My reaction to follow this interesting article I found on the internet.
If you want to pay a stranger to snuggle with you to scare away your loneliness, you are in luck. Canada appears to have entered a golden age for professional snuggling, with parties and personal services available in many cities across the country.
There are websites listing local cuddle parties, storefronts where would-be cuddle recipients can go to get some personal tenderness, and online advertisements for similar services being offered out of the home.
“For a lot of different reasons, many of us may not, or do not receive the closeness and non-sexual touch we require as human beings in order to fully thrive and enjoy our lives,” reads one such Kijiji advertisement for a service in Victoria, B.C. “To fulfill this need in our community, I have created Snuggle Service to provide the non-sexual cuddling/snuggling needs you may have in a completely warm, safe and nurturing context.”
Note the declaration of a sexless interaction, because it’s the norm in the cuddle party scene. Cuddle parties and services aren’t about hooking up. They are about touching, and being touched by strangers. Sex doesn’t need to be involved for it to sound weird.
“It can be as simple as holding hands on the couch or as involved as lying side-by-side on a bed,” Alexis Anderson told Global during a recent interview.
Anderson runs the fledgling Snuggle Service out of her home in Victoria, B.C., and says the need for personal contact is greater than ever.
And the argument for such personal care is reasonable. Canadians are more frequently living their personal lives online, compiling “friends” and followers on social media while allowing their real-life connections to flag.
Earlier this year, The Atlantic took on the question of cuddle parties and noted that Americans’ (real) social networks have decreased by one-third since 1985. And more than twice as many Americans self-identified as lonely compared to responses just a decade ago.
Vancouver Coastal Health also released a study earlier this year that found a quarter of Metro Vancouver residents appear to be suffering from “social isolation.”
“If you extrapolate this to the larger population we could be looking at more than 300,000 people in Metro Vancouver having to deal with social isolation,” Dr. James Lu said at the time. “This means there could be a significant number of individuals who have no people in their network to confide in. It appears that zero is actually the loneliest number.”
And there have been studies that suggest physical contact such as cuddling can have a positive impact on personal health.
“Science has proven what the heart has always known—we need nurturing physical closeness in our lives for optimal health and wellbeing,” Anderson writes on her website.
“Cuddling produces oxytocin, a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain to evoke feelings of contentment, reduction in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security. This suggests oxytocin may be important for the inhibition of brain regions associated with behavioural control, fear, and anxiety. Accordingly, oxytocin also functions to protect us against stress.”
According to the Snuggle Service website, an hour of snuggling costs $60, while an overnight cuddle session starts at $350.
It is hard to say that cuddle parties are an exploding trend. They began popping up across North America a few years ago, but haven’t exactly taken society by storm.
There is a website that acts as a conduit for cuddle party organizers to connect with would-be cuddle party participants. These are usually the dozen-people-in-a-ball-type parties, not the one-on-one service offered by Anderson.
The site CuddleParty.com, by the way, currently has a list of upcoming parties in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. There is a Toronto event on Dec. 14 that charges an entry fee of $30 ($25 if you pay in advance).
As for one-on-one cuddle service, Portland, Ore., is host to a permanent cuddle storefront. Cuddle Up To Me opened earlier this year and its creator just released a book about the science and technique behind cuddling.
In Canada, similar services are taking root. Anderson told Global that she has about five frequent clients, and sees a couple walk-ins every week.
It should be noted that at every instance, those in the snuggle industry stress that all touching and interaction is nonsexual. If arousal happens mid-snuggle, it cannot be acted on. There are signed waivers to that effect.
And while I don’t doubt that snuggle sessions are nonsexual, there’s something I find innately creepy about paying a stranger for general touchery. Take biblical judgement out of the question, and how is it much different from prostitution?
We live in a society where it is no longer expected that the lonely will ignore their crippling sadness, or those who have suffered emotional tragedy are expected simply suck it up. And that is a good thing. But there are avenues for those seeking help that don’t include paying a stranger to spoon.
At the same time, there are services that will rent you time with a puppy, which serves the same purpose, and I find those entirely charming.
So what do I know?
I think it’s creepy. Though it’s a great business idea taking advantage of lonely people. People used to have close friends they could cuddle with for free. Now they can’t for whatever reason. This service along with others like Rent A Friend point to a bigger issue. Perhaps we need to examine our friendships and see what we can do about intentionally letting them grow. Aside from the “overnight cuddle,” which is disturbing, she’s probably not doing anything else wrong, but I personally like to get to know people before I touch them. She’s taking a huge risk with her safety. That’s just me though. I think it would be cheaper to just make good friends.