The business of being paid to cuddle strangers is growing.
For $60 to $100 an hour, you can hire a stranger to hold you in a close, platonic embrace. You can even hire someone to be your big spoon for the whole night.
This is not a joke.
Cuddle therapy companies are springing up everywhere (including Australia, see http://www.cuddletherapy.com.au/) but particularly in Japan and the United States where social isolation is more endemic.
There’s even a cuddle café in Japan, where your latte comes with a side of snuggle.
Customers (predominantly men) come in all shapes and sizes, and include people with chronic pain or depression, those from cultural backgrounds where touch is frowned upon, those with narcolepsy or autism, widows and those going through difficult periods (like divorce).
Of course, professional cuddling is not without its risks.
It’s supposed to be strictly platonic (fully clothed) hand holding, spooning and hugging, but some cuddlers have reported inappropriate and sexually aggressive actions from their clients.
While opinions on the business are mixed, in a digital age where the virtuosity of human touch and connection is often bested by technology and long hours in the office, there’s no denying that cuddling provides a wealth of benefits that are not easily replicated:
- Feelings of calm and happiness
- Increased levels of oxytocin (which can assist with pain relief)
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Stress reduction
- Lower heart rate
In fact, non-sexual human touch is critical to our health and harmony as a species.
So is professional cuddling therapeutic or creepy?
Or in an increasingly tech-saturated world, is scheduling in hugs simply going to become the new norm?
I’ll let you decide that.
But from where I’m sitting, a world in which interpersonal touch is outsourced is a pretty grim one. Perhaps we should be thinking about treating the cause, rather than the symptoms.