Oh my GAWD.
These people are freaking nutcases. Donald Trump has driven pathetic liberals to seek out cuddle parties.
On a Saturday night in Venice, California, light spills from an open door on an otherwise dark street. The space appears to be an art gallery or studio: blank walls, cubbies for shoes and personal items and cushioned mats and pillows lining half of the room’s hardwood floor.
Twelve individuals filter into the room – dressed in pajamas, yoga attire, sweatpants – some more confidently than others. There are a handful who remove their shoes immediately and find a place on the floor, blanket in tow, presumably preparing for some grand slumber party or group nap. Each visitor is greeted by a woman wielding an iPad. “Would you like a hug?” she asks.
Abhit Singh looks puzzled but welcomes the hug – this is his first time here. The woman offers Singh the iPad. He, like all other participants, must sign a waiver. She then instructs the group to take a seat on the cushions, her voice maintaining a steady and smooth timbre.
This room is called The Love Dome and hosts events including yoga, dance and private parties. Every Wednesday and Saturday night, The Love Dome is host to Cuddle Sanctuary, an organization that leads group cuddle events, professional cuddling and training for professionals. This is one of their group cuddle sanctuaries.
Fei Wyatt, the iPad-toting host, is Cuddle Sanctuary’s Chief People Officer, a professional cuddler and certification program leader and the facilitator for tonight’s cuddle. In an hour’s time, she’ll be chaperoning a room full of strangers spooning each other on the floor. But now, participants sit cross-legged, eyes fixed on Wyatt, who leads the group through a number of warm-up exercises like deep breathing, a body awareness activity and light stretching. She then outlines a few rules: to arrive and stay sober, to keep the identities of everyone in the room confidential, that no touch is required, that you can change your mind at any time and to respect others’ boundaries with enthusiasm. “This is a G-rated event,” Wyatt says. “Touch stays outside the bikini area.”
In an event that depends almost entirely on physical intimacy, the topic of consent is crucial to the field’s success. Everyone should be in what Wyatt calls a “hell yes” space – that if asked for a specific touch, the reply would be a passionate OK. But more importantly, if you don’t want to partake, the word “no” should not be marred with guilt or shame.
“That is the thing that changes the most lives,” Wyatt says earlier. “Take the whole touch thing away, teaching people that they have choice over their body, they’ve never seen it before, they’ve never experienced it.”
The reasons one seeks out a professional cuddling experience range from average adults seeking connection, those on the autistic spectrum, those healing from sexual trauma, adults dealing with sexual dysfunction or for older virgins to practice touch in a safe environment. The elephant in the room during some of these sessions, though, is the current state of the country’s affairs. Since November – and the election of Donald Trump – professional cuddling services have seen a spike in client interest.