Casual cuddles?
March 19, 2016 9:19 PM   Subscribe

I want to find someone to cuddle with on a somewhat regular basis. I’m a straight-isn woman in my late 20’s. What’s the best way to go about this?

At this point in my life, I am looking for someone or a few people (!) to cuddle with on a somewhat regular basis. I am also interested in exploring other types of non-sexual physical intimacy with people (massages? body painting? feeding each other? dancing? other ideas?). I am not asexual, but right now, this is really a type of intimacy that I would like to explore more.

I am interested in hearing other people’s experiences with similar types of non-sexual physical relationships, particularly if they were pretty casual in nature and/or initiated online. Also, what’s the best way to start these relationships? Beyond clear boundaries, what are some good things to talk about beforehand? Any other advice?
posted by twill to Human Relations (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Gay square dancing has become a subculture which doesn't really care about your sexuality, but is respectfully physical with lots of hugs.
posted by straw at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Basic safety, of course... meeting in public first, telling people who you will be with, where, when, that sort of thing.

There is an app for that.. spoonr but it may not have many people in your area

Ok cupid, of course.

The 1+ people to cuddle with leads me to suggest looking into polyamaroy as a possibility...

Which also leads to fetlife, which probably has groups and events of some sort in your area.
posted by Jacen at 9:52 PM on March 19, 2016

I'd think (as a man, but a non het one) that you're more likely to find boundary respect with women, trans or cis, than with cis men. So perhaps tailor your searches accordingly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:57 PM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just to respond to your mention of dancing: partnered social dancing is a good way to get really lovely physical contact that is non-sexual and has clear boundaries. Because it's structured, it's easier to be clear about boundaries - much more so than, like, club dancing that's more freeform and where people are going into it looking to hook up. I'd encourage you to check out lessons/dances in your area. Dance styles that particularly use hug-like embraces: tango, kizomba, blues, balboa.
posted by aka burlap at 10:40 PM on March 19, 2016 [14 favorites]

Seconding partnered social dancing, and tango in particular: close embrace, which is more or less standard, is extraordinarily physically intimate---all the more so since one "dance" (tanda) lasts ~4 songs, so 10-15 min. Perhaps as a consequence, the community is very huggy. I've seen some debate as to how sexually charged social tango is and should be, but it's certainly less so than tango tends to be in e.g. film, and my experience is that it's much, much less than you'd expect given the physical intimacy. A good beginners' program will be very explicit about how to maintain boundaries and deal with the inevitable attempts to cross them (and more generally how to navigate the tango community's distinctive etiquette and culture).

Having said all that, the community and interpersonal dynamics can be ... interesting, in all sorts of ways. There's a fair amount of snobbishness, though it's not unjustified---if your partner's sufficiently bad you're in for a miserable 10-15 min., and conversely dancing with a good partner with whom you're familiar and work well is a wonderful experience. I'm not sure I'd want to start without an already-involved friend to guide me to the pleasant, newcomer-friendly places.
posted by golwengaud at 11:20 PM on March 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Do you know about cuddle parties? I've always avoided them because the straight men who're drawn to communities like that have an ick factor (which is probably functionally mitigated by the consent culture common in cuddle-adjacent "scenes"), but I'm judgey and they may just what you're looking for.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:22 PM on March 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Based on my (significant) experience with casual sex, I find that keeping sex casual is much easier than keeping non-sexual touch casual. It's fairly easy to have an ongoing casual thing going on that's just about sex... less so if it includes massage/ cuddling. Touching in that way is more likely to lead to emotional intimacy, maybe because in our culture we don't value it in the same way we do sex... mentally some of us can recognize "I'm just using this person for their body" when it comes to sex, but not when it comes to other physical contact. Just a warning of something to be aware of, if you are set on keeping this truly casual.

OkCupid is where I'd go to set something like this up, with a VERY CLEAR profile. Or I would talk to my friends and see if any of them were up for platonic snuggling while watching a movie. If you're generally interested in having physical contact with people, without it needing to be an ongoing thing, hanging out with cheerful drunk people or theatre people often involves a lot of touching. (And of course you can pay for massages.)

Since I like massages but am broke, I have gotten men off Tinder to give me massages with no reciprocation. You'd need to be okay with knowing that they are probably seeing it as sexual, and to be good at drawing lines and boundaries upfront.
posted by metasarah at 6:16 AM on March 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you ID as "straight-ISH" and are wary of the kind of predatory straight guys who can haunt cuddle parties, you might look up queer cuddle parties in your area. I've been to some in DC, but I don't really know how you would find them unless you know someone involved or happen on the right fetlife groups.
posted by mkuhnell at 7:24 AM on March 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Definitely look at the close-embrace dances - I found blues dance particularly beginner friendly (though it's not always close-embrace, but people tend to be quite huggy anyway). A good dance is incredibly warming and wonderful and intimate, and the style is sexy, without being sexual, if that makes sense. A good dance should have people dedicated to maintaining a safe space, with very clear guidelines on how to politely ask for a dance, refuse, etc.
posted by kalimac at 7:50 AM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The contra dance community tends to be extremely cuddly.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:14 AM on March 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

You might like contact improv dance. Does what it says on the tin and people who are into it enjoy hugs.
posted by clavicle at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

2nding blues dance. golwengaud's comment about tango applies pretty well. Close embrace isn't completely standard in blues, but it's common. Blues embrace isn't exactly a hug- the pressure is coming from the partners' fronts; arms aren't really involved. No squeezing (hopefully). It can be super chill, but intimate in a very particular way. And if a blues dance goes on long enough and there are couches, it devolves into assorted arrangements of people lying/leaning/whatever on each other.*

The overlap between the queer/nerd/partner dance triad is large and is really into hugs, on the whole.

*to the point there was an outbreak of lice or crabs or something in one community a couple of years ago, though I think it was another dance, not blues. This is not to put you off; it's rare and people keep an eye out.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:51 PM on March 20, 2016

Best answer: In my teens, I had a number of books on massage. Friends were happy to volunteer for me to practice and learn my skills. Sometimes, they reciprocated as well, but I mostly gave everyone massages. I also walked on backs (I was tall, but a beanpole, so I didn't weigh much at the time) and sat on people to give them a backrub, so there was substantial physical intimacy in both directions. I had massage pals of both genders, but due to being a girl gamer, I had a lot of male pals, so the majority of my massage pals happened to be male (one of whom exclusively played female characters, so these days would likely qualify for some kind of gender identity issue).

I am old, so this was before the Internet provided any means to find casual cuddling or a lot of the labels or concepts being used in this discussion.

I learned massage and I had a group of gamer friends and was very out about having been molested and raped, so people were mostly pretty protective of me. That doesn't mean none of the guys were viewing it through a sexual lens, but it was a safe situation for me.

So, maybe get some massage books and ask around for practice volunteers?
posted by Michele in California at 2:16 PM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

So I think the dancing could be a good idea maybe, but I just want to chime in and say that you should be careful. I do ballroom, latin and swing dancing, and if I found out that the person I was dancing with was only doing it to be close to me physically, this would completely freak me out because this is not why I dance and I feel like you'd be crossing a line for me (maybe other dancers feel differently, this is just my perspective). Most of the time, I feel best when I'm dancing with other people who are there because they love to dance and are trying to improve themselves and have fun. So, be careful you don't send out some weird vibe and accidentally get yourself known as some creepy person at dance events. The dance communities I've participated in, people get to know each other and there are always people that become known as creeps that get avoided. Don't become that person.
posted by FireFountain at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, what’s the best way to start these relationships? Beyond clear boundaries, what are some good things to talk about beforehand? Any other advice?

I been thinking about this piece of your question.

I was a girl gamer, so a lot of the massage I have for got was occurring in a group setting of friends. This naturally deterred things getting too sexual. I did get asked for dates or otherwise hit on, but it was safe because I was not alone with people. It was easy for me to say "no" and it didn't lead to drama.

So, a few thoughts:
Do not take up a hobby like dance solely to experience physical intimacy with the people there with whom you are not already friends. That's kind of creepy. But, if you do have a hobby where you routinely meet with a group of friends, it can be easy and safe and natural to say "Oh, is your neck bothering you? I would be happy to give you a neck rub." when you see someone behaving like their neck hurts. Then people see it and you get known for it and it becomes a meme. I never had to try to get this going.

I did a lot of massage to ease the aches and pains of friends. This meant that even married men friends who were completely faithful to their wife could say yes or ask for a massage. It made it clear this was, seriously, a platonic activity not a wink wink "platonic activity."

Don't offer massages in a group setting if you are unwilling to do it for anyone there. If one member of the group is someone you feel is creepy and do not want to touch, then this is not the time and place to offer it to someone else in front of the person you know you would turn down.

If you want to meet someone one on one to exchange back rubs and you don't know them well, consider meeting at a park. Public massage limits the opportunity for it to become sexual and limits the chances for someone to sexually assaulted you.

Practice mutual consent. There are people who do not like massages or do not like being touched or whatever. Take no for an answer. Don't be pushy about it or make it into a big deal. It is fine to let them know something like "It is a standing offer." But don't keep asking. If they said no, move on.

Don't get all het up if someone that you have been platonically intimate with hits on you. It is fine to turn them down, but don't get all up in arms about the fact that dared to ask. I did get hit on by some of these guys and I did go on a date with a couple of them and I did eventually marry one of them. I also turned down some of the guys who expressed romantic interest. In many cases, we remained friends.

If you can't remain platonic cuddle buddies after the question comes up, that's okay too. But this works best if you allow for a grey area and for people to be people and to have feelings. Say "no thank you" if you really don't want more, but try to not make them feel like evil incarnate for having the impetus.

In short, try to make sure you enjoy yourself and others enjoy themselves and no one feels burned.
posted by Michele in California at 11:40 AM on March 21, 2016

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