Let me be clear from the start—I am a firm believer in the value of touch.
I make my living as a massage therapist. The benefits of safe touch are endless. No one is arguing that we need more of it in our culture.
However, this whole wave of Professional Snugglers is, in my opinion, taking it too far.
Over that last few years, people from Portland to Rochester are charging for snuggles and —what’s more—there is a considerable client base of people who are paying for snuggles.
“This shouldn’t shock people. We pay people to buy our food, cook our food, take care of our babies. so we should not be up in arms if we’re paying someone to embrace us,” says Dachner Keltner, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
It’s not the snuggling that’s the problem. Adults get to do whatever they want, as long as there is consent and no one is being betrayed or lied to. The problem is the constant claim that there is nothing sexual about this.
Have a gander and see for yourself.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px34mZsK6PQ
Perhaps if it was simply left as words-on-paper, I would think, Ok, that’s kind of sweet. But when I watch the videos of these grown adults lying under the covers in bed contorting their bodies in very sexual ways while repeating “nope, nothing sexual, I swear”, something feels very fishy. (Many of the Snugglers are even willing to be hired for the entire night!)
Professional Snuggler Samantha Hess of portland Oregon says,
When we put a dollar value on something, we find it more trustworthy, more valuable. It (snuggling) is completely platonic, more like the nurturing a mother would give her child.
Jesse and I watched the following snippet together on the CBS Sunday Morning show. He offered a running commentary throughout the entire thing, essentially repeating the phrase: This is so weird.
I agreed, but couldn’t quite articulate why the whole thing felt so off.
But it stayed with me—and got worse—like a slow-growth virus. I couldn’t get the images of these people out of my mind.
And, as I was at work one morning last week, I had my hands rested comfortably on the shoulders of an elderly woman. She had settled so much that she dozed off in her chair, clearly benefiting from this safe, benign, therapeutic modality of touch.
I thought again about the Snuggler version of touch and how, frankly, it makes my skin crawl.
I scanned the circle of old folks who surrounded me in the nursing home where I work, doing their version of subtle morning exercise. They were vulnerable, childlike. Some eager, some resistant. A man named Wink walked by repeating the word pretty, pretty, pretty, and a heavy-set German fellow named Norbert wiped his nose on his sleeve while the woman next to him recoiled.
I thought of the boundaries around how I touch my old folks, how important it is to have them feel safe—clothed, often in public spaces—for them to receive the nourishment they desire from touch.
These Snugglers seem to lack those boundaries.
They line their bodies up next to their clients in such a way that they are pressing against one another, spooning, draping, entangling bodies. I can’t think of a single person that I could do this with aside from my husband and my daughter that wouldn’t feel, well, gross. (And to the lady who mentioned earlier about how Professional Snuggling was akin to nurturing a child: that only works if it’s your child!)
So, from my understanding, the Snugglers are saying that since they don’t have intercourse with their clients, since they are not naked, there is nothing out of line about any of it.
I’m just not buying it.
Again, I reiterate the fact that for those of you who are single out there, do whatever the hell you want. No judgement from me.
But, please, let’s call a spade a spade here.
There is nothing simple about spooning a stranger. There is nothing un-sexual about scissoring your legs around someone’s midsection, while in low-light, under the covers, even if you have clothes on.
Drachner Keltner said:
Nice touch is a big reward. It’s like eating chocolate, it’s like getting a nice paycheck, it’s like being praised. It’s just fundamental to the currency of delight.
Great. Then get a massage, people.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo source: You Tube