The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 14, 2013

Bah, humbug, to the snuggery with you

By Nerissa Young
Columnist

— Finally, this Christmas, a news story reports the gift for that person who has everything — except enough foreplay.

Lucky gift recipients in Madison, Wis., may find a certificate for the Snuggle House in their stockings this year — if they’ve been really, really good. Of course, if they’ve been that good, skip the Snuggle House and stay home for free.

Perhaps people should skip a holly, jolly Christmas this year and go for a huggly, snuggly one instead.

The Washington Post reports that the normally free-spirited folks in Cheese Country’s capital are a little concerned about the house’s real business. It seems that for $60 an hour a person can huddle with a professionally trained snuggler for hugs, cuddles and spoons.

And Madison authorities just aren’t feeling the love. “There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy told The Post. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”

The story doesn’t say whether Snuggle House is an equal opportunity employer that offers snuggler jobs to men and women.

Madison isn’t the only city where human intimacy has met good old-fashioned capitalism, The Post reports. Rochester, N.Y., has the Snuggery; Boulder, Colo., has Be the Love You Are and San Francisco boasts Cuddle Therapy.

Nonprofit Cuddle Party in Montgomery, Ala., has trained 100 cuddle therapists on five continents to facilitate group cuddle sessions, executive director Len Daley told The Post.

Betty Martin, a Seattle-based sex educator, organizes cuddle parties there under the auspices of Cuddle Party. She told The Post, “People think if there’s touch happening, there must be sex happening. That’s not the case at all.”

That’s true. Not every hug leads to sex. Prizefighters hug their opponents all the time in the ring. It’s doubtful they have doing the nasty on their minds.

Family members hug. Friends hug. Football players hug and even pat one another’s behinds.

However, Zilavy is right that it seems a bit disingenuous to believe all that cuddling and spooning is just friends without benefits.

On one hand, these businesses are no surprise at all. Sex has become a physical function devoid of love and commitment in American society. It’s only natural that the activities leading to it are just as impersonal.

Yet, such a business seems to run counter to prevailing American society. Why pay a stranger $60 an hour when a person can go to a bar, buy a couple of $10 bottles of beer for a stranger and get the same benefit while saving $40? After all, the economy isn’t doing that well.

The other reason it runs counter to American society is because people have never been so connected before in history. They can tweet, text, update a Facebook page and let all their friends know every intimate detail of their lives, yet professional cuddling is a burgeoning industry.

That’s because real human intimacy is when two people are in each other’s physical presence and focused on each other, not a mobile device. An emoticon hug is not the same, and it never will be.

Research has shown that babies whose every physical need except touch is filled will grow up unable to form human attachments. To be human, they need loving human contact.

Research has also shown that heavy media consumption leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Thousands of Facebook friends cannot replace a real one who will put down the smartphone and listen.

For whatever reasons, patrons of these businesses do not feel connected to the human race. That is sad and not at all amusing.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail: ynerissa@frontier.com.

© 2013 by Nerissa Young