So there I was having a quiet brunch with my friend MisLis (aka Cupcake Goddess as she is known in this household) and she says she's about to attend a snuggle party. "A what???!!" says Ms160. Did I mishear? Was this a new type of Femdom tea party or something?
MisLis then explained, and I thought "hmmm ... okay this is a vanilla activity but it's something that might be of interest to my readers. I'll do some research". And so I did. And guess what, readers, I discovered that kinksters need the odd cuddle too!
Of course "odd" may be the operative word there, but a quick google search shows that the cuddle / snuggle party phenomenon is taking over the Western world. It's even been on the news. In fact being on CBS in Oct 2005 (see the "hot cuddle party" story title CBS photo at top of post) may have made terrific publicity for the original creators of Cuddle Party but it also caused endless hassles. As one of them said later "All that time we've spent in the last year and a half, convincing people Cuddle Party is not an orgy? Allllll down the tubes tonight."
With that "hot cuddle party" headline they were certainly doomed, LOL. But despite orgy seekers turning up now and then, cuddle / snuggle party organizations have continued to be created to meet the needs of deprived snugglers - of which YOU may be one. So let's check out cuddle / snuggle parties in case they can provide something you need...
Reid Mihalko, or with minor variations (Love Coaching who organized MisLis' first Snuggle Party in Sydney, state on their website that "Snuggle Parties are a close cousin to Cuddle Parties (with a few extra fun things thrown in the mix)").
So let's look at where the whole thing started. Wiki says:
"Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, a pair of self-described "relationship coaches" in New York City, founded Cuddle Party in New York on February 29, 2004. According to their website, the events were initially created for friends who were too intimidated to attend Mihalko's informal massage workshops. Upon publication of the Cuddle Party website:You can read some of those media articles in the References and Online Recourses section below. So what IS a cuddle party? Back to Wiki:
the events were opened to the general public, and, thanks to a swarm of media attention, became a phenomenon in New York"
"A cuddle party is an event designed with the intention of allowing people to experience non-sexual group physical intimacy through cuddling. Cuddle parties are described by organizers as "workshop/social-events" that gives adults an opportunity to "give and receive welcomed affectionate touch in a no-expectation, friendly setting, according to your needs, desires, interests, and boundaries...
"in order to meet the demand for Cuddle Parties in other cities, Mihalko and Baczynski began a training and certification program in January 2005, and have since trained a number of individuals to facilitate Cuddle Parties in various cities ... events have occurred across the United States, including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montgomery, Boston, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, and Kansas City; and abroad reaching Toronto, London, and Melbourne".
So what are the ... er ... rules of play?
Here are the rules from CuddleParty.com:
WHAT TO WEAR: Pajamas - nothing too risqué. Think more comfy than sexy. (More drawstrings, less lace! No shorts.)
WHAT TO BRING: A pillow or stuffed animal if you like. Juice or sparkling cider is always welcome. Sorry, no liquor folks. Otherwise, just bring your smiling self.
STICK TO THE RULES:
- Pajamas stay on the whole time.
- You don't have to cuddle anyone at a Cuddle Party, ever.
- You must ask permission and receive a verbal YES before you touch anyone. (Be as specific in your request as you can.)
- If you're a yes, say YES. If you're a no, say NO.
- If you're a maybe, say NO.
- You are encouraged to change your mind anytime you want.
- Respect your relationship agreements and communicate with your partner.
- Get your Cuddle Lifeguard On Duty or Cuddle Caddy if you have a question or concern or need assistance with anything during the Cuddle Party.
- Tears and laughter are both welcome.
- Respect people's privacy when sharing about Cuddle Parties and do not gossip.
- Arrive on time.
- Be hygienically savvy
Need more info?
Most of the cuddle party sites feature an extremely good FAQ page, which was written by the original facilitators. However because some sites don't list all the questions on that FAQ list, it's worth going back to read the original list here. Which I might add includes the tricky question of how to deal with erections at cuddle parties *grin*
I'm sure you can imagine how some people enjoy taking the piss out of these events. This is my favorite, on Gawker:
Today we spotted the story of a single 20-something New York City girl bravely encountering what must be the most horrifying new trend: cuddle parties. Seriously. Invented by a man who calls himself REiD Mihalko (no, seriously), at cuddle parties people get together and, obviously, cuddle -- they set "boundaries" and they do "safe roleplaying" and then they "cuddle." Let's do some healthy roleplaying of our own:There has been some criticism directed at cuddle party franchizing. One blogger noted, re training facilitators:
Your friend says: "I'm hosting a cuddle party. Will you come?"
You say: "Go fuck yourself, you ridiculous California-damaged ninny."
Your friend says: "I wish you wouldn't be so judgmental and hostile. Cuddle parties are about sharing and intimacy!"
You say: Nothing, because hopefully you'll never speak to them again"
"I think the idea of cuddle parties is so cute and fun, so I checked out their website. They have it GOING ON, for $500 you can attend a cuddle party and learn what it’s all about OR for $1000 you can become certified in cuddling. OMG. And it’s $200 a year to stay certified. So they have basically taken cuddling and turned it into a franchise. Slick. This recession sure will make people get creative in ways to create income..."You can read an interesting post about the franchising viewpoint here. But to attend, most parties charge about $20. So it costs the same as attending a play party.
What sort of people go?
A complete cross section of the community, I'd imagine, rather like kinksters. It's not a singles event as such, but as the CuddleParty website notes "Singles in particular seem to flock to Cuddle Parties, because they are a safe, fun, and non-alcoholic way to meet other people". True, and to paraphrase my friend MisLis below these events provide a safe, sane and consensual way to access the touch that's missing in many lives. Unless parties are same sex they are also gender balanced. I think parties usually have 10 to 20 attendees. They are also excellent for people feeling isolated by illness or disabilities, as Camilla Andersson reported:
"Deborah*, 44, decided to go to cuddle parties because her disability, fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder resulting in pain and fatigue, has lead to increasing isolation from society. After she developed the syndrome 15 years ago, she started to withdraw from the community activism she used to participate in, resulting in increased isolation. She has been to two parties, partly because of the need to break her isolation, partly because she has always taken care of others, whether in the role of a mother or an activist, and she needed some pampering herself. "The cuddle parties appealed to me because it seemed like a place where I could get a bit more physical attention, get a little bit touched," Deborah says.I mentioned same sex parties a while back. When cuddle parties first started in New York in 2004 Greg Bensinger wrote that "also in the [planning stages] are themed cuddle parties, like ones for the gay and lesbian community, seniors and women only. "All the cuddlemonsters are coming out of the closet," said Mihalko".
"During her latest visit in the middle of November, Deborah was clear about what she wanted. In the welcome circle, she told the other participants about her need to be pampered and that she really enjoys when someone brushes her hair. Almost immediately after the welcome circle, a woman approached Deborah, sat down behind her and started brushing her hair softly. "I felt really rejuvenated. It was exactly what I needed," says Deborah, who had gone through a few stressful weeks before the party. "It's up there with things like meditation and yoga. It's very healing."
These themed / community specific parties have certainly taken off since then.
As have cuddle parties organized by kinksters. In fact the one MisLis attended was also facilitated by a kinkster: Flame, on Fetlife, who I know from the Sydney scene. There is also a Fetlife group for kinksters interested in cuddles and these parties: Cuddle Sluts.
So how do you find one? Check CuddleParty.com for places in the US. The site also shows you how to become a facilitator and hold your own parties. Here in Australia you can attend parties with several different groups / facilitators, like CuddlePartyOz.com:
And Love Coaching who organized MisLis' first Snuggle Party in Sydney. You can find Love Coaching's snuggle party page here. I've never been to a cuddle / snuggle party so I can't personally recommend one facilitator over the other ... but on the other hand I'm completely biased towards supporting kinksters, LOL. So why not try Love Coaching's parties first, as you will meet Flame from Fetlife who comes highly recommended by MisLis.
Which brings us to MisLis' report on attending a Snuggle party. This is already a very long post, but I am going to quote this report in full because it's so interesting and well written. I must add that MisLis checked the report with Flame prior to sending it to me, to make sure no party attendees' confidentiality was breached.
"A few weeks ago, I attended my first ever Snuggle Party.
"It's an interesting thing for someone like me to commit to. I like to keep interpersonal touch in public to an absolute minimum. I have an acute sense of personal space. Music festivals are my idea of hell played to an awesome soundtrack. Attending a structured function that includes deliberate touching of me and other people? It seemed ludicrous!
"But when I saw the Snuggle Party promoted, I was instantly curious. I love kooky new experiences, and this would certainly be something to push me out of my comfort zone. Plus it sounded like a really healthy thing to do. So I booked myself in, and started telling everyone I knew about this wild, crazy thing I was going to do. Safe, sane and consensual public touching.
"Snuggle Parties, and their cousins, Cuddle Parties, are gatherings of people who just want to get together and share some good old-fashioned non-sexual touch. The cuddle equivalent of Dungeon Masters are on hand, to make sure that everything is kept comfortable and under free-flow control. Participation in everything is completely voluntary.
"So on a quiet Sunday night, I strapped a pillow and a blanket to the old scooter-beast, packed my pajamas and ventured east to Snuggle Central. Earlier that morning, over breakfast with a friend it had finally hit me: I was going to do something that was completely outside my comfort zone. I ignored the fear and ploughed on anyway.
"On arrival, I was greeted by a friendly chap, removed my shoes, signed in, and changed out of my bulky gear and into some comfy pajamas. The venue was warm and cozy, but I was glad to have brought socks. Immediately I was struck by the feel of the room and the sense of spiritual broadmindedness that was already bouncing around.
"I have to say, the facilitation is actually what made this event so successful. As a group we discussed and agreed to confidentiality for every participant, so I don't want to go into too much detail about what actually happens. But we did spend some time discussing some really interesting topics; we had a 'mini-workshop' on learning how to say no, and yes, asking for exactly what you want, and enjoying the present. And that's just what I got out of the session, but I suspect what you get from it depends on your own personal circumstances. (Gush some more: that sort of learning is gold dust!)
"But onto snuggling!!
"While it took me a little while to warm up, I found myself purring like a pussycat not long after. I was the lucky giver and receiver of touch. There were some really wonderful, compassionate people in the room. It felt strange to be engaging in what I would normally consider to be foreplay, in a non-sexual context (another revolutionary, but extremely healthy concept!) By the end of the night, all my personal space boundaries had been broken down. I had let someone touch my feet. I was happily snuggled in a little corner, a small Lis sandwich, finally relaxed and free to spend time thinking about my breathing and able to enjoy the moment.
"I left, and performed a quick survey of myself: how was I feeling after that intense encounter? I had a mild endorphin high and felt fulfilled, without being aroused. I felt like eating a square of chocolate, but that might be unrelated to the Snuggle Party. :) All in all, some pretty positive feelings and so I gave the night a thumbs up - it was well worth doing.
"Would I go again? I would, especially if I was feeling a bit touch-starved. Apparently we need seven hugs a day to get our daily dose of human touch, and I certainly am nowhere near that close! I definitely recommend it to everyone as something to try at least once, whether you are into touch or not.
"The next Snuggle party will be held in Sydney on 11th July. If you are in town, and are even the slightest bit curious you should book yourself in!"
- MisLis' new blog is here.
- The next Sydney snuggle party party facilitated by Flame is 11 July - you can read about it on Fetlife here.
- Interested in a party in Brisbane? Cuddle Party Oz suggests you contact Andrew at email@example.com.
- Looking for parties in other parts of the planet? Start here at CuddleParty.com.
- Interested in these parties and all things cuddly and snuggly? Join Fetlife's Cuddle Sluts group.
Camilla Andersson "Snuggle Opportunities for the Cuddle Deprived Whether you need a hug or some afternoon spooning, cuddle parties will provide it for you" November 20, 2005
Gred Bensinger "Gimme a hug! The 'Cuddle Party' is New York's newest feel-good-about-yourself fad" New York Daily News July 11, 2004
Gawker "Bad Trend Alert: Cuddle Parties" Mon Apr 19 2004
Christina Troup "Snuggling finds a safe party" Oakland Tribune , May 31, 2005
WIKI on cuddle parties
Cuddle parties, reform and revolution
Cuddle party - my thoughts
The Good, The Bad and The Cuddly Prepping for my first-ever Cuddle Party (in New Jersey!)
Google photos of cuddle / snuggle parties here
to MisLis for sharing her experience :)
CBS via apictureofme.blogspot.com/