The Cuddle Party Phenomenon

The other day I was scouring the Interwebz for Toy with Me topics when I came across something that intrigued me:  Cuddle Parties. Have you guys ever heard of these, because I haven’t and it just smacks of some kind of crazy hippy dippy new- age crap to me.

But let’s not be prejudiced, and take a look, shall we?

So apparently, cuddle parties have been around since about 2004.  Created by Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, this get-together seems to be spreading throughout the US, Canada, London and Austraila. It is meant to be a drug, alcohol, and sex free way for people to get together and explore touch and affection in a non-sexual way.

People, I guess, are so starved for human touch that they need a place to go just to get some love from people who aren’t going to dump them or make them feel sad.

Well, hell–I can appreciate that.  The world is a scary and mean place chock full of douche bags and fuckfaces most of the time, and if you’re someone living alone or are recently separated from someone you love, I bet a nice hug and cuddle from someone who wants nothing else from you feels pretty damned good.

My first question is how exactly is this whole thing initiated?  I mean it’s drug and alcohol free, so the typical “social lubricating” that happens at normal parties where you show up nervous and not knowing anyone and then after a couple of shots of tequila you’re best buddies talking very loudly and inappropriately about your bodily functions does not happen.  So what exactly do you do when you get there if there’ s (GASP) no cocktail hour first??

The very idea gives me anxiety.

From what I’ve researched, it starts with people arriving (duh), signing in, and changing into a pair of pajamas.  I’m guessing they’re probably not sexy crotchless ones, but feetie ones with peace signs or reindeer or kitties on them.   Something non-threatening, in any event. Each session is tended by a facilitator who is referred to as a “Cuddle Lifeguard.”  This person leads the group through the experience.  It starts with a “welcome circle” (sans vodka… I’m still having trouble wrapping my brain around that one) where the rules are clearly laid out (keep your dick in your pants, no touching people without their total consent, etc).   Then they do some ice breakers (still no martinis? Unfathomable!) so that at least you are a little more comfortable having these total strangers touching you with their kitty and reindeer pajamas on.

One of the first things they do is practice saying “no” to one another because lord forbid that big odorous guy in the threadbare, stained Austin Powers boxer shorts who didn’t even bother to shave or put on a little pit stick wants to snuggle with you.  You have be comfortable saying no to him without being afraid of hurting his feelings–even though I think he totally deserves it for showing up to something like this like who woulda thought.

After the meet and greet welcome circle thingy is over, snugglers engage in two hours of self-directed touching.  They play music and eat Cheetos whilst cuddling commences.  Yeah, I’m all for free music and snacks–ESPECIALLY Cheetos–but I’m still not sure I’d ever find myself doing this.

Snugglers get a chance to ask for what they want and say “yea” or “nay” to requests to cuddle depending on what they prefer or are comfortable with.  It can happen in big puppy pile type groups or one on one.  It can be feet against feet (EW! EW! EW!) or as intimate as a full on spooning.  There isn’t supposed to be any, but I bet there’s some “cuppage” going on.  I know I can’t cuddle my husband without there being any boob “cuppage.”

I mean seriously, is that even possible? I’m skeptical.

The rules are that nobody gets to touch anybody without total permission first.  Throughout the session, the “Cuddle Lifeguards” participate in the group and are there mostly to ensure that it flows properly and to offer support when things come up like

“where’s your hand right now?”

“Between two pillows.”



“Umm.  What’s that thing poking into my back?”

The goal is to make all participants feel relaxed and like they are getting the most out of the experience and not getting groped or stabbed in the ass with somebody’s boner. Once it’s over, the event wraps up with a “closing circle” where they sort of wrap it up and go get ready to change out of their SpongeBob Squarepants sleepshirts and back into their non-cuddling clothes.

Apparently after leaving one of these parties, participants leave feeling super-relaxed, touched, valued and cared for.  They feel connected to other people in a way they didn’t before and sometimes, the party participants even end up going out back and fucking like rabbits in the car going out for coffee later.  The rest go home to take a shower because hey it’s flu season and you can’t be too careful.

The goal at the end is to rejuvenate safe human touch as a way to heal what ails you. Research I found onlinebacks this up (although I have no specific sources to share with you because I am lazy). ­Scientists have found that hugging for just 20 seconds is enough to boost levels of the hormone oxytocin ­and maintain them throughout an entire day. Oxytocin makes you feel good and protects against heart disease.  Hugging can also reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol which is associated with anxiety, physical ­tension, anger and weaker immunity.

It still sounds like a bunch of hippy-dippy crap to me because I get plenty of hugs throughout the day and I’m still all fucked up, but hey!  If it makes other people feel better, so be it.  It’s a lot nicer and healthier than popping a Xanax every time we feel unsafe and unloved, right? Slightly less convenient though.

The cuddle party sounds like hell to me because my heart is made of granite and I flat out do not like to be touched.  I have issues with the doctor’s office, the hairdresser, the manicurist, the eyebrow threader, the dentist, and you will never, ever catch me getting a massage from a stranger.  I don’t even really hug my mother unless I really, really need it.  My husband is kind of allowed to hug me, but only for a moment and only if I’m not too busy. (My kids are a totally different story, btw.  I’m not that cold of a bitch.  They get hugged as much as they want. Probably more than they want, actually.)

Clearly, I’m one of these people who walk into any given party and die 8 hundred times because PEOPLE ARE HUGGING ME!  I DON’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE WHY ARE THEY HUGGING ME?  I almost always make sure my hands and arms are full so I’m totally not open to such touching, so far be it from me to walk in wearing my jammies and be like “who’s up for some snuggles?”

So tell me Toy with Mes!  Are you huggable?  Would you consider participating in one of these things, or is it just a gang bang for pussies?  Does it work?  Do you feel loved? I’m dying to know if any of you have ever been to one, because, like I said, I just don’t see it in my future…

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  1. Man, I am a hopeless snuggleWHORE, but the whole stranger/party thing is just straight up strange & uncomfortable to me. And sober…
    I’m picturing this in my mind & what the hell?! But, I do see how it could help & benefit some people. I gotta say I firmly believe the medical facts about hugs. Great stuff.

  2. Ok, so, let me be the one to be shunned (got your rotten fruit people? yes? ok, here I go)… I am currently in the midst of planning a Cuddle Puddle Party. Now, don't get me wrong, there will be no 'facilitator', and there will likely be booze and drugs, and everyone invited will be people who I know well enough to not be worried about being in my house if I happen to accidentally fall asleep (Ya know Pavlov's dogs? Me, cuddles and sleep. That's the way of it… It's like an off switch for my brain.)

    Would I ever attend or hold a party booze and drug free? Yea, most likely. Would I ever attend of hold a party for complete strangers? Um… NOT SO MUCH. But, I can see why people would go. My first ever cuddle puddle was with people I was friends with, but had only known for a few weeks, very few last names, in fact, now that I think about it, there WERE a couple of strangers (to me), but they were friends of friends, so it's all good. I spent a good amount of time after that party feeling generally good about… Well, everything (no, I was not on drugs, or drunk at that one.)

    Having said all this, I'll tell ya what, if you are not afraid of germs, go to a cuddle party, but, not the kind with nothing but strangers…

    • i'm totally on board with the idea that the room full of strangers is what brings the creep factor way up.

      having a cuddle with someone you have some sort of relationship with, even if it's friend-of-a-friend, is a LOT more palatable.

  3. I think a nice, long, hug from just about anyone is super yummy… But HOURS of it, with complete strangers? Not for me!

  4. I'm not convinced that this wouldn't be chock full of perverts but I'd try it at least once!!! I love cuddles but hate the hairdresser/masseur/random person camp! My family and my girl however are a different story xx

  5. WTF o_O…this just screams creepy! With my luck I'd end up snuggling with someone gross, just cuase I'm sensitive to rejection.. Oh, but I wouldn't be caught dead at one of these.. I prefer the free hugs aproach in public..This actually made me teary eyed.. Yea, I'm a big hugger

  6. While this isn't something I would naturally seek out, I can see the appeal. My aversion to it comes from the same place that my aversion to speed dating comes from. If I'm going to do something like this I'd prefer it to be one on one. I've been with my wife for a long time. So long that I've really fallen into the roll of 'safely taken' such that I was the guy that you could cuddle up with and not have it mean anything. It clashed a little against my reputation as the resident dirty old man but the girls seem to have found a way to make it work.

  7. melissalion says:

    I too am in the SWEET JESUS DON'T LET A STRANGER TOUCH ME camp. The very thought of a strange man lying next to me for a cuddle brings tears to my eyes. I don't want it. At all. Ever. There's even a person I know who insists on hugging me when I see him and I get rigid. And then I start chatting uncomfortably and loudly and when I leave I nearly start sobbing.

    In summary, I would not attend one of these parties. Also I may start wearing a spiked vest of some sort to ward off any sort of stranger contact.

  8. I prefer crushing all the pent up rage, ill feeling, anxiety and despair into a hard black ball and pushing into deep into my soul. It's the Hemming-way. So that'll be no cuddles for me.

  9. Um … no … alcohol? What are they on, drugs? Oh, right. No drugs. Seriously? Gah!

  10. i like hugs. a lot. but i also like sex and alcohol and hugging on X. so this isn't for me. especially "the big odorous guy in the threadbare, stained Austin Powers boxer shorts who didn’t even bother to shave or put on a little pit stick." yeah, that's a big NO!

    chrissy, you're too sweet. and i think you just need a few extra love-you-a-whole- bunch-big-hard-squeezes these days.

  11. I'd only agree to go to one if a James Franco lookalike was guaranteed to give me a foot massage

  12. I’m sorry but can a guy do this for 2 hours and not cop a feel somewhere? My money is on the females in this instance but me? No way. That just sounds perverted and SAD – people have to sign in order to get affection? And, are there really going to be a lot of attractive people there? Gosh, now that image has warped into a bunch of soccer moms with perfectly tousled hair snuggling.

    Ugh. Thanks, Crissy. :-)

  13. I'm with Rebecca on the gateway activity. To me, this sort of party is foreplay with strangers. Strangers that you really have no choice being in a room with. Sure, they practice saying no, but really? These people are in a room because they're lonely. Can you imagine what rejection in a controlled environment would do to them?

    I'm sorry, but I wouldn't even consider this sort of thing no matter how lonely I was. I'd get a stuffed animal. Or cat. Or heaven forbid, take a breather from WoW every now and then and get a honest to goodness FRIEND!

  14. yea…no. i fully cringe inside every time one of my clients hug me. and there was a lot of them trying to hug me last night. i got caught in a couple of awkward pat-you-on-the-back- a-couple-times hugs. i wanted nothing more than to go home and bathe in peroxide.

    but on another note, i'm wondering what on earth one would bring as a hostess present for one of those shindigs….

  15. I'm kind of on the side that the party itself is a little creepy. Hugging stranger…umm…no. Just No.

    But I totally see the need for the cuddling and affection. Ever since my separation, I've been finding myself FAR more open and appreciative of the hugs that my friends give me. I've never been a big hugger, but the total lack of any physical contact at all has been pretty hard.

  16. So I guess if we meet and you see me wearing my t-shirt that says "free hugs" you'll high tail it in the other direction?? ;)

    • Heck no! Sign me up! :) One of the things I miss the most about my college years is all the free cuddling I got from friends. I only gets hugs from the missuz these days, as I barely ever see those old friends anymore. I needs more cuddles :/

  17. I hug my grown sons and other relatives hello and goodbye, but acquaintances and strangers? Not so much.

    And spooning typically leads to forking ; )

  18. Sounds like a gateway activity to me. One day you're cuddling with all your clothing on and the next party you take off your socks and before you know it, it's an all out orgy.

  19. I am a major cuddler. I love to be touched, intimately and innocently. But, I have never been to a cuddling party.

    However, in high school, a number of the parties were extremely similar to how you described, sans footie pajama’s. But there were hours of back rubs in circles and snuggling. Clearly, ahead of our times, lol.

    Come to think of it, I was the girl who slept in a twin bed with my college boyfriend for YEARS, and never saw anything wrong with it either…

  20. Haha this makes me laugh!
    I'm a "I like my personal space" person "especially if I don't know you".
    My boyfriend however takes personal space to a whole new level and everytime I try to get a hug his hands gravitate to my boobs, ass and cookie and it turns out not to be a show of affection as much as an attempted groping. hahaha! But at least I can laugh about it!
    Good write up Crissy!

  21. While this is not my idea of a good time, I think it says something very interesting about society. Perhaps we hide behind our blackberries and computers so much that we really are lacking that human touch and connection.

    I'm a nurse and I had the chance to teach a 1st year nursing class. I put it out there that students could ask me anything that they wanted about nursing in general. One lady in her late 30s asked me, "So, do we touch people?" I was stunned. Nurses touch people ALL the time. I had taken for granted that my job puts me in a position of touching so much. Touching is an essential part of human connection. That being said, nurses have to be skilled at knowing how, why, and when to touch people. I find it sad that people are so lonely now that they feel they have to cuddle a complete stranger in a refereed situation.

  22. Oooh oooh!!! We used to do that in the 90s. Except we were listening to house and techno and were all under the influence of Ecstasy. Good times. Take away those 2 ingredients and…well…take away drug and uhhhhh. I don't get it. And also? No. And furthermore? Hell fucking no.

    • OMG!!! Whilst on Ecstasy (y'know…ages ago…when I was young and stupid and…uh…yeah) I was infamous for stating "Dude, I totally need to go have me some EPIC cuddling!" and for telling everyone "I love you MAN!!!"

      Damn…now I totally want to do that again. CUDDLING!!! I meant cuddling. I swear…

  23. Just the idea of it gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. Then again, I'm so anti-touch that I can't even sit on a three-person couch if there' s chance of someone else sitting on the opposite end.

  24. look, it's not my fault that your breasts and ass naturally fall into my hands whenever we're in close physical contact.

    it's like you put them there on purpose!

    honestly, this sounds about as attractive as going to a strip club.

    why? you ask…

    well, in my opinion, a strip club is a dead end road. that's because i'm not going there to get off. no overpriced lapdance, no grinding, no hand job, no blow job. so why get turned on in the first place?

    while cuddling may be nice, and make you feel better about yourself, eventually you have to get up and leave. and then you're all alone again… blueballed, as it were, but in a non-sexual context. where's the REST of the intimacy? where's the companionship?

    on the other hand, i'm not a judgmental person, and what goes on behind these closed doors has no effect on me. the world needs more peace, love, and understanding, and if people want to convene to give each other cuddles and good vibes then more power to them. it's easy for me to say this kind of thing is silly, but i'm the one who gets to cup a gorgeous woman who loves me every night, and that's not something to be taken for granted.

    so: not for me, but go right ahead if it works for you!

  25. I don't know. I've been thinking about it and it might feel nice if you're really lonely and sad.

  26. This is just strange. Why not just go to a bar and rub against the drunk chicks on the dance floor? They don't mind where your hands are!

  27. This is creepy. And weird. I'm with you, O Queen, no alcohol? No thanks!

  28. I prefer to feel up strangers on the subway.

  29. *picks jaw off floor and reaches for hand sanitizer* Um, no thanks.

  30. I don't think thats the kind of place for me, however, i am sure it is great for others. I only really like to hug people i know like my kids, boyfriend, mom, dad, bro and sis.