Cuddle Parties!

Hi everyone! My name is Sarah, and welcome
back to Everyday Consent. A while back I told you a little bit about
my experiences at Reid Mihalko’s Sex Geek Summer Camp. [I’m actually at Sex Geek Summer
Camp, Reid Mihalko’s Sex Geek Summer Camp. Which is a sexual educators’ business kind
of retreat camp thing] I don’t have a lot of practice filming for myself, so I didn’t
get a lot of usable footage (sorry Jessi!) and we really only gave you the basics of
what it was like. But while I was there, I had some experiences that I thought were very
relevant to this channel and that I’ve been itching to tell you all about. [So we’ve lots
of classes about things relevant to sexual educators, and all kinds of relevant stuff
about intersectionality, and we’ve been doing lots of stuff about consent, which is awesome!]
So today I’m excited to share one of those with you and tell you about something called
a Cuddle Party. First, why Cuddle Parties exist, and then some useful insights and exercises
I learned by attending one at Camp. Now, before this summer, I had never attended
a Cuddle Party or known any details about the official organization. [And, in like two
hours there will be the Cuddle Party, which is this thing that I’m learning about.] I
had heard of them before, and was familiar with the vague concept. For those of you who
don’t know: a Cuddle Party is a hosted, facilitated event where people who might be
strangers can come and practice giving and receiving non-sexual physical affection. Why
might that be appealing, you ask? If a Cuddle Party sounds weird to you, you’re
not alone, but there’s a fair bit of research which suggests that massage and other forms
of human touch can have many health benefits. It appears to reduce blood levels of cortisol
and increase levels of oxytocin, which can result in reduced stress and elevated mood.
These effects have also been linked with improved immune response and overall health. So, generally
speaking, touch seems to be good for us. And it usually feels good. So long you’re comfortable
in the situation, many forms of touch, such as getting a massage, hugging a friend, or
holding hands with a sweetie can be relaxing, comforting, and just plain enjoyable. But at least in the United States, it’s
very uncommon for people to touch each other in non-sexual contexts. Though they are not
inherently sexual acts, things like cuddling and holding hands are activities that American
culture generally assumes adults only do with each other if they are sexual partners. And
when people do try to be huggy or cuddly with platonic friends or new acquaintances, it
is often assumed that they are flirting and misunderstandings abound. So finding and navigating
touch outside of sexual relationships can be difficult and confusing, but we also know
that it’s good for us, and many of us want more. What to do? So enters the Cuddle Party. Cuddle Party is
a non-profit educational organization which trains facilitators to put on events where
adults can “explore communication, boundaries, affection, and non-sexual touch”. And I
got to attend one of these parties while at Camp. [So I just came from the Cuddle Party.
It was actually pretty great.] It isn’t all about the cuddling, though. As the organization
promotes, and as my experience confirmed, Cuddle Parties really are a space for attendees
to learn about boundaries and work on communication skills. After all, it would be foolish to assume that
any roomful of people can just jump in to cuddling with complete strangers without feeling
awkward. Without any coaching, a lot of people might feel pressured into doing something
they don’t want to out of assumed politeness. So the first 40 minutes of each Party, called
the Welcome Circle, are an introduction of the 11 rules and a collection of exercises
to practice different aspects of verbal consent. This may seem like a lot, but having this
workshop style introduction was actually quite helpful, and I was really impressed with how
considerate and thoroughly thought out it was. I’ll link to a full Facilitator script
in the description below. I’d also like to share some highlights and some of my favorite
parts, as I think they are great additions and new insights on exercises and concepts
we’ve already explored on this channel. Once everyone had arrived, the first exercise
we did was very similar to one I described in the Practicing Consent video. We were paired
up, one partner had to ask “May I kiss you?” and the other partner had to say “No.”
Then the partners switched roles and repeated the exercise. We did this a couple times and
were encouraged to try different ways of asking, such as “I want you to kiss me, would you
like to?” To every question, we all practiced responding with “No.” Once we finished this exercise, the facilitator
asked “How many of you assumed that when we said kissing – we meant kissing on the
lips?” A lot of people did, but some people thought it could mean a kiss on the cheek
or forehead, or something even more innocuous, like the hand. This lead to a brief discussion
about assumptions and how it’s important to be specific in your requests, since someone
might feel very differently about a kiss on the lips versus a kiss on the forehead or
the hand. Especially if they’re expecting one, but get the other. Next the facilitator asked us, “How many
people felt the urge to explain themselves or make a joke out of saying No?” I was
floored by this question and immediately raised my hand. I had just been thinking during the
exercise how odd it was that, even though it was just an exercise and my partner knew
it was my job to say ‘No,’ I had felt an overwhelming urge to use humour to soften
the blow. And I wasn’t the only one, almost half of the room raised their hands. The facilitator went on to explain that this
might be due to a fear of disappointing others, and for me that really rang true. In my Rejection
video a few months ago I talked about how needing to reject someone can lead to hesitation
and fear about potentially causing them pain. And that’s definitely what I was feeling
in this situation too. It was enlightening to realize that I could still feel that fear
even in a fake practice scenario, where I knew my partner expected me to say no. You
would think there would be no pressure in that case, but somehow even then I was worried
enough about my partner feeling insulted that it was hard to give a plain ‘No.’ To help
with this issue, the facilitator went on to assert that ‘No’ can be a complete sentence,
and that it’s important to keep reminding ourselves and others of this. Later on the facilitator reached rules number
five and six: “If you’re a maybe, say NO.” and “You are encouraged to change
your mind.” We then went on to do an exercise where we practiced changing our minds. One
partner makes a request, say, asking for a hug, and the other partner says “Yes”,
and then says, “Actually, no”. Or maybe, “That was great, I’m done now.” This
exercise was great because I’ve found it’s often difficult to tell someone when you’ve
changed your mind. It can feel like you’ve been dishonest with them or you can worry
that they’ll get annoyed with you. When in reality, your feelings have simply changed
and you’re just trying to give them the most updated information. One of my other favorite exercises was a variation
on the first exercise but with a few twists. We got into pairs again, with one partner
asking and the other partner responding, but this time we had to come up with a bunch of
different requests. We were encouraged to ask for things regardless of whether they
were something we actually wanted to do or even made sense. This meant that, at least
in my group, we came up with a variety of questions that ranged from sounding serious
to completely absurd. We’d ask anything from, to “Would you mind giving me a foot
rub?”, to “May I spank your left buttcheek?” to “Can I stroke your beard?” or “Will
you let me tickle your kneecap?”. For the first round, the other partner has to say
“No” to every request, and for the next round they have to say “Yes” to every
request, but not actually act on it. Having the freedom to ask for things we didn’t
actually want, and letting it be a bit absurd and funny, gave us the safety to sneak in
things that we do actually want, but are usually too shy or embarrassed to put into words. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually do any
cuddling at this party. But that, in and of itself, was also great practice for me. The
facilitator made clear that it was perfectly acceptable to participate even if we said
no to every offer and that we should only say yes if we really wanted to. That meant
that, since I was feeling a little overloaded that day and needed more personal space than
usual, I got to practice taking care of myself and saying no without feeling excluded or
like I wasn’t being a team player. I was surprised how difficult that was for me, and
I found that practice very valuable. Anyway, that was my Cuddle Party experience.
I think it reinforced and expanded on some concepts we’ve addressed on this channel
before. And if you’re looking for different ways to practice consent, I think the exercises
I mentioned are great additions to those in the Practicing Consent video. If you have
any interest in attending or hosting a Cuddle Party yourself, check out their website, which
I’ll link to in the description. Otherwise, let me know down in the comments if you found
anything I mentioned today interesting or surprising. Did any of my reactions sound
like things you’ve thought or felt before? Let me know down in the comments, or you can
also always email me at [email protected] If you liked this video, press that like button,
and if you’d like to see more from me, don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks everyone. Happy consenting folks, I’ll see you next
week! [Like once the actual party started, like
cuddling part of it, I sort of walked towards the edge and just sort of sat down and observed.
And, it was interesting because I noticed that I was feeling… Like cause I had decided
to do that and like thankfully like it had been like reinforced that was okay and so
I was like okay with that decision and that and I was just like “Cool, like this is what
I’m gonna do and it’s gonna be okay” And so I was happy with that but like, the main thing
that I was fighting was just like the discomfort of like, not participating. Not in a like,
peer pressure-y way, but in a like, thing that I’m working on way. And that like, like
I mentioned before like, I want to be like this person who is involved and who is like
supportive of it and who’s like, you know like social and like totally cool with everything.
And so like, just sitting there and not participating, or not like… I mean like I talked to people,
whatever, but like intentionally, like, saying no to everything and like not being involved
was really hard. It was like, and it was interesting, it was nice to practice that, to sort of like
have that moment. TO like, to work on that skill of just sort of letting myself do that,
letting myself like, be okay with that. But anyway, so that was really interesting, that
was my Cuddle Party experience.]

About the author


  1. thank you so much for this, Im going to my first cuddle party on Saturday, Im really nervous and I am not good with social situations but I love physical contact

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *