-Only Snuggles event is THIS Friday. I hope that if you are a woman or nonbinary person in a femme state, you’ll join us. Touch is never required, and I hold these events on a pay-what-feels-right-to-you basis.