Calling All Cuddle Monsters
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Magazine Articles - Love Zone
Written by Edie Weinstein-Moser   
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Rape Survivors, Soldiers with PTSD: The Armor Comes Off

Marcia describes some profound benefits she never even imagined when they started: “By the third party, someone said, ‘Oh, I’m a rape survivor and I’m here because I’m afraid of men touching me.’  We had soldiers from Iraq with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We’ve had people from different religious backgrounds who were looking for a touch outlet because their religions have restrictions around it in some way. And we didn’t realize all the medical benefits when we started.”  The benefits are multi-fold: improved communication, healthier relationships, enhanced self -esteem, weight loss due to being nourished by touch and not just by food, and healing through abuse issues.

 “The armor comes off,” as REiD puts it. Marcia added that, after two years, “People who have been coming for up to a year and a half have lost 20-30-40 pounds without even trying.”  Communication skills improve as well, they’ve found, since a large part of the cuddle party experience is about learning to express your needs, whether it be for more touch, less touch or no touch.

Safety and Therapeutic Value

Although Marcia and REiD are clear that this is not therapy, it does have therapeutic value.  Marcia says, “Therapists send their clients to us. They realize that it’s not therapy, but there is something therapeutic about being held.”  Particularly reassuring are that safety measures are in place, and that nothing occurs without the verbal consent of each person there. In this culture, particularly between men and women, consent is implied if the other person doesn’t say no. Body language is often mis-interpreted, and confusion ensues. In the safe space of a Cuddle Party, it’s ok to say ‘no’ without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Frequent check-ins are the norm at a Cuddle Party, as is choosing a ‘swim buddy,’ just like in summer camp. If there is any indication of hanky panky, either facilitators may blow a whistle, each participant finds their swim buddy, and together raise their hands. In the workshop I attended, the whistles remained at rest. 

What’s it really like? Ready...set....cuddle!

I attended a workshop in stereotypically non-cuddly NYC in April, 2006. I was delighted that my cuddle buddies ranged in age from 19 to mid-50's; both men and women, single and coupled; and from all walks of life. This is how a Cuddle Party goes.

The workshop begins with a Welcome Circle, in which rules are laid out for the safety of each participant.  Jammies stay on at all times. The rule that gets the biggest laugh and knowing looks is Rule # 7 “No dry humping”. A few structured exercises break the ice, including one in which participants practice saying ‘No’ when their partner asks if they can hug them or touch them in some way, or be hugged or touched. Even if every fiber in your being wants to shout “YES!”, No is still the operative word.  These guidelines help folks feel more comfortable with a room full of strangers, who in a few short hours will not be. From that point on, it’s a snuggle-fest.


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