There’s an ongoing movement traversing the United States and Europe called Cuddle Therapy and, not surprisingly, public opinion is mixed.
Jason O’Brien’s Cuddle is a documentary about Cuddle Therapy, a hands-on touch therapy founded by Travis Sigley. According to O’Brien, the Cuddle Party movement began about a decade ago and different offshoots of the crusade emerged everywhere. Cuddle parties, as they suggest, are house parties that involve as many guests as a host chooses to invite. It is assumed that some of the people may know each other but most do not. The guests break off into couples that are either of the same sex or not. Since no sexual encounters are allowed, the gender of the participants is seemingly inconsequential.
The goal of the get together is strictly to hug and cuddle, since that is what most people are missing in contemporary society. According to O’Brien, there are certain rules that new and more experienced cuddlers must abide by. These include no sexual activity (arousal is considered normal, but no further action must ever be taken in this regard), and asking one’s cuddling partner if it is all right to touch him or her at any one time. According to O’Brien, a cuddling partner has the right to say no, and in fact, saying no to one’s partner is advised at times, in order to build self-empowerment and esteem.
One of the offshoots of the Cuddle Party is more business formality, in that is is held at an office setting, is one-on-one, and involves a paying client. One such fee-based business is Snuggle House of Madison City, Wisconsin, founded by the wealthy entrepreneur David Hurtado. At Snuggle House, Hurtado offers clients a one-hour cuddle therapy session for a fee of $60. Another one-to-one cuddle, fee-based business is Be The Love You Are, located in Boulder, Colorado. The Snuggery is another such establishment, a pioneering one-to-one snuggle business where money is exchanged for services. The Snuggery is located in Rochester, New York.
If you are beginning to smell the possibilities of controversy arising from the cuddle or snuggle therapy industry, you are not alone. In fact, David Hurtado’s Snuggle House was shut down by law enforcement exactly three weeks after it opened, because prostitution and other illegalities were suspected.
No matter how one feels about the wholesome goals of cuddling and snuggling with strangers, whether at parties or at one-to-one therapy businesses where clients pay a fee, it is pretty clear that Cuddle the movie will make you think. Some thoughts that might cross your mind are: What’s the difference between cuddle therapy and any other touch therapy, such as therapeutic massage, for example? Or, Are cuddle therapists trained at accredited cuddle schools, and licensed? Naturally, the list of questions will grow, but are there any answers that will satisfy the inquiring mind? That’s the question. O’Brien’s movie also points a provocative finger at society for creating rules of behavior and engagement that are stereotypical, cold, inhospitable, and dysfunctional. Without this problem, cuddle therapy might not be the necessity it appears to have become.
Cuddle is not a film that is cleverly shot or creatively cut. Instead, it is a no-nonsense, simple documentary about people and their particular needs for love, respect, law and order.
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