«No kissing» is a classic limit in many kinky relationships – even in those where the most extreme and outlandish erotic practices are a common occurrence. And no cuddling either, especially among gay people. In fact, actual intimacy has long become the last taboo both for those who are into alternative sexualities and vanilla people.
Just like any hot-blooded animal, however, humans need a caring touch to keep sane and healthy. A 20 seconds hug is enough to trigger the release of oxytocin, the so-callled ‘bonding hormone’, in our bodies. And oxytocin can do wonders: it lowers blood pressure and heart rate reducing stress; fights cravings, addictions and depression; increases immunity resources; improves the cognitive and empathy abilities… In short, it is our natural feel-good drug of choice. It is then a shame to learn that, according to aManchester Metropolitan University research, 30% of the population receive very infrequent hugs and 75% yearns for more tender contact.
We have all seen those freaky ‘free hugs’ people one time or another, but outside of these hippie-like endeavours, there is somebody who made a business out of a disappearing gesture. The first touch therapists were probably Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, two relationship coaches who in 2004 invented the cuddle parties – a sort of pajama party for adults where people are encouraged to rediscover human contact in a nonsexual and noncompetitive way. You read it right: no sex is involved, and no groping or any less than pure touch.
«There are lots of ways to have casual sex, but casual cuddling is pretty hard to find» says massage therapist Rob Grader. Hard enough to generate a whole market forestablishments where fully clothed cuddling sessions go for one dollar per minute, and the average client chastely spoons for one hour on a mattress to enjoy the kind of contact no swingers club will ever provide. Rob, by the way, is the author of Cuddle sutra, a manual for physically estranged couples.
Stories like this are popping up everywhere. The big name in the hugging business is in example Travis Sigley, a former stripper in San Francisco. He says he founded hisCuddle therapy service after just a few weeks of dancing, when he noticed how many of his clients had no especially lewd request, but asked to just talk and be close to another person.
Sigley’s specialty is now to set up “cuddlespaces” in clubs, at conventions and other public events: he brings memory-foam mattresses and clean sheets for everybody, and people spontaneously rediscover the forgotten pleasure of physical vicinity. «I have not experienced one single inappropriate touch in the four years I’ve been doing this» he explains. «I set clear boundaries beforehand, and everybody just enjoys it». Sometimes extreme sex can wait.