Today, I learned that “Cuddle Parties” exist. And I also learned that I’m totally late to the game because, according to their official website, they’ve been around for 11 years! I couldn’t write an un-biased summary of it so here’s the blurb from their site:
You can come to a Cuddle Party to meet new people, to enjoy amazing conversations, to touch, to be touched, to have fun, to practice asking for what you want, to practice saying “no” to what you don’t want — all in a setting structured to be a safe place for exploration and enjoyment. Shucks, you can even come to a Cuddle Party just to cuddle!
Cuddle Party is not a sexual event! It’s not a hook-up or dating scene. It’s common to make new friends, and occasionally people have met dating partners, but mostly it’s about friendship and learning nurturing touch.
I dove in to the internet rabbit hole and set out to read the experiences of people who’ve been to an actual Cuddle Party; one good resource was this Reddit AMA of a Cuddle Party Attendee, with over 800 comments.
My First Reaction to the Concept of a “Cuddle Party”
Very negative. I still can’t describe a Cuddle Party without my hatred of touching others showing through. I thought it was dumb, stupid, pointless, that there could be a lot of creepers, that it would be my personal nightmare because I hate touching. I can’t even have someone brush by me during my commute and not get skeeved out. I’ve been told by people that I clearly stiffen up when I hug acquaintances and they can tell I’m not in to it. I took that “Love Language” test as well, and “Touch” was ranked way at the bottom! After searching for others’ experiences on the internet, I’ve noticed that women overwhelmingly score high on Touch. So I acknowledge I’m a weirdo with touch issues. If you’re curious, you can try out the online test for your “Love Language” here.
This is tangential, but for anyone who’s curious…my Love Language ranking was, from most important to least…Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, followed lastly by Receiving Gifts.
After looking up more info about cuddle parties, I found some benefits that were appealing.
First, I put aside my gut reaction of mistrust and disgust. I read about people’s experiences, I read the rules. It’s really cool that everything is consensual. It’s really cool that there is NO alcohol (people don’t take NO for an answer when they’re not sober) and no drugs. I saw a bunch of people on that AMA saying this is lame without drugs. I’m glad they are staunch about not having that at cuddle parties. While I’m okay with some drugs, that can toooootally make others uncomfortable. The complete opposite of the happy atmosphere a cuddle party should ideally have. I was encouraged that good hygiene is a thing, that people chat, and intrigued by the notion that after the cuddle party….you can get an oxytocin high.
There was talk of how you can use the Cuddle Party to better yourself. You can attend and practice striking up conversations with people – I’ve consciously worked on my conversational skills through many ways, including reading self help books and practicing with strangers on the street. This kinda sounds like more of the same, in a good way. Another thing I saw, was using this to practice saying NO to people. You’re allowed to refuse cuddles from everyone, and it was mentioned that people do do that. For the whole event. I have issues saying a strong NO to people, so I found that appealing too. But if I were there myself and saying no to everyone, I would personally wonder why the hell I came there in the first place :P Annnnd kind of a dick, but my fear of being perceived as a jerk is why I have a hard time saying no. So, this sorta thing would probably be beneficial to me….actually.
What didn’t appeal to me, however, is that I saw you were allowed to kiss/make out and people did sometimes do this. That makes me uncomfortable…..you can also massage people. I used to be in to (informal) massage parties but have learned that these things don’t stay platonic. So…they are a bad idea; not something I’d wanna be at. I guess that’d be another place I would give a hard NO on. I also feel a little weird knowing that it IS still a dating thing. I’ve been to some Meetup.com things where it became clear, after superficial conversations, that the people who came to the group were more interested in finding a girlfriend than keeping to the topic of the Meetup (for instance, practicing a foreign language). I’ve read that it’s very very common to pick up people’s phone numbers, emails, etc. at cuddle parties. So I imagine there’s a lot of flirting and that’s not something I’m interested in. I also find this to be contrary to their official site’s mention that Cuddle Parties are “not a dating scene”, because it sounds to me like dating is a huge part of it.
Would I go to one right now?
No. I’m in a monogamous relationship, we’re happy, and we actually have discussed whether cuddling “crosses the line”. Both of us felt that cuddling would count as cheating – to me it is a strange mix of both emotional and physical affair, because it’s such an intimate act. Moreover, I hate touching people-that-aren’t-my-boyfriend so a cuddle party is not for me. I see that couples can attend together, but if I can be honest in my answer here….and I know I’m gonna sound like a huge misanthrope…but I don’t really like other people that much. I’d rather be at a nice cafe eating awesome food and drinks, while hearing people chatter around me, than snuggling a pile of strangers and talking to them. And, cuddling is something that feels wonderful and comfortable with people you already know and are close to. It’s a physical display of trust, like a dog rolling over and giving you its belly. Something about the Cuddle Party seems like artificially creating that trust-bond with people, in a backwards way.
Would I go to one if I were single?
I’m torn on this. On the one hand, it COULD help me confront a lot of my own issues with touch and anxiety. On the other hand….I still am pretty against the idea that cuddling is something you can do platonically. I think for most people, cuddling friends leads to other things – can’t think of anyone I know who cuddled the opposite sex and didn’t have things escalate!
I do not think I’m wired in a way to enjoy this. Allow me, if you will, to compare this aspect to casual sex. It’s okay for other people to have casual sex. They have their fun, it’s consensual, and they even get a sense of freedom and empowerment. But I’m not like that. I need someone I trust, and that requires a lot of time. So casual cuddling with strangers….I can see the benefits for other people. I can see they get something great out of it. But no, it’s really just not for me. I can’t separate romance and emotion from the physical and direct stimulations of cuddling (or sex). ALL of that is intimacy to me that requires someone I trust, that I love, and who trusts and loves me in return. I was thinking also that if I did go to a cuddle party and met someone….with the intention of meeting someone because I am hypothetically single…I’m probably meeting a guy that is OK with casual cuddling. Maybe he even enjoys cuddling his platonic female friends. Annd….I wouldn’t be ok with that as a girlfriend. Because, like I said, I don’t separate the emotional connection from the physical and I would be very jealous. Even if he has no feelings for her, neither he nor I can speak for what the girl is thinking. I dunno. Huge can of worms. I’m not able to cope with the potential drama. So in the end, my answer is no, I would not go.
Sorry, I know this was long. But the idea was a huge curiosity to me and ate up a lot of my night! Gotta have something to show for that. Even if my comment is a convoluted, messy stream of thought. So…my personal hangups aside, would you go to a Cuddle Party?