"May I touch your shoulder?"
"My I rest my leg on your leg?"
"May I stroke your ribs?"
"May I join your spoon train?"
I attended my first official Cuddle Party last night. Cuddle Parties are led by trained facilitators to enable people to experience more touching in a completely non-sexual way. Most of us don't get enough touch in our lives, or only get touched through sex, if we're in a relationship, or brief hugs if we're not.
Our skin and our emotions crave touching, holding, caressing. The purpose of a Cuddle Party is to enable people -- usually strangers, at least for the first few minutes -- to enjoy and feel safe touching and holding each other for hours.
Yes, hours. We had 45 minutes of rules and exercises (e.g. saying "no") first, then at about 7:30 p.m. we were let loose to cuddle anyone and everyone we wanted (as long as they said "yes") for 2-1/2 hours.
The Cuddle Party took place on a living room floor covered with sheets, comforters, and pillows. There were about a dozen of us, roughly gender-balanced, mostly clad in pajamas. The skilled facilitator and two assistants participated fully and were always available in case someone wanted any kind of assistance.
"Always ask before touching, and be specific about what you want to touch," we were instructed. "No" means "no" and needs no defense or explanation. If we're not sure, we say "no." We can change our minds at any time. We can ask for what we want to receive as well as what we want to do. Clothes stay on, and if we experience feelings of arousal from all this body contact, we do not act on those feelings.
I joined four other people who were spooning, and I enjoyed being cradled in a warm body sandwich. We asked for permission to touch shoulders, backs, legs, hair, thighs. The tricky stage was trying to change position -- if one person wanted to turn around, we all had to adjust and start asking for permission all over again.
If it sounds like fun, it was. It felt completely safe and relaxed -- even jovial. We could get up, get a snack (no alcohol), come back to the pile of people and decide whom to approach as the next cuddle partner(s).
To find out more about Cuddle Parties and track down one happening near you, visit http://cuddleparty.com//