The rules are simple: nothing sexual, no nudity, brush your teeth, and respect boundaries.
In 2013, Samantha Hess paid $500 to obtain the business license for the world’s first professional cuddling service. Since then, thousands of people have paid to come to her studio, or have her to come into their homes, or even meet them in local movie theaters and cafes for cuddling sessions that last up to three hours.
The business was founded on the idea that humans naturally crave human touch. Many people feel lonely and unloved, and the occasional cuddle can improve mental and physical health in those who are lacking in that department.
While the idea is clearly built on good intentions, I can’t help but feel that it is overall unethical and downright icky for the following well-thought-out and totally-not-bitter reasons:
It’s capitalizing on a culture that contributes to loneliness and depression.
Professional cuddling sessions can cost up to $400 for an overnight session, or as low as $80 for a half hour. Think about this for a second: most people seek out professional cuddling because they feel lonely and depressed. They reach out to total strangers because they feel unable to receive support from anyone else in their lives. They feel overworked and underappreciated because our American culture rewards relentlessness and punishes relaxation. The culture of capitalism is one that does not accept softness and slowness. It’s not conducive to talking about feelings and sharing concerns in an open, non-judgemental way. So when a business then charges those same people hundreds of dollars for something they should have been able to get from literally anyone, it’s contributing to a cold-hearted culture while claiming to be all about free love.
You cannot charge someone for a service you claim should be accessible to anyone and everyone.
It normalizes the commodification of human connection.
Similar to my first point, professional cuddlers are creating a service out of something that should unequivocally be free. People pay thousands for all sorts of services that should be readily available and accessible: phone calls, professional trainers, parking, etc. The fact that we live in a society in which you can get to the point that you feel you have to pay someone to spend time with you says a lot about us as a culture - mainly that we’re hedonistic, but also that we claim to care about others but not without something in return. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to hold hands or curl up with a stranger. But we should be focusing on building a culture that accepts this kind of behavior, not one that charges for it. This is the same unethical thinking as the tampon tax: charging people for something they need to survive is always wrong.
Professional cuddlers are unlicensed, meaning they don’t have to adhere to the same ethical standards as professional, licensed therapists. They can turn down a client for any reason, including race or religion. They can also talk to you and give you advice that’s inappropriate or completely wrong for you. And they won’t necessarily lose their job if they pull something unsavory during one of your sessions. Looking through the profiles on snugglebuddies.com, it’s hard to imagine that there’s much of a barrier to entry to becoming a pro cuddler. Many profiles boast being first-timers, and others include subtle innuendo in their bios, which is troublesome for a service that’s supposed to be completely platonic. There’s also something that rubs me the wrong way about being able to select your own cuddler based on their profile picture.
While professional cuddling may seem like a harmless and borderline genius way for Hess and her Cuddle Club (my term, not theirs) to make some extra cash, the idea is better on paper than in practice. If you’re in need some human touch or a shoulder to cry on, we recommend something that couldn’t possibly hurt anyone: a boyfriend body pillow and these tear-soaking sheets.