You may have heard the words “Cuddle Party” or “professional cuddler” before and felt a bit of a cringe. Why would anyone pay someone to get cuddled, when you can easily ask a loved one for a hug? It’s not that simple. In a world where people easily pay for pornorgraphy, sexual activity, and even other forms of touch such as massage, it’s interesting that paying for snuggles is often perceived as weird.
In the cuddle community, cuddling is viewed as platonic touch. Meaning, non-sexual, consensual touch.
But, according to Rule #2 of the official Cuddle Party Rules You don’t have to cuddle anyone at a Cuddle Party, ever. You don’t even have to take off your clothes! In fact, Pajamas (the preferred Cuddle Party attire) stay on the whole time per Rule #1. The Cuddle Party rules are designed to ensure that participants have a safe and comfortable experience. They also attempt to clarify that cuddles are not intended to be sexual.
Autumn Vandiver, a former preschool teacher, currently a parent educator and certified cuddle party facilitator says “Sometimes people think the word “cuddle” is code for “sex.”
“The fact that people think this, that they mix up those two words so easily, illustrates just how prevalent the idea that sex is the only way to get our touch needs met really is,” she added. “Keeping cuddle parties strictly platonic and non-sexual is a huge part of what keeps these events safe for everyone, and facilitators like me are trained to know just how to create this kind of safe environment.”
When asked what led her to become a facilitator, Autumn said “Becoming a cuddle party facilitator didn’t feel like a huge leap from the work I was already doing with children and parents as a teacher. Just like in the preschool classroom, cuddle parties are all about creating connections, practicing communication, having fun, building compassion, and setting boundaries. The biggest difference is that I am working with adults here instead of children, but the heart of the teaching is the same…learning how to care for ourselves and each other.”
For many people, attending the first cuddle party can be nerve racking, which is why the rules are so important. The Cuddle Party brand teaches individuals a powerful lesson on giving and receiving consent.
“Without consent we can’t have safety.Without safety we can’t share touch” – Yoni Alkan
The first hour or so of a cuddle party is dedicated to going over the rules:
#3. You must ask permission and receive a verbal YES before you touch anyone. (Be as specific in your request as you can.)
#4. If you’re a yes, say YES. If you’re a no, say NO.
#5. If you’re a maybe, say NO.
#6 You are encouraged to change your mind.
Next, participants are invited to share intentions and/or expectations for the event, followed by a few exercises to practice saying “no’ and saying “yes.”
When Autumn attended her first cuddle party she had no idea what to expect. “I was super nervous and was stretching myself way out of my comfort zone. I reminded myself over and over again that expectations would only lead me to suffering, so I tried to remain as open to the present moment as I could, rather than allowing myself to get caught up in my vision for what I wanted it to be like.”
Cuddling has been shown to offer a few health benefits, but for those who don’t have a trusted human to regularly embrace, the cuddle community can offer a chance to receive these health benefits and so much more.
“As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, I spent decades feeling ashamed of my desire for touch” Autumn admits. “At cuddle parties, I have been learning how to identify, understand, and most importantly, accept, my desire and need for platonic touch. This has been one of the most profoundly healing experiences of my life.”
She goes on to describe that, “cuddle parties are the safest place I have ever found to practice asking for what I want in regards to touch. Since everyone is practicing the same thing, I never have to explain myself; worry about saying the wrong thing (it’s all a practice, after all); I can change my mind as many times as I need to; and I can get quiet and tune into myself for as long as I need to; all with the support and respect of the group. Through cuddle parties, I am learning how to give a wholehearted yes to the kind(s) of touch I want, and how to say no clearly and directly to the kind(s) of touch I don’t want. And in the process, I get to meet really interesting and wonderful people with big, open hearts that are doing this same work in their own lives. Once you discover that having sex isn’t the only way to get your need for human contact and physical touch met, a whole new world can open up to you. And it’s an incredible world to inhabit.”
Autumn Vandiver has been a Cuddle Party Facilitator in Sunnyvale, California for over a year. She and her partner host monthly events in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information visit Autumn’s Event Page.