Getting spooned by a stranger might be your idea of a nightmare-come-true. But believe it or not, getting cozy with complete randos is totally on-trend, thanks to the growing popularity of something called a "cuddle party."
So What Is a Cuddle Party, Exactly?
These fetes aren’t exactly new. In fact, they’ve been around for about a decade—but they’ve been particulary buzzy lately, with more and more popping up across the country.
“Cuddle Party is a playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries, and affection,” reads the website for Cuddle Party, a non-profit organization operating throughout the U.S. “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. You can even come to a Cuddle Party just to cuddle!”
Attending one of these events will cost you a pretty penny, though. At The Snuggery in Rochester, New York, a 45-minute Double Cuddle—which allows you to cuddle with two people concurrently (kind of like an unsexy mÃƒÂ©nages ÃƒÂ trois)—will run you $100.
Meanwhile, if you have $1,500 to spare, you can become a cuddle facilitator (they organize the get-togethers), cuddle lifeguard (they watch the party to make sure no sex happens and that everyone stays safe), or cuddle caddy (they assist the lifeguards during a party). That’s how much it costs for the Cuddle Party four-month facilitator certification program, says Madelon Guinazzo, one of the group's certified facilitators. Guinazzo co-produces events with someone who has a yoga studio, since her apartment is too small for her to host them there. “I bring foam padding—the kind that is inside mattresses—and layers of blankets to create soft spaces," she says. "We call it our ‘fluff.’”
Are There Really Any Health Benefits?
Many cuddle party websites toss around vague claims about how this keep-your-clothes-on, consensual-but-nonsexual facilitated snuggle sesh with strangers can lead to everything from healthy blood pressure levels and better immune function to more self-confidence and less stress. So, is the price worth it?
The very nature of cuddling is good—there’s no disputing that. That's because touch causes the body to release oxytocin, says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a licensed therapist based in Los Angeles and Telluride, Colorado. “Physically, it helps to reduce inflammation,” he says. “Emotionally, it reduces stress and anxiety. It also increases the level of trust between parties.” So there is some truth in the groups' feel-good claims.
But do you receive the same health benefits if the affection is coming from someone you have no emotional connection to whatsoever? Well, if you've set firm, clear boundaries, and have an understandable expectation of the process, cuddling with a stranger could potentially do you some good, says Hokemeyer. But, he adds that affection is best when it’s grounded in a history of safety and knowledge of the other. So maybe stick to hugging your BFF for some extra loving if you're in need of an emotional boost.
Gif courtesy of giphy.com