How Cuddling Battles Toxic Masculinity

One of the things that’s said to be true about “Real Men” is that they don’t need affection or comfort. They are the lone wolf, never allowed to be vulnerable or to afraid or insecure. “Real Men” expected to literally take bullets for the ones under their protection, whether that’s a country or a family. There is an extended list of things “Real Men” aren’t allowed to do, ranging from drinking from a straw to eating ice cream to eating a banana out of the peel to wiping their butts after pooping to enjoying a cuddle.

This would all be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.

Toxic masculinity is the idea that men must remain within a very constrained set of behaviors and beliefs to remain “Real” men. Deviating from this type of behavior results in the loss of one’s “man card” – defined by Urban Dictionary as the “requirement to be acceptabed as a respectable member of the male community. Can and should be revoked by other respectable males for doing non-respectable male things.” The example cited on Urban Dictionary is of having to take away the man card of someone who cried in public after being dumped.

Not all of the examples in the first paragraph are particularly serious (though they are all real). But this has been studied seriously, as well. A study by Promundo (funded by Axe bodyspray) found seven pillars of traditional masculinity, including self-sufficiency, acting tough, physical attractiveness, rigid masculine gender roles, heterosexuality / homophobia, hypersexuality, and aggression / control.

Staying within the “Man Box,” as it’s called in the study, can provide a sense of satisfaction, but that comes at the price of feeling “cut off from their true selves.” Men who value being within the man box are significantly more likely to suffer from depression and are significantly more likely to have thoughts of suicide.

This is a big deal. Suicide is a leading killer. Globally, half of the people who die by violence commit that violence themselves. More than 75% of the nearly 45,000 people who die by suicide every year in the US are men. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016, with the rate of suicide being highest in middle aged white men.

Men who subscribe to these rigid gender roles are likely to hurt others, too. There are countless stories of men who commit violence to prove their physical, economic, or sexual dominance. This article in the Economist says that “throughout history, men have killed men roughly 97 times more often than women have killed women.”

And violence isn’t the only way men are being hurt. Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death of men in the US. A factors that increase risk of heart problems are correlated with stress and loneliness. Being trapped in the man box increases both of those factors.

Enter professional cuddling. This is a service that “Real Men” would never use, for multiple reasons. First of all, a Real Man has no need to be nurtured. Second, a Real Man has no need to feel connected to others. Third, a Real Man doesn’t indulge in self care. He eats stress for a snack, and doesn’t need a break from it.

The problem, for all those “Real Men” out there, is that none of those three things are true –but when you’re trapped in the “Man Box” you have to pretend that they are, or you’ll lose your man card.

Most of the people who see professional cuddlers nationally are men. did a study in 2017 where they found more than 90% of the people requesting time with a Cuddlist were male. My own client roster has been about 65% male since the start of my practice.

Many of the men who come to see me are dealing with the man box. You might notice none of the clients interviewed in the recent media pieces about my practice are men – that’s because the men who come see me aren’t willing to publicly admit that they do. That’s fine, by the way, I keep all my client information confidential. Most of my clients even pay me in cash, so there’s no record of the transaction anywhere.

The men who come to see me do report that it makes their lives better. Touch improves health and mood, and being able to be seen and accepted even in a vulnerable situation like asking to be held has powerfully positive effects.

Part of the reason I brought Holding Space into the world, and the reason I persist in trying to get this idea to catch on (in Indiana, which is definitely a place where lots of people still hold on to these toxic beliefs about masculinity) is because I believe that it’s important to normalize platonic touch. Not only is the practice beneficial, but the idea itself has benefits as well. A culture that understands that touch is so normal and useful that it can be bought and sold is a culture that has broken at least part of the grip of toxic masculinity.

Professional cuddling also provides a turtle step along the path of men experimenting with receiving nurturing in a non-sexual environment. They can come to me and not have to admit to anybody in their community that they are seeking this sort of care. Hopefully the work we do together will help them to explore connecting with another person, and they can take that skill into the world with them and use it in other parts of their lives.

I hate toxic masculinity and it’s damaging effect on our culture and the people within it. But I love men. I will never buy the hashtag that “men are trash”- because I know too many strong, brave, loving men about whom that’s simply not true. My approach to toxic masculinity can be expressed by quoting Rose Tico from The Last Jedi, because we’re gonna win by “not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

I’d love to have a snuggle with you.

The Opposite of Creepy

The Indianapolis Star published an article on my work recently, and of course I delved into the comments to see what people had to say. There were several commenters who said the service was “creepy.”

If I do it right, though, my service will reduce the amount of creepiness in the world.

Creepy, according to the dictionary, means “an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.” People fear or are uneasy in situations where they don’t know what to expect. I’ve worked very hard to help people understand what to expect when they come in to see me.

That work starts with my client agreement. When I get electronic inquiries, the first thing I do is ask people to review my agreement. It’s short – just 258 words. If you read at average speed, you can read the whole thing in just over a minute. Several people have told me upon reading it that they don’t want to work with me because the agreement is too restrictive. This tells me the agreement is doing its job, helping people to understand the parameters of the session. Hopefully that reduces the sense of unease they feel.

When people complete the screening process and come in to see me, I start out checking in to see how they’re doing and what they want to get out of the session that day. Sometimes clients just want to talk and be heard. Most often, they want to be held. Either way, I let the client lead the session based on what they are looking for that day. Being in control of the helps to reduce any sense of fear or unease.

With both my one on one clients and my group sessions I try and help people get more comfortable expressing what they want. This is where my work starts to reduce the amount of creepiness in the world outside of my office. As people get better at expressing what they want, they also naturally get better at expressing what they don’t want. A lot of behavior that people label creepy is about someone trying to get interaction out of another person who doesn’t care to participate in that interaction. The creepy folk count on the fact that, in polite society, an uncomfortable person is going to stay uncomfortable rather than risk creating a scene.

Once professional cuddling clients or group cuddle participants start practicing and getting comfortable telling other people where their boundaries are, however, the creepy person’s weapon of choice stops working. As long as you feel like its rude to tell someone you don’t want a hug, you’re going to get hugs you don’t want. As soon as it becomes no big deal to say “no” to interaction you don’t want, the amount of interaction that you fear or feel uneasy about drops precipitiously.

When I was at Cuddle Sanctuary’s training this spring, Jean shared a story of one of their regular clients who got catcalled one day by someone, and who had become so comfortable saying “no thank you” in group cuddles that she just automatically responded “no thank you” and went about her day. It was only later she realized that she had rewired her brain to be comfortable saying no to people, and expecting that no to be respected. Her comfort telling people no had disarmed this strangers creepy behavior for her in this situation.

As we practice doing the vulnerable things, they become less scary. As we become less scared of expressing our boundaries, we find more ease in our daily lives. This is something my clients report to me as a result of their sessions. If you’re curious to see if that would work for you, come check out my services in either the one on one or group sessions.

The Challenge of Clarity

It’s happened again.

I’m now up to seven inquiries in a row on Cuddle Comfort profile who have stopped talking to me when I shared a link to my client agreement and asked them to review it to make sure the session sounded like a good fit for them.

The first time this happened, the person was kind enough to respond to my follow-up inquiry about what had changed. “Your agreement is too constricting,” they told me. “I’m very affectionate and if there’s mutual chemistry, an agreement would limit us from anything further.”

They understood my agreement correctly. It’s in place to be clear that, when I do this work, it’s not a gateway to “anything further.” Even if there’s chemistry. Even if they find me attractive. Even if I find them attractive, for what it’s worth. I treat this work the same way I treat my coaching work, which means keeping a therapeutic boundary in place is a necessary component of the work, and something I take seriously.

I’m really glad this individual (and all of these individuals) are clear enough about what they’re looking for from a professional cuddler to recognize that the service I’m offering isn’t a good match for those goals. I’m a little frustrated from a business perspective that my clarity seems to be scaring people off from my business.

The terms of my agreement aren’t more restrictive than average for the cuddle industry. The Cuddle Comfort site where these interactions are happening even includes terms of service that are very similar to my client agreement. Specifically, when you sign up on that site, it asks you to agree to these statements:

“You agree to never use this Website for the intent of meeting another member for sex. You also agree to never attempt to progress a meeting, organised via this website, to a sexual nature.

When communicating with another member, you agree to never indicate a desire to cuddle while doing any of the following: (1) being nude, (2) wearing only underwear, (3) kissing, (4) groping, (5) satisfying a fetish or kink, and (6) anything of a non-platonic nature.”

Why is clarity such a challenge in interpersonal relationships?

There are a variety of factors at play here, from our own expectations, to the desire to have a power position, to the allure of ambiguity.


Our expectations do not include clear words to define the parameters of a physical interaction. While culture is shifting, we’re still not past the idea that it’s ridiculous to talk about physical interaction before we engage in it. We have heard lots of people deride the very idea of asking before kissing someone. In families and communities where affection is less common and more private, we may have never seen someone ask for consent before initiating physical interaction.

When we see it in the movies or on TV, there very frequently isn’t conversation about what sort of interaction is going to happen. Also in the movies or on TV characters the scriptwriter knows (creates) the deepest desires of each individual, and is able to make sure things turn out the way they want. We grow up on stories where everything turns out okay, where the characters get to a happy ending without ever having a conversation, and we get the mistaken idea that works in real life.

Things we haven’t tried or seen modeled are foreign and often uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for people when I answer clearly and without embarrassment questions like “what happens when I get aroused” because they’ve never talked openly about that, especially not to a stranger. The clarity of my communication is unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable


Being clear about what you want in any interaction is not only vulnerable, it can reduce the amount of traditional power you have in that negotiation. When you are haggling over the price of a car or a starting salary, you don’t want to be the person who says the number first. The power position is the one who says the number last because that person has the benefit of learning more about what the other party was thinking, and the opportunity to have more information before they commit to a position.

In clearly stating my boundaries, I’m signaling that I want a different power balance with my clients than they may be accustomed to. I’m not going to try and hide my agenda in the belief that will help me get more out of the interaction. I also mess with the power dynamic by not accepting tips or gifts from clients. I recently had an inquiring client who found me on Yelp stop talking to me shortly after I let him know I don’t accept tips. He wanted a multi-hour session, and after we’d scheduled he stated that he was very excited and that I would be happy because he would be a very good tipper. I replied “I don’t accept tips. I hope instead that my happy clients will schedule additional sessions” he stopped replying. He ultimately no-showed on the session. I won’t ever know if the shift in expected power dynamic was what threw him, but it’s my hunch based on the way the conversation changed at that point..

The Allure of Ambiguity

Ambiguity is a communication strategy that allows the other party to create and maintain their own stories about how an interaction is going to go. This is extremely effective in a variety of business and interpersonal situations. It can provide flexibility and allow each party in the communication to do their own work in making sense of the interaction. There are books and articles on this strategy, lauding it as a way for organizations to avoid pigeonholing themselves in a changing world.

Ambiguity certainly has its appeal as a business strategy. There are lots of people doing this work who are ambiguous enough to draw in clients who want to preserve the possibility in their minds that sexual interaction isn’t completely off the table, even if it is. This might well be a smarter strategy than what I’m trying to do.

My Dubious Decision to Continue with Clarity

But I’m intentionally trying to do something different. I want Holding Space to be intentionally, unambiguously, and openly platonic. I want my clients to know up front that I am focused on the therapeutic benefits of platonic touch. I want my clients to know that they are paying me for emotional and nurturing labor, and I want them to value and serve the parts of themselves that need to be nurtured and cared for in that way.

Too much of our culture implies that value is tied to sex appeal (and so inherently to virility and the culture’s ideas about attractiveness.) We don’t make space for needing to manage our physical and emotional health. We don’t pay attention to what would help us to heal and feel whole. Clearly valuing the nurturing of my clients, rather than leaving open the possibility that the “real goal” is sexual is apparently kind of a buzz kill.

Which is sad, really, because cuddle buzz is nearly as good as yoga buzz in terms of having a beneficial, healing effect on the body.

I want Holding Space to be part of the effort to change those things, so I continue my dubious strategy of not accepting tips, and of requiring my clients to explicitly agree to my client agreement before we schedule a session. I understand that this thing where clients are interested until I’m clear about what I’m offering is going to keep happening. But it’s the only way I know to do this work in the way that speaks to me.

I wish I knew how to reach more clients, to create an environment where more people could have those experiences. If you’re looking to spend some time in the healing rest and digest state, I hope you’ll be able to overcome the challenges posed by clarity and give it a try anyway.

Consent and Courtesy

The salesperson who just called tells me I need to advertise more, which may be true. But I’m not looking to spend money on that today, and I’m pretty sure their platform isn’t the right choice for my business. I explained that politely to the sales person. What he heard, apparently, was a series of objections he wanted to overcome so he could make his commission.

I stated my boundary clearly and politely, and gave the guy a chance to respond to my “this is not the right time for me, but I wish you good luck with your next call. Have a nice afternoon” with a “thank you, please call us when the time is right.”

Instead he decided to do what they teach you in sales training – work to overcome the objections. I’ve read enough sales training to know that a lot if it says never to take no for an answer. It says there is never a reason to accept a no from a potential client, and that if you’re good enough you’ll be able to get a “yes” from everybody.

Apparently, this guy was familiar with those ideas, and he just kept talking after I clearly told him I wasn’t interested. After just a couple of tries to wrap up the conversation, both of which he ignored, I ended the call in the middle of one of his sentences.

I felt a little rude doing that, to be honest.

And yet.

That feeling, that defending my boundaries was a little rude? It’s dangerous. It’s how we end up doing too much, spending too much, sacrificing our sanity and safety in the name of being “nice.”

But what if instead of being nice, we decided to be kind (to ourselves as well as to other people). What if we worked from the assumption that we know what we want better than anybody else does? What if we extended that idea to everybody and assumed each person knows best what they want? What it we stopped feeling like our primary purpose in life was to make other people comfortable?

What if we looked for the ways our boundaries helped the people around us. Nothing this sales person said was going to change my mind about spending money to advertise – especially not with a company who claims they are part of Google (they’re not) and can make me the #1 search result in my area (that’s not how that works.) I don’t have to be mad at the person who called me, after all, they’re simply doing a job and trying to make a living. But I’m also not obligated to waste my time (and theirs)  because I’m not willing to just hang up the phone.

As a business owner, I read a lot of advice about how to market things- and a decent amount of that advice goes against my principles as a consent-based business. I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to sell my services to someone who’s really looking for a different type of service. I don’t want to trick anybody into trying what I have to offer because they might like it. That’s not the type of business I want to run. You’re not going to find an invasive pop-up on my website, because I believe that people who want to sign up for my newsletter can find the sign up themselves (it’s shown prominently on the first page, after all.) You’re not going to find me glossing over the “this is definitely platonic” part of my screening call – I want people to be clear about what I offer before they fork over their money.

What you are going to see is me showing up places and sharing what I do. Sharing the benefits of platonic touch with people. Offering free hugs. Offering pay-what-feels-good-to-you community events. I am going to insist on marketing my business in a way that feels authentic and respects other people’s right to make informed choices about whether they want to do business with me or not.

It’s not your typical business model, and it might not work. But it does reflect the sort of world I want and believe we can create.

Are you looking for the same sort of world, but worry that you don’t have the skills to help create it? I specialize in helping people to develop those skills; identifying where their own boundaries are and communicating those boundaries to others. That work can happen in a coaching environment where we never touch, or in a cuddling environment where we can use touch as a workshop took to help develop these skills. Interested in learning more? Book a session today!

Great Expectations

I talk to a lot of people who are very concerned that, while I might understand that I’m not providing sexual services, my clients might be confused about that point. They’re worried about what might happen if a customer walks in with expectations that don’t match what I offer.

The simple answer to that concern is that I’m aware it could happen – and I don’t think there’s anything I can or need to do about it.

Think about it this way. If Sam the customer walked into a steakhouse and tried to order pasta, there’s a pretty good chance the server would say “I’m sorry, we don’t have that on our menu.” While most customers are gonna drop it at that point, there are some who won’t. Sam might argue with the server, or ask to talk to the manager. Hopefully Sam isn’t the type of person to threaten or carry out violence if they don’t get what they want – but it wouldn’t be the craziest reason someone pulled out a gun and threatened the people around them. Do you remember the iconic scene in Falling Down where Michael Douglas’ character flashes an automatic weapon in a fast food restaurant to get breakfast for himself when their menu has switched over to lunch? Do you remember that, when the movie was released, people were encouraged to identify with the guy who forced the fast food clerks to get him what he wants?

That movie is 25 years old, and surely wouldn’t play the same way today – but there are still people who are going to be mad when a business won’t give them exactly what they want. They’ll be mad when a burger joint won’t serve them pasta, or when a florist shop doesn’t carry helium balloons, or when a movie theater doesn’t have a show that starts that the time they want it to. Those people aren’t reasonable, and I am under no obligation to cater to unreasonable people in my business.

I’m very clear about what I do. The first line of my client agreement is “Holding Space, LLC provides platonic services including coaching, cuddling, and workshops. Clients and practitioners both agree not to pursue or encourage sexual activity or arousal during the session.” That’s every bit as clear as a steakhouse menu that doesn’t list pasta, or a fast food joint with a policy that they don’t serve breakfast after a certain time of day. People who read that statement and think I’m selling sexual encounters are not reasonable people.

People May Not Be Reasonable. That’s Not My Problem

Talk to anybody who’s done customer service for any length of time and they’ll tell you that lots of the people they encounter are not reasonable people. Some of them are even scary unreasonable. People ask me if I’m afraid of upsetting one of those unreasonable people.

Here’s the way I see it.

First, I see no reason to try and design a business that nobody can misunderstand – because that is not possible. My friend who plays in a children’s band and gets hit on by parents in libraries and at birthday parties was the one who clued me in that no matter what I do, there are going to be some people who think I’m adding a “wink, wink” at the end and leaving the door open for sexual encounters.

Second, my ability to maintain boundaries in the face of pressure is part of the service. The fact that I can (and do) say no to things that aren’t within my boundaries is surprising and confusing to some of my clients – but I do it anyway. If they don’t like it that’s…actually fine. The ability to say “I respectfully do not care whether you like it or not” is part of the boundary setting process. Boundaries aren’t about whether other people will like us or not. In fact, boundaries aren’t about other people at all. They’re about what we will and won’t accept in the world – and that’s not contingent on other people liking it, or you.

Third, while I’m aware that some people who don’t get what they want can become violent, I don’t think my risk is increased by working one on one with clients. Women are killed for saying no to men on a horrifyingly regular basis, it’s true. But these women aren’t professional cuddlers – they’re women going about their business in the world. This is a risk I face no matter what I do for a living. The idea that most sexual predators are “regular guys” who just get pushed too far by their own arousal is simply not supported by any of the research available. Men maintain the ability to control their behavior even when they are aroused. I’m very clear with my clients that I expect them to do that, and guess what? In a year of work, with well over 100 hours with clients, that works pretty well.

I understand that some people are going to think this is ridiculously naïve and optimistic. That’s okay, they can think that all they want. But I’m going to continue to do this work and to promote this profession, because I think it’s the change we need to see in the world.

I also believe that to create the world I want to live in, we have to have people willing to stand up and do things that are clearly ridiculous according to social norms. In the world I want to live in, ethically sourced nurturing and emotional labor are available and valued. In the world I want my grandchildren to be born into, consent is respected. I hope to help create a world where consent is understood and valued. I hope to help people understand that the restrictive gender roles I grew up with (where men were not allowed to seek or engage in nurturing without “losing their man card”) are ridiculous and as outdated as ankle-to-collarbone swimsuits.


When is a Compliment not a Compliment?

I had someone I’ve never met send me an electronic message yesterday that said “you have amazing boobs.”

Was that a compliment?

Or was it an insult worthy of me immediately blocking this person on multiple social media platforms?

On its face, it was clearly a compliment. They were saying something positive about my physical form.

In context, though, it was an indication that, although they were contacting me on a profile I’ve set yo for professional purposes, they were actually uninterested in the professional service I provide and thinking about me instead as a sex doll.

Would you take that as a compliment?

“What do you expect?” I imagine you thinking. “You offer a service where you literally press your body against someone else’s body – how could that not be sexual?”

I understand that some people literally cannot conceive of any interaction with someone of the gender to which they’re sexually attracted without sex being the focus of that interaction. Powerful public figures assert that they cannot be alone with a member of the sex they’re attracted to unless they’re married to that person, and people nod along as though that was not the most ridiculous thing they’d heard all week.

And yet.

Most of us have had experiences of touch that are not remotely sexual. We have held or been held in pain or grief and been grateful for the simple comfort science tells us is present in human touch. We’ve picked up a laughing or crying child and had no sexual feelings aroused by that interaction. We’ve shaken the hands of people we work with with no interest in sexual interaction with them. We have had conversations about business or sports or pop culture, we have cared about their opinions and respected them for their personhood and not as a sex partner.

And also.

Most of us can think of situations where, if we knew that the other person in the room was thinking of us in a sexual way, it would not feel like a compliment. What if you found out your boss or mentor at work was fantasizing about you as a sex object? What if it was a leader in your religious community, wondering what you looked like naked while they were answering your deep spiritual questions? What if your sibling-in-law expressed a sexual desire for you?

Some relationships do not benefit from sexual tension. In those cases, a “compliment” that tells the recipient you’re thinking about them in a sexual way does not make their day better or their life easier. It complicates it in ways you can’t take back. This is where the idea that some compliments are impolite comes from. Whatever you think, some things you keep to yourself because sharing them – much like the impression that your neighbor’s treasured infant is the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. No good comes from sharing that thought, it’s hurtful to the people you share it with, and once it’s said it can’t be unsaid.

Part of being a mature adult is learning not to make all of your feelings and thoughts someone else’s problem. If you are in a position of power over someone, or your sexual thoughts about them make their life awkward – especially in situations like a workplace where it’s not simple for them to entirely disengage with you – then you need to recognize that you’re not paying them a compliment, you’re dumping a burden in their lap.

When someone who starts off asking me about my cuddle services makes blatantly sexual comments about my physical appearance, they’re not complimenting me. They’re telling me clearly that they are not interested in the service I provide, but they would like me to provide a different service to them. They don’t see anything wrong with asking for my attention, and they are not even a little bit interested in paying me for my efforts. They are telling me they don’t value my time or my professional experience and training. Put that way, it doesn’t sound as much like a compliment, does it?



Older and Wiser

A decade ago, I was convinced that everybody loved hugs and that touch was always healing. Part of my job at that time was to teach new hire orientation at St.Vincent Hospital. One week, one of my students in that class had just been hired to work with me in the HR department. We found out during orientation that her grandmother had passed away suddenly. She elected to stay through the day. When we were talking about it, I said to her “I really just want to give you a hug” – and she let me.

Months passed, and we worked closely together. One day in conversation, she mentioned how much she hated hugging people. It made her very uncomfortable. I thought back to her first day of work, and the hug I’d given her thinking I was helping. Instead, I’d made myself feel better – at her expense.

It seems a little weird to me sometimes, but not everybody likes hugs. It seems weird to me when people don’t like milk chocolate, too…but some of my best friends claim that they prefer dark chocolate. I don’t understand that, either…but I have learned to respect their assertions about it.

And, as much as I like hugs and other forms of physical affection, when I think about it, I don’t really want to hug someone who is just tolerating a hug from me. Yes, there are a lot of benefits to hugging. It can make people feel more bonded. It can provide the basic benefits of human touch. But as many benefits as hugging can provide, none of them outweigh the need to respect other people’s bodily integrity.

My respect for people’s wishes when it comes to their body carries into my work as a professional cuddler. When I’m working with a client, we do a lot of talking about what the client wants, and what would feel nurturing or reassuring or good to the client. Sometimes the client isn’t sure – and we can experiment to find out together what they like. One of the benefits of working with a professional cuddler is that you know that person is committed to making sure you are comfortable every step of the way. Within the clear boundaries created by the Code of Conduct, we can explore touch without the confusion of unspoken expectations.

 If that sounds like something you’re interested in experiencing, book a session with me to explore touch in a safe, bounded environment.

Ask Me Anything

When I do my cuddling work, I encourage my clients to ask me anything.

I’ve had more than one person ask, for instance, if I’ll cuddle them wearing just underwear.

The answer, if you’re wondering, is no. I generally work in leggings or yoga pants and a t-shirt, though I would be a yes to snuggling in a tank top and shorter yoga pants if skin contact was something a client thought would make a difference.

I suppose there’s an argument to be made that I should be a little outraged at the request. But I’m not, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

First, I’m just not. I don’t feel a sense of outrage because someone asked me a question. I hope I never feel a sense of outrage over a question. It’s just curiosity. What I’m doing is not something people have a lot of experience with, and there are absolutely going to be questions about it. Questions are cool.

Second, being outraged is a shaming response, and I don’t want to shame my clients. Ever. Brene Brown taught us that shame comes from the thought “I am a mistake” whereas guilt comes from the thought “I made a mistake.” None of my clients or potential clients are mistakes – they’re people. They might make mistakes – but in that case I will simply point it out and guide them to make different choices in the future. We’ve got quite enough shame about touch in our culture, thank you very much, and I have no interest or desire in creating more. Also, shame tends to create more of the behavior it shames. If you shame someone for alcohol use, they’ll likely drink more. If you shame someone for being sexually inappropriate, they’re likely to do more of that, too.

I don’t have to shame someone to say no to them. If I’m a no to something, whether it’s snuggling naked or letting clients grab my ass or pull my hair, I’ll tell them. I’ll expect them to respect that (and, my experience so far has been that they will.)

Questions do tell me something about the people who ask them. There has been more than one potential client who I talked out of scheduling a session after a series of questions, because it became clear to me (and them) my service would not be a good fit for them.

I consider that a win. I don’t want people to come in to my office and be disappointed. I don’t want them to feel like I deceived them, or to feel like I was unclear about what I was offering. I don’t want to seduce clients, in either the literal or the metaphorical sense of the word. I only want clients who are looking for exactly what I offer – nurturing platonic touch. It’s awesome, it has lots of benefits, lots of people want it – it’s those people who I want to work with, not people who are looking for something close but not exactly what I have to offer.

 A lot of questions make it easier for someone to figure out whether my service is a good fit for them, so, ask away! I’m working on answering questions on videos – and I’d love to hear any questions from you that I haven’t already answered. I promise to get to them in a video soon.

The Big What If…

I’ve now screened enough potential clients to begin to see patterns in the screening process. Some people are really thrilled I’m offering exactly this service. I’ve had clients drive from more than an hour away to get to my office – and most of the clients I’ve seen have booked follow-up visits. This tells me that there are people who value exactly the service I’m offering, and are glad I’m offering it.

Other people don’t understand why anybody would even be interested in non-sexual physical interaction. That’s cool too – they’re simply not the right people for me to work with. Just like I’m a yoga teacher who doesn’t teach pilates or tai chi, I’m a snuggler who doesn’t offer sexual services or massage. I don’t judge sexual service providers any more than I judge pilates or tai chi teachers – they’re just offering something I don’t.

There’s a third category, too. These people start out seeming like good potential clients. When I ask them my standard question (which I ask all potential clients) “can you assure me you’re are not seeking a sexual service?” they are adamant that they are not.

And then…

Somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour after we get off the phone, I get the question…

“What if I become aroused during our session?”

It could happen. Sure. Arousal can happen in a variety of situations, even non sexual ones. You might become aroused at the eye doctor or a school picnic or a family reunion. In that case, you probably aren’t going to try and draw attention to the situation or expect Aunt Matilda to, ummm, give you a hand with it.

Professional snuggling is a non-sexual situation. Arousal may happen, but it’s not going to change anything. I might suggest changing positions or suggest a few deep relaxing breaths. If the client tries to insist on moving the session in a sexual direction, the session will be over and the client will be asked to leave (and no refund will be forthcoming.) If they refuse to leave, I’m a 3 minute walk from the local police and fire stations, and I’m not afraid to go get help.

A few of the people who ask what I’m coming to think of as “the boner question” get pretty upset with me when I try to explain how all that works. I’ve been called angry and told I’m not offering a “realistic” service. A couple people have laughed and asked how I expect people to act non-sexually when touch is involved. That’s okay, it serves to firmly screen those folks into the category of “not a fit for my services.”

I am aware that parts of western culture treat male arousal as a phenomenon that precludes all other interaction with daily life. Schools create dress codes in school with the assertion that immodestly dressed girls make it impossible for boys to learn. The common question “what was she wearing” when a woman is sexually assaulted assumes that males presented with immodestly dressed women can’t refrain from attacking them. When I was younger, I was told that unsatisfied arousal in males creates unbearable physical discomfort that I might become responsible for if I caused it.

I believe this viewpoint is not only wrong but insulting to men. Despite their portrayal in movies and romance novels, actual human males have the ability to control their behavior regardless even in a state of arousal. And when they clearly understand the expectations (i.e., situations like the dentists office or church choir practice) it’s generally not a problem.

A professional cuddle is less common than a trip to the grocery store, though, so I don’t mind people asking lots of questions about it. I’m happy to answer the questions. Sometimes, I seem to be introducing people for the first time to the idea that men can engage in touch with other adults that is not sexual.

I know that’s a pretty big departure for some people from the ideas they’ve been raised with. We have a Vice President who won’t be alone with a female, even in a public setting, without his wife present. People who believe that’s a reasonable or honorable way to treat female colleagues are probably not going to understand how I can snuggle with someone without anything sexual happening. That’s fine – not everybody has to get it. I don’t get why someone would pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to go watch a whatever ball game, but those businesses seem to do just fine.

I am also fully aware that some people believe it’s completely reasonable for a man to state that they just have to assault women they find attractive. I disagree. As does the criminal code, which calls that behavior assault.

I have a different view of men than that. I believe they have the ability to distinguish between sexual and non-sexual situations. I believe they are capable of understanding that their sexual desires or even their sexual arousal is not more important than the consent of the people around them. I believe they can and do benefit from comforting touch without any sexual component (and the science backs me up).

I’m looking for (and finding) clients who share my understanding that touch has value even when there’s no sex involved. Where, when a man gives me his word that they are not looking for a sexual interaction, I can believe that they are not lying. My clients understand that, when I say, “I am not using coded language for legal reasons, I really do mean this is a non-sexual service” I am not lying.

And while I never mind answering the boner question, I do reserve the right to be mildly amused at those people who seem to think I’ve never before considered the question of what might happen if a client become aroused during a session. It’s not a weird or wild idea – but it’s also not inevitable. A professional snuggle is intended to create the feeling of safety and nurturing you experienced as a kid when you crawled into the lap of your favorite comforting person. It’s not an experience of sexual stimulation or gratification – it’s an experience of nurturing and relaxation.

If you have a boner question you think I haven’t considered, I’m happy to answer it. If you are looking for a way to relax and get some nurturing touch into your life, I hope you’ll consider trying the experience as a client.