Feeling lost, lonely, or just plain in need of a hug? You are not alone. In fact, there are so many in the world that feel that way, a few enterprising individuals have set themselves up as professional cuddlers.
Yes, for a nominal fee, clients can spend an hour or 2 with a friendly soul who does not mind platonic cuddles with strangers. You can even cuddle up and talk about your day, play games online, or simply lie there quietly, enjoying the close contact. This might sound strange to some, but websites that put those in need of some companionship with cuddlers swear the service they offer is backed up by science.
What Happens At a Session?
The only thing typical about a session with a professional cuddler is the complete exclusion of sexual activity. The whole thing is strictly platonic, and, no, it does not have to involve any physical contact at all.
Some sites that offer the service, such as Snugglebuddies, suggest mutual massage or going for a meal as activities. In fact, one states boldly that its cuddlers will do what is necessary to make clients happy, as long as it does not involve sex.
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Saskia Larsen, a massage therapist, actress, and now professional cuddler with Cuddlist.com, said the 90-minute – 2-hour sessions she offers attract clients from all walks of life. Most are regulars, with approximately 80 per cent of them being men, and 20 per cent being women.
One of those regulars is an elderly Hasidic Jewish man. His culture frowns upon contact between members of the opposite gender; a social norm that has left him starved of company and physical contact with others. The professional cuddler added that he does not speak much, but will sometimes lie in her arms and weep.
At the time Larsen wrote her account of her experiences, she met a new client; a young woman who had been abused physically. She contacted Larsen when her therapist suggested she begin exploring safe touch, but did not feel safe enough to do it with a man.
The pro cuddler said her work has had a positive effect on her as well as her clients. She said it had opened her heart, and that the speed at which people can connect with one another surprised her. Larsen described the bond between cuddler and client as human interaction at its most basic.
A man whose name was given only as Kevin is a client of another cuddling service. He said that, after a year of dealing with depression, a friend suggested he try the service.
Kevin admitted he had never thought that the loneliness he felt at the time contributed to his emotional and psychological distress. He said he felt an improvement after his first session, and was surprised how something so simple could make such a difference to his life.
Hardwired for Hugs
According to Snugglebuddies, the lack of human interaction, including physical contact, can lead to higher rates of aggression, depression, and low self-esteem. The site adds that studies have shown a link between touch and the release of oxytocin, a brain chemical that can help relieve pain and inflammation, ease social anxiety, keep blood pressure in check, and decrease stress levels.
Cuddling and friendly conversation is also claimed to improve social skills, reduce heart disease risks, strengthen the immune system and aid recovery, and help manage Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Larsen is convinced that the need for physical contact with others is encoded in our DNA. She said that acknowledging the need to cuddle is the same as admitting that we are human after all.