Hugs for Sale (Welcome to the Snuggery)

 

Jackie Samuel

Jackie Samuel

Jacqueline Samuel is a cuddler.  By this I don’t mean that she is a touchy feely kind of person (although she most certainly is that.)  I mean she is a professional cuddler.  For $60, you can go to her house, slip into bed with her, and . . . snuggle.

As you might imagine, Jacqueline’s story gets different reactions in social media circles.  Some would say she is providing a valuable service to a touch-starved world.  Others argue that she is selling her body and her sexuality in a watered-down form of prostitution.

I fall in the former camp.  Working in the spa industry, I already recognize human touch as a fundamental need for human wellbeing.  This is an important part of what spas have to offer, and these kinds of services can fill a real void for people who are not getting sufficient doses of human-to-human contact.

That being said, I also recognize the inherent sexuality of this kind of experience.  Another professional cuddler, who offers hugs for $100 an hour via her website, describes her offering as “Non-sexual Positive Touch.”  I realize she is trying to be crystal clear in her communication, but this is a bit of a misnomer.  Humans are sexual beings, and calling something “non-sexual” doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Snuggle Sheila via Compfight

But there is a distinction between sexual feelings and sexual behavior.  “Although sexual behavior is not permitted,” says Samuel in the guidelines on her website, “arousal is perfectly normal and should not make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

All of the professional cuddlers I have found (three so far,) are very clear about where the boundaries are (no kissing, no nudity, and no touching areas covered by undergarments.)  In some ways, this is even less ambiguous than a spa.  Spas have to deal with nude clients in a landscape where some of their competitors may be crossing the line into more illicit activities, confusing consumers as to what to expect.  Spas could probably learn a thing or two from the cuddlers about setting clear expectations and a safe environment for both the practitioner and the client to relax and enjoy the experience.

Travis Sigley, the founder of Cuddle Therapy (and the third professional cuddler I discovered,) has been in business since 2004, and has never had a client be inappropriate (this is one of only three questions answered on his FAQ.)  I can only hope the female cuddlers (who are newer to the business) have the same track record.

In my book, I talk about touch being a quintessential part of what the spa experience is all about.  Human contact releases oxytocin, which is linked to lower stress levels and better health.  And those good feelings engendered by warm, loving touch are contagious.  So, much like we see in spas, I can imagine the ripple effect created by these cuddling services.

People probably leave Jackie Samuel’s “snuggery” in a glow of positive emotions, feeling more comfortable with touching people (even those they may not be in a close relationship with,) and in a more compassionate frame of mind.  If these clients are inspired to be more loving and affectionate towards others with whom they come into contact, then professional cuddlers are indeed a positive force for good in the world.

References and recommended reading:

McCarthy, J. (2011).  The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing.  The Psychology of Wellbeing.

 

by Jeremy McCarthy

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3 Responses to Hugs for Sale (Welcome to the Snuggery)

  1. Judy Krings May 21, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    I admit my eyebrows are raised, Jeremy. Years ago an acquaintance we have known a long time contacted Ken and I. he told us we were obviously very loving people. He had had no significant other for years. He was a good deal older than we were. He asked if Ken and I would hug him. That he knew what he needed but there was no one to oblige. We were both a bit taken back, but he sat in our living room serious as all get out. We DID talk about touch and hugs and nonsexual love. Yes we hugged him. He was grateful. He never asked again. Yes it was strange. I kept thinking if my mom were alone and never got a hug, how sad that would be. He was smiling when he left our house.

    I think this is one of the strangest things that ever happened to us. I give my husband credit, as he is very private. But he is compassionate.

    What a courageous topic, Jeremy. Love that you stretch the rubber band.

  2. Jeremy McCarthy May 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Thanks Judy, it sounds like you got a good story to tell out of it! (I might have to do a blog article on that one!) Since you live in PV you may appreciate how surprised I was to see all of the managers in my hotel in Mexico hugging and kissing their employees as this would have been unheard of in the US back then. I eventually learned you would not establish very strong relationships in Mexico if you didn’t adopt their warm greetings consisting of a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

  3. Judy Krings May 23, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Blog away, Jeremy. You bet it is wonderful to feel the perennial love in MX. I LOVE the hugs and kisses, and most of all the smiles. No wonder so many ex-pats love Puerto Vallarta and other cities in MX. Beautiful people, landscape and upbeat living and everyone expresses gratitude.

    I also remember being shocked the first time a MX doctor hugged and kissed me, as I expressed my gratitude. Now I lean in first myself! As you discovered in your hotel in MX, relationships in MX are intimate and very loving.

    I have the cell phone number of all my doctors in MX as well as a coordiator in case they are not in. And check this one out. As I was leaving my orthopod’s office a few weeks ago, his insurance lady came running after me with HER card! she told me if I had any problems with my MX insurance, she would take care of it. Wow!

    A quote I enjoy, “Love in your heart wasn’t put here to stay, love isn’t love, till you give it away.”

    I am glad you let the MX love wash over you, Jeremy. I know they love you there. I was at the market now long ago and a lady who was affiliated at your hotel remembered you fondly. Her grand dad, if I have this correct, was the president of MX. So your reputation is positively lingering in Vallarta! It IS a small world.

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