Cuddling Confusion

Caller: “I’m not looking for anything sexual, but if I were not able to place my hands on your breasts, I would not be interested.”

Me: “It sounds like this is not the service you are looking for. I wish you all the best in finding the right practitioner for you.”

I have had more than one potential client express interest in my service, insist they are not seeking a sexual experience in any way, and then tell me that if they cannot focus their touch on my breasts and or buttocks then my service is of no interest to them after all. I don’t mind that these folks screen themselves out. I’m glad they can state what they’re looking for, and that it’s so clear to me that what they’re looking for is outside of what I provide.

I look forward to the day when nurturing touch is a well-enough known concept that “give yourself the gift of nurturing touch” isn’t quite as confusing as it is seems to be today. The benefits of the service are clear. Affectionate touch reduces stress and communicates support and safety. Touch stimulates the vagus nerve and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the state in which our body heals. Deep relaxation – that floaty feeling that happens when you’re really relaxed – is positively correlated with both well-being and creativity. A nurturing cuddle can help people reach and sustain this state. In fact, recent research suggests that many of the benefits we’ve historically assigned to regular sexual contact may be due to the affectionate touch and have nothing to do with sexual stimulation.

I explain these benefits to people like this afternoon’s caller – but many of them aren’t interested. They don’t want the touch if there are restrictions like “we both keep our clothes on” or “no genital stimulation.” I’m never mad at people for stating what they’re looking for…but it does make me wonder if it’s possible some people are looking in the wrong place? That the belief that touch without sexual stimulation is, as one caller told me, “pointless” is simply misinformed?

We’ve got a long way to go before our culture catches up to the state of the science on touch, though. Our touch phobia plays havoc with our mental and physical health – increasing aggressionand stress and robbing us of comfort and relaxation. Then again, I didn’t start up this business because everybody already knew these things. I’ll keep looking for new ways to explain what I do, and why it’s beneficial, and eventually people will notice the importance and value.

There’s a famous quote that goes something like this:

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.”  

Almost a year in, I can tell you that the nurturing touch business today sits somewhere between stage one and stage two. That’s cool with me, I’m gonna stay on this path, because when we get further down the road, it’s not going to be just me who wins.

Professional Hugs (Free Samples Available)

I spent the day Saturday giving out free hugs.

It was exhausting, exhilarating, and enjoyable.

More people than I could count told me “I needed that” or “I feel better” after our short embrace. Plenty of people also told me “no thanks” or “I’m good” when I asked if they’d like a hug – but that felt okay, too. As I told people “it’s not required. Corporal cuddling is only for cats.”

I tried to really reinforce people who said no. after all, the practice of professional cuddling is a lot about consent, and if you can’t say no, the yesses you give really aren’t consent. I told a lot of little kids that they were doing a good job when they told me no even though their parents were suggesting they give me a hug.

Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day was a great location for my first “free hugs” booth. As it turns out, the sort of people who show up at Pagan Pride Day are generally the sort of people who like hugs. That’s not to say everybody was all good with the hugs. I heard the person in the booth next to me several times say “no hugs here – you’ll have to go next door for THAT SORT of thing.” Which always made me giggle.

I’ll definitely do this again – and I’ll have to manage my disappointment with people who aren’t really sure about this whole “Professional Hugs (Free Samples Available)” thing. But then, that’s part of the fun of it, too.


This weekend, I’ll be getting my geek on at a local, fan-run convention called Who’sYerCon . It”s like baby GenCon…lots of tabletop gaming, interesting people, costumes, vendor hall, and a fun little party on Saturday night.

This year, there will be snuggles too! On Friday evening at 6 I’m running a panel called “Cuddles and Consent.” In this workshop, we talk about the necessary elements of a culture of consent (knowing your own boundaries, accepting other people’s boundaries, and communicating about boundaries). Then we do some exercises to practice these elements. We were all raised in a culture that’s come a long way in its thinking on consent and boundaries in the last few decades, so nearly all of us have had the experience of revising our thought processes around this stuff. Then there’s sone cuddling. That part is optional, and comes with two strict rules: 1. Everyone involved in a physical interaction must consent to that interaction and 2. All interaction must remain g-rated.

I’ve run this panel in its current form at a few other conventions, and I’m really enjoying the conversations that come out of it. I’ve applied to run it at GenCon, too (keep your fingers crossed for me!) so I hope to be one of the many people play test their GenCon offerings at Who’sYerCon this year.

On Sunday, at the end of the convention, I’m also running a session called “Closing Cuddles”. I scheduled this to help people manage the condition called con drop, or post con depression, which happens when you return to daily life after a weekend of seeing friends and getting hugs. By topping off their oxytocin tanks, I hope people will start the week ahead in a more relaxed and happy place.

The same two rules apply to Closing Cuddles. I’ll be there with some additional designated facilitators to help everyone feel safe and comfortable.

Who’sYerCon is a free event being held at the Wyndham Indianapolis West from Friday through Sunday. Both of my panels will be held in the Brickyard, so we’ll be easy to find.

I hope to see you there!

What Happens at a Snuggle Party?

Snuggle parties are places where people get together to share comforting touch (snuggles). Nothing sexual happens – that’s the first rule of snuggle parties. The other rule is that all touch requires the consent of all the people involved.

Beyond that, the point of snuggle parties is to create a relaxing and comforting atmosphere for the people involved. Usually, that means some friendly conversation – sometimes in a small group and sometimes just quietly between two participants.

Sometimes people want to hang out near others but stay buried in their phone screen. That’s cool – I understand for some people it’s comforting to have a screen to fall into. And it’s entirely possible to snuggle AND read your phone – or a book or a magazine. Or play with pipe cleaners (or any other type of fidget toy – but pipe cleaners are what I keep a supply of at my office). Or create designs in a coloring book (also available in my office. You may notice a theme.)

So whether your goal is to engage with other humans, or simply to be near them, the environment of a snuggle party is designed to help you relax and feel comfortable. I hope you’ll come experience one yourself soon.

What Sort of Snuggles are Right for You?

Snuggle Parties vs Individual Sessions

The work I do includes both individual snuggling and hosting snuggle parties. Both can be helpful for people looking for more comforting touch in their lives, but there are some definite differences between them.


In individual or couples sessions, the client has a great deal of control. I am there to focus completely on that client, and while I won’t do anything that violates my own boundaries, all my attention will be focused on the client or couple who have come in for snuggles.

Snuggle parties may have as many as seven or eight other people in the room. Most of them are interested in snuggling – though some people come to snuggle parties and snuggle with the pillows or stuffed animals I have in the room for that purpose. My attention will be split between all of the attendees.


Individual or couples sessions provide an environment where you come in knowing everyone in the room. This is great for feeling in control or managing any anxiety you may have – but it doesn’t do anything to expand your community.

Snuggle parties, on the other hand, allow for an opportunity to meet new people. Much like the  community that often forms in a yoga class, snuggle parties offer the opportunity to spend time with both new people and also people with whom you have some shared interest and build a community.


Individual and couples sessions are more expensive, because you’re paying for all of my time and attention.

Snuggle parties, In contrast, cost less – enough so that I hope more people will make them a regular part of their self-care, again like a yoga class

I hope that having a variety of ways to receive comforting touch makes it accessible to the widest possible audience, and I hope that you will come snuggle with me (one way or the other) very soon.

Cuddle Party Taxonomy

On Saturday, I attended Indiana’s First Cuddle Party™.

Why yes, I have been holding parties centered around platonic touch for the last month – in Indiana. But this was Indiana’s first Cuddle Party™ – because there’s a specific methodology trademarked under the Cuddle Party name.

I met Keeley Shoup, who came down from Chicago to run the Cuddle Party™ a week earlier, and liked her so much that I rescheduled the Vision Boarding workshop I had scheduled for last Saturday afternoon so I could attend her session. (Good news if you want to attend a vision boarding workshop – it’s now this coming Sunday morning – join us!)

The Cuddle Party™ lasts for about 4 hours – and the first hour of that is conversation about the rule and exercises designed to give people experience practicing consent in a very specific overt fashion. I liked hearing what she had to say – and I like the format.

Douglas K, who runs the Indy Cuddles meetup, is also holding similar parties in town. He described his approach as much more focused on getting people started on touching part, and with less talking.

As different as they are, I think each of these approaches have merit. The Cuddle Party™ sessions aren’t primarily about exchanging touch – they’re primarily about self-discovery and teaching the skills necessary to identify and maintain firm boundaries. Lots of people exchange lots of touch in the process – but that’s not the most important thing.

The approach Douglas describes seems to be primarily about exchanging touch. Not that he doesn’t follow good consent practices, but from his description that doesn’t sound like the point of the exercise. People almost certainly learn new things about their own boundaries and how to protect them – but that’s not the most important thing.

So where would I put my events, along this continuum from “designed to teach consent practices” to “designed to exchange physical touch”? It varies by the event.

 For my Cuddles and Consent panels, which I’m doing at conventions as often as I can, fall on the other end of the continuum. They have many more conversation-based activities, and the last one I had half the class elected to continue the conversation about consent in the real world rather than do any cuddling at all. There was some physical touch – but for many people it was limited to touch between the fingertips and the shoulders.

For the Snuggle Parties I’m holding in my office (check the event schedule for details), we have a more abbreviated conversation about consent – enough that I’m confident people in the room understand the guidelines under which they need to interact. It seems to be shaping up to be only partially about touch – the people who have been showing up are sometimes not even in the mood to snuggle, but simply want to be near warm-hearted people in a comforting space. The list of exercises I have in my back pocket to get things started is growing all the time. Like my yoga classes, I don’t feel like I can do a great job of planning what we’ll do until I know who’s actually in the room attending, because I want to tailor things to the people in the room.

I’m sure my understanding of the topic will continue to evolve as I run and attend more events. I hope you’ll come join us for some of them.

First Snuggle Party!

Tonight I hold my very first snuggle party.

I set the date for it in the early hours of November 9th, with the reasoning that “pretty much everybody I love is going to need a hug on January 20th.” I think I was not wrong in that prediction.

And yet.

This is not a political event. It’s intended to be a human event. It’s intended to provide physical comfort to all who attend.

Studies on touch show that companionable touch and aggression are inversely correlated, in people and in cultures. The more comforting touch a person receives, the less likely they are to be aggressive.

I want to encourage more kindness in the world. I want to encourage more compassion in the world. I really do believe that love is the most effective response to hate, and I want to strengthen people’s ability to respond out of love.

So come join us tonight, if you’re feeling like you need a hug. The event is from 5pm to 9pm at Embarque yoga studio near 54th and College. No charge  – though I will be collecting donations. Tonight’s donations will go to Peace Learning Center.

This won’t be my last snuggle party. The business I’ve been working on setting up, Holding Space, will be holding snuggle parties in my new office in Carmel every week going forward. The principles will be the same. Kindness. Compassion. Comfort. Consent. Love.

I want to be a place for people to come and get away. To find respite and comfort. To feel safe and loved and held. To practice interacting with others physically and platonically. To fill the need for touch and caring.

I hope you will join me.