Guide to Snuggle Parties and Random Life Updates

Hello All!

I’m partially using this post to give you a life update, and partially to tell you about my experience with snuggle parties. Here’s the life updates. Skip to the bold section to bypass and get to the snuggly stuff 🙂

Last night I cancelled girl’s night with the few remaining friends I have. I was saddened to do so, but I also really am finding a need to listen to my intuition on my self care. This week has been nuts. The last month…oh gosh, you have heard this from me a thousand times by now. My life is B. A. N. A. N. A. S. You get it. I get it. Let’s just move on shall we? The current craziness:

Had someone I was super excited about hiring at the studio basically tell me that me paying for the rent, insurance, training, laundry, power, phone, wifi, etc (all the business expenses) does not justify paying her so little and she refused to come on board. I have problems with this on many levels: 1) If you are so financially driven that you don’t see the value in providing this service for the very fair wage we pay, you aren’t the right person for this industry. 2) Having someone question how valuable they find themselves over myself, my employees, and my business puts that little fear of shame and guilt in me about how maybe what I think this is worth isn’t valid (I got over this quickly, but it still happened and I want to acknowledge that). 3) One of the very first things I list on the application is the amount we pay our employees as to avoid wasting anyone’s time. This woman claimed she agreed to this when she applied. She then wasted hours of my time and received a free session as part of the process only to tell me that we don’t pay enough so she’s backing out. This makes me feel used and disrespected. 5) After telling me how I don’t pay enough and she deserves much more she also casually mentioned that she hopes that I not let this interfere with any future business relationships we may have which sounded to me an awful lot like “I am currently too good to work for you, but if that changes please hire me later.” Wuf.

My roommate is moving out. He is 2/3′s of my income every month, and now I get to stress about how I’m going to pay property taxes on my condo, cover my basic living expenses, and have a week or more without the income I need to pay my mortgage. I’m considering selling my condo again for this and many other reasons. I’m struggling with how to figure all this out before I lose my house to foreclosure anyway. Wuf again.

A couple weeks back I was being a dingus and not paying attention. I had one of those moments where my concept of reality didn’t match actual reality (or what I perceive as this, we’ll get into that more another day haha), and I missed the last step leaving my house and twisted my ankle pretty good. It swelled and bruised and was being a jerk…scratch that, is continuing to be a jerk and I am now having to wear an ankle support which is super awkward in sessions, but it is helping so run on sentence for the win. Or something that makes more sense. I’m exhausted at this point. Wuffedy-wuf.  

I received a lovely email yesterday from someone who is threatening to sue me. Can’t share details on this one, but the claim is absurd, so I’m trying not to worry too much…it is another thing that adds to my stress though, so wuf.

I just got back from 6 days in LA where Fei and Jean from Cuddle Sanctuary flew me out and put me up while graciously allowing me to attend their group cuddle workshop facilitation training as a student. These are amazing humans, and I highly recommend you join one of their events or sign up for a one on one session with either of them if you are ever in LA.  

SNUGGLE PARTIES! 

My first experience with a group cuddle was through an event facilitated by a well known Cuddle Party facilitator, Betty Martin. I was honored to be invited as a guest, and excited to try out this weird group dynamic cuddle thing which I had never quite understood. 

I got an email with the details very nicely explaining how the event was platonic and what to expect. Little did I know that platonic means different things to different people. This became very evident for me when I learned in the opening exercises that someone could ask me for a kiss. I stayed because even though I knew I would say no to that no matter what, it was clear that I would be asked first and encouraged to say no if I didn’t want whatever request was made. We did some basic trust building exercises and learned the rules which included clearly stating exactly the kind of request we wanted and to wait for a response and to continue asking every time anything changed with the request on either the giving or receiving side. 

As the free cuddle portion of the evening began everything seemed fine for awhile. Then after maybe 30 minutes I, and many of the other participants started to notice a man and a woman maybe 3 feet from me who were basically dry humping and engaging in highly sexualized intentions (even though the rules were followed from what I could remember). This totally creeped me out and made me feel all icky. This was not what I signed up for, nor something I felt I had consented to. I also noticed throughout the night how often me or others forgot to do the verbal consent and by the time I left we had mostly stopped asking altogether. 

After maybe an hour and a half at the event I couldn’t take it anymore. I was too uncomfortable. I was shocked by what this version of “platonic” was defined as, and I said a few goodbyes to the folks I had felt ok with. I got the heck outta dodge and went home to take 7 showers. Gross. 

Needless to say I never went to another Cuddle Party event. I figured that would be the end of these group events. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that events like this exist, and for those who want that, I highly encourage participation with events you feel comfortable with. There is nothing shameful about sexuality, and I feel very lucky to live in a community where we have just about any sort of group that anyone might be interested in. That being said, I felt like I had been in a bait and switch when the information I received and the event itself seemed to have very contrasting concepts. I was sort of traumatized by this. Yikes. 

Fast forward to a few months ago. I came to this moment of clarity with the business where I understood how important it was for me to help initiate a global concept of standard practices and ethics for this budding industry I belong to. No one in my mind was better suited to cast this net. I met with Cuddlist and learned very quickly that our ethics are VERY far apart. I was a bit disheartened as I had already given so much time to so many companies who do this work in what I see as not only unethical but downright dangerous.

After a week or so of debating of whether or not I should continue my search for other likeminded businesses I soldiered on. I reached out to Cuddle Sanctuary in LA (who had apparently done the same to me weeks earlier that I somehow missed). We chatted over Skype and instantly I fell in love with this woman. They became my family. I could tell that I had finally found other people who were in this for the same reasons as me and who took it just as seriously. These girls get it! 

As a gesture of good faith I offered to give them access to my online certification program and later allowed them to  utilize some of my work in the creation of their own Pro Cuddler certification program. In return they offered to train me as a group facilitator through their own version of the group dynamic. I was certainly nervous about taking this on after my previous experience, but something in me confirmed that I should trust these humans. 

I got on a plane and Fei met me at the airport. We stopped for a quick bite, and headed directly to my 2nd ever group cuddle. Needless to say I was anxious. Very quickly though, all my fears and insecurities around this dissipated as Fei seamlessly lead us through a series of  concepts, questions, and techniques to build rapport, trust, and security for all of us. Within 10 minutes this new group had become a family, and the ease in which even the newbies like me joined into this awkward situation was incredible to watch unfold. 

Cuddle Sanctuary does a few things very differently than the other event I went to: 

  1. They create a circle of trust right from the beginning that makes everyone feel welcome and fully in control of themselves and their surroundings. 
  2. They have designated spaces you can go to for both connection and alone time (meaning you can see the group, but no one will aproach of pity you while you chill). 
  3. The facilitators do an amazing job of not only making it easy for everyone to feel comfortable asking for what they want and only agreeing to want they want, but also to get everyone to do so consistently throughout the event without it feeling like a chore. Bellissimo! 

If you are considering going to a group cuddle event here is what you might want to know: 

  1. Get a full understanding of what platonic means to that group and whether sexual intention is allowed
  2. Determine if the event is gender balanced (which I highly discourage as discrimination is gross to me). 
  3. Figure out appropriate attire (based on temperature of space expected, comfort/appropriateness, if there’s a place to change)
  4. Will you need to eat before hand or is food provided? 
  5. Basic details like where/when/how long/etc.
  6. What are the rules and guidelines? 
  7. What type of consent is used and is it consistent? 
  8. Are there people who can vouch for the group and share more information about their personal experience? 
  9. What and why are you own concerns/questions/hesitancies? 
  10. Are walk-in’s allowed, and if so when? 
  11. Do you need to bring anything like your own pillow/blanket, water, or change of clothes? 
  12. What is the hygiene policy? Will I need to show up scent free? 
  13. Are there rules against attending under the influence of drugs/alcohol? 

Here are my personal notes and observations around the Cuddle Sanctuary events: 

  1. Everyone should experience this at least once whether or not they participate. 
  2. Gender balancing doesn’t matter at all. This is a place where it feels like family, and it honestly won’t be an issue at all for almost everyone. 
  3. Most events get a bit warm, so layers are nice. 
  4. Bring a water bottle; you’ll want it. 
  5. Touch is ALWAYS an option, never a requirement
  6. This is a place for you to be you regardless of what that means
  7. This is a safe space for everyone in attendance. Respect, consent, and transparency of intentions are required by all. 
  8. Anonymity is allowed and contained 
  9. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have
  10. Learning to ask for what I want is WAY harder than saying no to what I don’t want. 

I’ll leave it there for now, but I’d love to keep an open dialog rolling about this. Please comment below or on my Facebook note (click the word note for a link to the note) about this topic. I look forward to hearing what you all think about this.

Peace, Love, and Cuddles, 
Samantha Hess