Is Cuddling an Act of War?

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cuddle kitty

To Cuddle or Not to Cuddle?

Some people like to cuddle in bed, and others, well they feel like their personal space is being utterly invaded without permission and against their will. Cuddling, as it turns out, is a pretty emotionally and physically ambiguous topic for which several people needed to be interviewed. Let me elaborate.

My partner is a pretty good (read: awesome, but human) person. They cuddle when it feels comfortable to them, and not intrusive. The word ‘intrusive’ is even funny to use because everyone has a different feeling, idea, and awareness about such close encounters with one’s personal space. To get outside of my own experiences, I asked a lot of people about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with cuddling. I asked people I knew, did not know, and some people even overheard me asking others and just offered up their thoughts and opinions. It was a very fruitful topic.

One of the main things I learned, is that “cuddling” means something similar, yet very different to people. What a paradox. Furthermore, people conflated ‘cuddling’ with ‘hugging’ many times. So it is easy to cover both simultaneously.

What does cuddling or hugging do or not do for you? For me, cuddling my partner and hugging my friends has always been a very natural and open feeling. Even when I meet new people who I feel vibe with me, I give them a hug to make the meeting not so formal. It’s a way for both parties to loosen up and be less guarded and, in my experience, it has opened up doors of conversation and paths to great relationships. Not all people are so swift to hug someone they know or, even sometimes, don’t know.

One of my guy friends said “if you’re with someone you feel safe with and are attracted to, it’s all good” while another one said “[cuddling] definitely feels like some kind of chemical is being released in [the] body.” Both are right. In fact, I looked it up and close intimacy (even going so far as sex) releases a soothing chemical called Oxytocin. As Psychology Today says:

“Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding.”

There was more to that quote, but it didn’t add any value to this post. It was talking about prairie dogs or some kind of animal. Let’s keep things somewhat normal… moving on!

To some, cuddling/hugging is downright uncomfortable. You have to think of what situation that person might be in or what they might have endured in their life that would make them treasure their personal space a bit more. As a point of contrast, I asked a few friends in the military about the gesture and they had the following responses:

“I spent the last nine months in Afghanistan, and we are a conservative military culture and I’m higher-ranking than most, so we have to be professional. In addition, there’s no off-duty dynamics–we live and work with our co-workers. I was dying for hugs a couple of months in… (there are some healthy sub-cultures, especially in the combat units, where there is probably lots of hugging, but I wasn’t in one of those).”

This perspective was very interesting. He was in a very militant and professional setting, not to mention being in a totally different country and culture, and did not show (or was not shown) affection much for several months. However, his basic human need for endearing human contact that releases the hormone oxytocin reared its head. It seems like even in the most stoic and rigid situations, people still crave a hug. Interesting, right!?

On another note, someone may not even be in that kind of environment but still have boundaries that are different than, say, a “hugger’s.” Sometimes you will have a friend, or you may be this way yourself, that isn’t really into “touching” or getting their space/body encroached upon. I have seen this many times, too, and for some that are into hugging when saying something simply like “hello” it may be tough to re-establish those boundaries. I had one friend in particular that pointed this out to me. She had a friend that did not like being touched at all and it actually affected her friendship with that person because of the “distance” she felt by not being able to hug them. I’ve experienced this myself with some friends. People are different…

“Hugs are amazeballs!” one person said when I first reached out to my pool of interviewees. That big-time resonated with me. I laughed loudly and then commented back, “I agree. I love unicorns!” No, I didn’t say that, but some people that are not “huggers” or “cuddlers” have some kind of perception that people in sub-communities have their heads all up in the stars sometimes. It’s really a funny gap in perception to observe.

While on the topic of sub-communities, I’d like to bring up Burning Man. Whatever misconception people who have never been to the event have doesn’t really matter here. I’m just using it because a friend of mine in Seattle brought up an extremely interesting angle. He knows a “burner” (that’s what people that go to Burning Man are often referred to as) in San Francisco who started a very well-known business providing just cuddling. It’s true, people! This is a very lucrative business! (Maybe not “very” but it’s a real business. No seriously.)

He went on to describe that deep connected human touch is a basic need we all have and a person can literally get starved for it; does anyone want a little bit of isolation in prison? Sounds like fun, right!? No thanks! That sounds like the worst possible punishment.

Now, I don’t know if I’m new to figuring this out, but non-sexual cuddling sessions are becoming more and more wildly popular. I just saw a post for a cuddle party actually! These are structured, safe workshop on boundaries, communication, intimacy and affection. A drug and alcohol-free way to meet fascinating people in a relaxing environment. When I first read this, I thought, “hahaha, drug free, right…” but you know what? I’ll choose to believe that one because, shoot, I love cuddling!

Let’s circle back to the actual subject at hand, which is what is the general consensus about hugging and cuddling. People love it–generally–it just has to be at the right time and in the right situation for the giver and receiver. I think every guy in the world would agree with my partner, though, there’s always the issue of having the circulation to your arms being cut off. Well, gentlemen and ladies, we have an answer for that, too! Welcome to the CUDDLE MATTRESS!

cuddle mattress

Let’s face it… where there’s a will, there’s a way. 😉 Now go find someone you adore, and squeeze the hell out of ’em!

Sex Party 101: Lifestylers are the New Swingers

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As part of the self-proclaimed San Francisco ‘glitterati’ (we had several names), I had seen pretty much everything. Sex. Drugs. Partying until noon the next day. Tutus at 5:30am on a Wednesday morning as a leftover from a Tutu Tuesday party somewhere downtown. You name it, I probably saw it at some point. As an always open-minded person, nothing ever really rattled my feathers but I still had become quite a bit more desensitized to it all. Or so I thought!

Have you ever seen the movie Eyes Wide Shut? Well, all that sex party stuff—it’s very real and pretty much its own societal subset of lads and lasses. There are hierarchies, rules, cliques, fashion, niche personas, nomenclature, and pretty much anything you would think of that would make up some sort of half-respectable subculture.

When I moved out of San Francisco at the end of 2012, I thought I had escaped the Sex Party epidemic that seemed to be spreading effortlessly into every district encumbered within the city lines (and outside of sometimes); but I was clearly wrong. It seems that every big city has its own version of sly and slinky passion-pits.

Within the first few weeks of moving to Seattle I had actually made a few good friends through the Burner scene (if you don’t know what Burning Man is, you should Google it but don’t let it frighten you). I’m used to how eccentric some of those people are and can get and it never really bothered me. That whole ‘transcendence’ crap was actually becoming my cup of tea (sort of). However, I got a tad taken off guard whilst at an “ABC (Anything But Clothes) Party” when I went to go check out the upstairs ‘talent.’ The DJ talent, you pervs! Haha.

Everyone had great costumes. Costumes made out of paper bags, tape, gems, etc. If you’ve ever been to an ABC party you know what I’m talking about. My costume was personally made out of some fancy-schmancy paper I got at a craft store and my date was the solar system. Don’t ask. Anyhow, we were having a great time at the party dancing and mingling with our friends. The DJ was awesome downstairs, but this place was HUGE! I mean, it was basically a mini-rave. We had to go wonder and check out the other music rooms.

My date had decided to go grab us a couple drinks as I was talking to some people fantastically traffic-cone-and-reflector-clad. As I stood there, I noticed a non-descript set of stairs half behind a damaged curtain. The grossness of the curtain didn’t even come as a shock to me given that we were in some tavern-like hanger dancing to techno music. Plus, I was thinking “there’s got to be some dope music upstairs too and I want to check it out!” When my date returned with our drinks I told him about the creepy staircase and we went to go check it out.

As we reached the top of the stairs, we noticed a few people heading down that were basically naked. Did this set off any red flags with me? Not really. We were at a crazy party and people were half-naked as it is in their falling-off costumes. What happened next is what I was not prepared for. As we walked into the doorway all we could see was masses and masses of ornate pillows with groups of people f*cking on them. People jacking off watching other people get off, people f*cking doggy style, reverse cowgirls, sucking each other’s bits, I mean whoa. Alrighty then! My date’s mouth immediately dropped and I was just sitting there like a deer in headlights. I was expecting a DJ in here, man!

To say the least, I was taken by surprise. That’s not exactly what I was expecting at a party, upstairs, in some shack-like big building! Aren’t these people getting splinters!? Are they tested? WTF is going on!? My date and I had to crack a couple jokes to break the tension that had ensued; stuff like “how boring, they’re only doing missionary, we could totally show them up.” Except, I wasn’t really into showing them up and he was kidding. We both were not really down with the, eh hem, activities. When I mentioned the “swinger party upstairs” to someone at the party that I knew, they had corrected me that they were called “Lifestylers.” Well, I’m sorry I’m not cool enough to know the bang-a-rang terminology! I mean, seriously. Could this night get any more interesting?

Regardless of how crazy this night turned out, this story is not to be outdone by the numerous other fancy-pants…or no pants…flings I’ve been so lucky to accidentally stumble into and have discovered something more down under. In fact, if you keep reading, I will be posting other more fun stories and they get a lot weirder and more interesting, so buckle up for this racy rollercoaster!

In case you’re someone that has their mouth slightly agape at this new revelation, let me just say that Lifestylers are not bad people. Most of them, if not all, have very stable lives and jobs outside of their own little private freakshow. Some are married, some are single. Some are voyeurs interested in learning new moves as sort of a live Kama Sutra re-enactment, and occasionally, yes, you run into a complete inappropriate creep.

I am actually friends with many of these people and they’re great people. This “lifestyle” (you can see maybe where the term catches on) is definitely NOT for everyone, though. I metaphorically sit in a non-judgmental paradigm for sure, but it’s something I could never do. There is certainly a part of yourself you have to let go. And it just matter how much of your whole self you’re willing to compromise.

You have to let go wanting to ever be monogamous with someone and having an intimacy you share with only one lover, you have to give up feeling special in a way that to me isn’t worth losing how I define my self-worth—if that makes sense. At the same time, you have to hold on to your emotional intelligence. You and your partner need to be at a complete emotional and physical equality with each other.

All in all, you just have to be aware of what swinging is all about, be respectful and non-judgmental, but stay aware of the good and bad parts. Some people can be really pushy and clingy in these groups. Be smart in your interactions with people and don’t be afraid to hold your ground if you’re not interested. I, for one, will always be a spectator, but not a participant or a voyeur. To each their own!

From one Sozzled Sister to another – if you decide to jump into the f*ckfest with way too many moving parts, please stay coordinated and get tested!