Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything along comes the new craze to hit the US… the rise of the “cuddle party“. No, I’m not even kidding. What exactly happens at these parties? Firstly, get your mind out of the gutter please and lucky I’m here to enlighten you. Cuddle parties are strictly non-sexual gatherings in which guests hug, touch and massage one another. Huh? Yep, that’s what I thought until I read further and came to the realisation that in life what most of us are lacking is intimacy. I’m not talking about sex, or even trying to get laid – I’m talking about real intimacy where you feel close and connected to another human being.
Some of my close friends have been out of long-term relationships for years. I’m not saying that they are incapable of getting a shag every now and then if the need arises, but what if you’re looking for more than just a casual encounter or aren’t comfortable having sex with strangers? Going without so much as a touch or a real cuddle for months, sometimes years, must be very difficult. I have spoken before about how after my long term relationship broke up I went without real intimacy for a good year and it was terribly hard. I know that people have gone without intimacy much longer than me, but I guess I can understand how these parties have gained popularity, even if I wouldn’t actually attend one.
The parties were “created by two American relationship counsellors, the first such party was held in New York in 2004. A Melbourne chapter opened two years later, closing not long after when its founder become ill. Then, in 2008, the relationship and life coach Marus – who goes only by his first name even on his business card – reopened the Melbourne arm, recently expanding to NSW and Queensland. His first event attracted two dozen people; a recent gathering drew almost 100. More than 1000 have attended one somewhere on the east coast”
In an ever-expanding online world where people connect on Facebook more than they speak face-to-face, I’m not surprised that young people are craving intimacy. They are so desperate, and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word, that there has been a market for this kind of gathering in the first place.
When I was struggling with no intimacy I booked a one-hour massage every month. It really helped me pull through as I am a firm believer that we all need the sense of touch to feel that we are not just invisible human robots. Having a pair of hands on you that are focused on your wellbeing, and not just a hug hello from a friend or a relative is important to all of us. It most certainly is to me.
Marus explains: “In our culture, men always do the ‘pat pat’ thing with each other,” he laughs. “There’s a stigma when it comes to showing affection.” Hence his desire for adults to reap the benefits of “non-sexual touch”. As reported last week, hugging boosts the feel-good hormone oxytocin, acting as a social glue.
One thing that Marus is adamant about is that cuddle parties are not about sex. It is not about hooking up or finding love; although I can imagine that it could surely lead to such a thing. If young people are attending these parties then they must be lacking intimacy in their day-to-day lives, and that’s something to seriously consider. While we are all busy building up our social profiles we are letting important things such as love and intimacy fall by the wayside.
You can’t cuddle on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site. And while all of these new mediums are helping us stay in contact with each other I believe we are actually growing more disconnected. I think there needs to be a way for us to shutdown our laptops; remove ourselves from in front of the box and actually speak to each other again.
Marus believes that Australians wrongly view physical affection between adults is inherently erotic. Australian men, he adds, are taught that cuddling is a bothersome but mandatory precursor to sex. “We’re living in a touch-starved society. People are not sure how to be loving and nurturing towards one another without it being sexual.”
The next party is September 29th and while I don’t plan on attending I can see how some people who are lonely and just craving a good cuddle might be eager to go. I still can’t help but giggle. Just a little.
What do you think of “cuddle parties”? Do you like having a snuggle? Have you survived a year or longer without any real intimacy? Would you pay for a cuddle?