I have toyed with the idea of hosting a cuddle party - a safe space for people to enjoy nonsexual touch. I've never been to one, but I see their significance. Skin hunger is a real thing. We are made to give and receive touch, and without it we suffer.
Psychologists who have studied skin hunger find that those who have less access to touch (what I call "affection deficit disorder") show greater incidences of depression and stress, and have poorer general health. Just as orphaned babies who are not held experience a "failure to thrive," so do adults. People now touch their cellphones more than they touch each other, and reports of loneliness are up 16 percent over the previous decade. Despite all of our online "connections" we are enjoying less skin-to-skin contact.
I would argue that it's not only an increase in the quantity of the touch that we need, but an increase in the quality, too. I'm not much of a hugger, but there is a guy friend at work who gives the best hugs. Every time I see him, we exchange a long, firm hug. It instantly makes me feel better. It's not my imagination. Hugs release a feel-good chemical cocktail of endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. When I feel like I am awash in a sea of work and obligations and deadlines, it feels so good to be held down for a minute. It feels comforting to be connected and grounded, in a very real way, to a friend.
Being single and living alone can feel isolating. Sometimes us single people just need a good snuggle-bug, someone to curl up with for a while. No talking, no sex, just a good old-fashioned spooning. But you know what they say, spooning leads to forking. Or does it? Can cuddle-buddies remain just that? Or do two bodies laying next to each other inevitably get naked and start having sex? I believe people can maintain boundaries, but apparently not everyone agrees with me.
Matthew Hurtado tried to open up a business in Madison, Wis., called the Snuggle House. For $60, his staff offered to hug, cuddle or snuggle its patrons. They reportedly had hundreds of folks signing up for the service. However, the city attorney stepped in and public outcry eventually led to the closing of the House before it ever officially opened its doors. It was assumed that the Snuggle House was a front for prostitution. Even after Hurtado installed security cameras and panic buttons and agreed to do background checks on his clients, people still freaked out.
"No offense to men, but I don't know any man who wants to just snuggle," said Jennifer Zilavy, Madison assistant city attorney.
Madison is a progressive city, yet somehow the idea that people would enjoy a sex-less snuggle is beyond their comprehension. Not everything is about sex! I pay $60 for a massage. I can imagine paying the same for a long, relaxing cuddle session. Sometimes touch is just touch. It doesn't have to lead to more.
But then again, I am a woman. The argument the Madison city attorney put forth is that no man could possibly want only a snuggle. So what say you, men of Charlotte - would you pay to lay next to a woman? Could you hold a woman for an hour and not have sex with her? Would you want to?