I’ve been hearing about cuddle parties for a while now. There’s a decent amount of crossover between all the touch communities but I don’t often hop the lines. I don’t get too deep into kink or poly but I’m familiar with them and same with cuddle parties. As part of some background research I’m doing, I tried it out.

They are careful to keep confidentiality so the facilitator does remind us to talk not about what other people do or say but about our own experience and response. Telling my experience will include outlining behavior and impressions of others but I’ll be vague. I hope that’s not too frustrating.

I did have some expectations going in. Since I know a facilitator, I have heard some of the more helpful catchphrases and principles and since I read the website thoroughly, I knew what the rules were and kind of had an idea of the kinds of people I would meet. I was, as always, open to surprises.

When you first arrive, they show you around the space, in this case a private home, give you a chance to change clothes into full coverage, flexible, preferably not form fitting clothes, and let everyone kind of mingle. A few folks have been to parties before, one or two of them have been to many many parties, and about half are new or within their first few. We’re all a little awkward, even me. We chat a little and when the time comes, the facilitator goes over the rules. She goes in depth, making sure there can be no misunderstandings, and we do a few exercises.

First, we ask to kiss each other. You turn to the person next to you and ask them if you can kiss them. They reply “no.” Not “I dunno”, not “maybe”, not “no way”, not “gross”, and not “yes”, no matter how much they’d like to. One of the core concepts and the most helpful catchphrase from a cuddle party is “no is a complete sentence.” That may not sound revolutionary on the surface but there are hundreds of people across this country who can’t look someone in the eye and say, simply, “no.”

They also talk about how ‘no’ is useful information. It tells the hearer that they need to ask for or try something else or, if they hear it often enough, that they may want to try with someone else.

And they remind us that we can change our minds at any time. We may think we want to say ‘yes’ but when we get what we agreed to, find it isn’t to our liking. Or perhaps it’s good for a while, then isn’t anymore. That happens to me all the time and I try to let you lovely boys know when it happens. It means staying in touch with ourselves which isn’t always easy but it’s lovely when it happens.

My experience was useful but not one I’ll repeat. After the reading of the rules, we kind of pair off, much like the naughty parties I like to go to. Except instead of making out and banging, we snuggle. My usual role is caretaker so I made a conscious effort to ask to be taken care of. I asked for a simple shoulder rub, just nice thumbs into my rhomboids, a little muscle rolling over the upper traps, maybe some kneading down my back but nothing fancy. I should have known better.

It started ok but my partner got bored quickly and roamed around to places where their inexperienced hands weren’t delivering effective touch. They attempted a stretch but had no idea how to deliver a deep, pleasant one so it was lots of weird bouncing and my whole body got confused. I was sitting cross legged and I thought I might prefer to lay on my tummy so I interrupted and asked to change. My ‘cuddle’ partner immediately straddled my hips and got to work. It was a little more relaxing but also more uncomfortably sexual than I was prepared for. It’s difficult to tolerate mediocre massage when I know how much better it can be. When it’s slower, in rhythm with your breath, deep and rhythmic and satisfying instead of nervous and frantic. Then small talk leads to the inevitable: “I’m interested in learning tantric massage.” Sigh.

While tantra is a life discipline of existing in your body in the moment, people who don’t know anything about tantra think it’s about having better sex. Not a topic I was interested in covering then and there. Realizing that I legitimately would enjoy myself better in the teaching role, I asked to switch places, gave them a few pointers, then left to find a less sexually charged partner.

I ended up snuggling comfortably and chatting safe topics for a while, deliberately censoring myself and my stories to avoid sexual topics (not easy for me, haha). That said, I think it’s become an instinct for me to be the perfect girlfriend for the moment. When I eventually left I felt sadness, like this was a bandaid we had applied to my cuddle buddy’s emotional pain and my departure ripped it right off again.

The others, though… I noticed by watching that in general, the women were nurturing, satiating their desire for non sexual loving touch by giving, long, sumptuous, sacred strokes on the arms and chests and backs of the boys. The men were in heaven, enjoying totally safe touch, freely given with love and affection, without pressure to achieve any goal. One in particular looked like he hadn’t been so happy in months and given the long luxurious touch he was getting I don’t blame him.

I felt very much like I was working. I love, love, love what I do. I truly believe it is valuable and useful when done right. I think loving touch, freely given, is a joy and a treat and helps us return to the world better people. I absolutely understand why these women attend these events and lavish their affection on strangers. It feeds the soul and I am so glad it’s available.

I’m also glad that I get to do it in the privacy of my apartment with individuals who are free to express their sexuality as well. While the structured, nonsexual setting was perfect for many attendees, it wasn’t for me. Knowing that I passed up the chance to share time with two phenomenal beloved clients to attend this event didn’t make me happy and I won’t make that choice again.


For my occasional female identified/gender fluid readers: there are women only cuddle parties if that suits you better and you can always choose to cuddle only with those giving off female energy, I know I can only do that with my female-identified friends who give off a lot of male vibes but we all have different desires and attractions. It’s worth looking into if for no other reason than it is very good practice saying yes and saying no.

For my male/male-identified/whatever readers: I do encourage it as part of a broader self care routine. If you are in a life where you do not wish to leave your situation but also do not wish to live your life without loving touch freely given, this may be something beautiful to explore. It can also help those learning how to negotiate intimate boundaries. While there is no sexual activity here, it can help you get used to reading body language, asking permission, giving permission, and learning to love ‘no’.