Since my marriage ended I miss hugs, cuddles and affectionate contact
Q: My marriage ended eight years ago. I’ve seen a few women since, but nothing developed. Recently, I’ve tried a dating site. I’ve had coffee with a couple of people, but again, nothing clicked. Now in my 50s, I realise I’m fairly content with life as it is, apart from one thing. I’ve always been a very tactile person. I’m not so bothered about sex, but I miss hugs, cuddles and affectionate contact. I enjoy a regular massage, but that’s a commercial, clinical arrangement. Any suggestions?
A: Your experience is surprisingly common. Society puts the emphasis on sex as the way adults get positive touch, but even infants need skin-to-skin contact, as much as food, to thrive. This is a lifelong need.
Today, in the wake of abuse, harassment and bullying scandals, we are particularly anxious about appropriate touch, and are encouraged to ask permission before touching anyone, even professionally.
Some get distressed if their personal space is invaded. A hand on the back, or having someone sniff their hair is confronting, and we need to understand and respect, people’s boundaries.
It is not touch that is bad. The problem is coercion, presumption, disrespect, and failure to ensure consent. A paranoid fear of being touched can be equally problematic.
So too is seeking to receive touch by sexual encounters only.
We know that touch can be both physically and psychologically healing, but therapists and teachers are not permitted to touch clients, even to soothe or comfort them.
To address this need, the cuddle party concept was developed, and now operates around the world. On their website, cuddleparty.com, it says:“Though touch is natural, the skills that make it enjoyable have to be learned. Skills of communication, boundaries, asking for what you want, and saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with clarity and kindness. [They’re] led by trained and certified Cuddle Party Facilitators [whose] job is to guide you into those skills gently and easily, in a fun, safe and light-hearted way.”
To find out more, I spoke to Lana Blue who facilitates monthly parties in Hawthorn and Geelong.
Up to 30 people, from all walks of life attend. 18- to 80-year-olds have turned up, but most are between their 20s and 50s.
Being social, but purely platonic, there are some rules. No alcohol or drugs. No exchange of body fluids, so no open-mouth kissing. No nudity. You must wear long pants and a T-shirt. Some people wear pyjamas. You are not there to seduce, so, in Blue’s words, “Nothing lacy, nothing racy.”
Guests arrive half an hour before commencement, then the doors are closed. Every party starts with a ‘Welcome Circle’. This mini-workshop is compulsory, and involves learning around appropriate touch, consent, establishing boundaries, saying no, and so on.
Cuddle party is about non-gendered human touch. It is made clear that there should be no sexual touch, such as of genitals or nipples. No touching under the clothing. No hiding in blankets. Everything open and honest for the whole group.
I asked Blue what would happen if someone did act inappropriately, and they said that they would be evicted, but it had never happened. In their experience, the participants want to do the right thing.
Guests are always at choice, and it is OK not to participate, to say ‘no’, or to change your mind. This is a chance to practise life skills that are useful in all situations.
Blue says that, while some couples attend as a date, these parties are not used as opportunities to pick up. There have been instances where contact made at a party has flowered into a relationship, but it is far more common for deep friendships to develop. On the other hand, people do acquire skills that help them when they are forming relationships. As Blue says, “You are more likely to form a positive connection with someone when you are not approaching them with acute skin hunger. Instead, you are able to respond to the moment as it is.”
About Last Night
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