Definition of a Snuggle Party ￼
A snuggle party is an event where participants share consensual, nurturing touch. Everyone is clothed, and the event is non-sexual. The energy is intended to be more relaxing and soothing, rather than arousing or stimulating. Touch might include holding hands, exchanging back, shoulder, or foot massage, light facial touch, holding, playing with hair, or spooning. The importance of open communication is emphasized. This includes stating one’s own needs and boundaries, as well as asking for permission. More boisterous activities at snuggle parties can include playful wrestling, puppy piles (many people blissfully snuggled together), and pillow fights.
Benefits of Snuggling ￼
The emotional, social, physical, and spiritual health benefits of snuggling or cuddling are numerous. Here are just a few of them:
Snuggle connections can feel emotionally deeper and more nurturing than the average friendship. While snuggle connections are not entirely immune from dynamics such as jealousy and tension, they are less likely to foster such dynamics than are romantic connections. For the above reasons, snuggle buddies and events provide a quicker and simpler route to physical affection than dating. Snuggles provide opportunities to practice saying “Yes” to what you really want and “No” to what you don’t want more effectively. Snuggling can lessen the tendency to act out of desperation between romantic relationships. Related to the previous points, platonic snuggles may even enhance your ability to get sexual touch needs met, in a way that’s more satisfying for you. Snuggle parties can also relieve some pressure on your existing romantic partner, if you desire exchanging certain types of touch more frequently than they enjoy exchanging them. Snuggle parties may provide opportunities to increase your touch comfort at a pace that feels safer to you. (From The Snuggle Party Guidebook.)
What Others Say About Snuggle Events ￼
People who have attended or facilitated events that include snuggling report a broad range of positive impacts. These are some of the quotes included in The Snuggle Party Guidebook, from women and men of different ages and backgrounds. Perhaps you’ll soon experience some of these benefits, too!
“I grew up in a hands-off, touch-deprived atmosphere. Snuggling changed my life. Attending and facilitating snuggle events, I met my partner, made wonderful friends, and helped create heart-centered, touch positive community. Snuggling helped me realize I was lovable, worthy of giving and receiving loving human touch.” —S. S.
“I used to spend $60 per week on massage, and now I have friends with whom I can share different types of touch.” —K. R.
“Snuggling taught me that touch is as infinite as color or music. Snuggling taught me that compassionate touch can be as powerful for emotional healing as talk therapy or antidepressants. Snuggling taught me that desire for sex and desire for touch are two different things.” —A. K.
“Even though I’m a teacher, I sometimes have social anxiety. Well-facilitated snuggles have helped me to relax and connect without feeling the need to have a couple of drinks to loosen up. Also, becoming more touch positive has helped me come through times of stress, loss, or uncertainty with a more robust sense of resilience.” —M. M.
“Snuggles have had an enriching effect on my life. Growing up in middle class America, it was taboo to touch people. I recall even having this fear of brushing up against my friends or strangers. But, as I opened myself up to different cultural modes of thought, I explored such things as snuggles, and found that touching and being touched in a controlled environment is quite liberating and much needed!” —G. B.
“Snuggling has made it possible for me to go much longer without a boyfriend, so that I can be more choiceful in my romantic relationships.” —K. R.
“Snuggling helped ease my chronic pain & enriched my recovery from surgery by soothing my parasympathetic nervous system & lowering my cortisol levels.” —E. G.
Platonic Snuggling vs. Sexual Touch ￼
While snuggling can be included in events that also allow more sexual touch, many in this heart-conscious, touch-positive revolution would call any event with sexual touch something other than a “snuggle party.” This ensures that snuggle parties can provide a welcoming environment for touch that is not connected to sexual expectations.
At the same time, snuggle parties are not a total or permanent replacement for healthy and consensual sexual intimacy in agreed-upon settings. Snuggle parties simply focus upon a range of physical touch that is very important and different from, but not superior to, other types of touch such as sex.
In a world where many types of touch are often lumped together, and where many types of touch are unfairly demonized, it’s important to be clear about this.
Snuggles are a response to an unfortunate aspect of how we’re often socialized around touch. We frequently take an all-or-nothing approach to touch-related intimacy in our relationships, linking any type of touch beyond a hug or a handshake to potential sexual connection. If we’re romantically involved with another person, we expect them to meet virtually all of our physical touch needs, and to rely upon us for the same. In our platonic connections, we may share little or no physical affection beyond handshakes or hugs. We don’t realize that there are many in-between options.
This all-or-nothing approach can have a range of negative consequences. If we are in a romantic relationship, we and our partner may feel pressure when one person is unable to meet all of the other person’s needs due to absence, illness, or other life curveballs. If a romantic relationship ends, we may suddenly find ourselves without any physical touch at all, at a time when we need it most.
And if we have little or no touch in our lives while we’re single, we may use less discretion as we form new intimate connections. Desperate for any type of nourishing touch at all, we may feel additional pressure to get into another full-fledged romantic relationship rapidly, even if we’re not ready for that yet.
Because the way we’re culturally programmed around touch can be quite complex, The Snuggle Party Guidebook covers topics related to sexuality versus platonic touch in more depth. For example, what if you or a friend wants to attend a snuggle party with someone you’re dating? Or what if you meet someone at a party you might be romantically interested in?
Snuggling, Cuddling, and Sexual Arousal Sometimes people do become aroused while snuggling. But that in and of itself isn’t the real issue. The real issue is the underlying shame and fear we feel about our natures. This leads us to push away the topic immediately, before we even have a chance to see that there are many acceptable ways to deal with arousal, other than acting directly upon them in that setting.
Beyond early childhood, many of us rarely experience snuggling with people outside of romantic partners. So, we learn that snuggling is always linked to romantic and sexual intimacy. Therefore, particularly when we’re very new to snuggling, and especially if we’re already touch deprived in general, arousal can occur. Even if we’re experienced at snuggling, arousal can sometimes happen, particularly if we happen to find the person with whom we’re snuggling attractive. That’s normal, and part of being human.
First, we need to accept it instead of being afraid of it, as shame leads us to ignore things rather than generate useful approaches. From this place of honest acceptance, we can become more comfortable with things like snuggling, knowing that we can consciously choose not to act on arousal when it occurs. We can create environments that place a strong emphasis on consent. In other words, everyone is empowered to say “no,” asking permission is emphasized as a group norm, and everyone is told that there are many acceptable options if/when arousal does occur–e.g., shift positions, or get up and take a break.
As in any setting, you may still get the occasional person who has difficulties with self-management and needs to be addressed; the best we can do is try to minimize the odds of that.
Difference between a Snuggle Party and a Cuddle Party
The definition and rules described on this site and in The Snuggle Party Guidebook evolved over a number of years, starting with the first formally organized events in Portland, Oregon in 2002. Snuggle Party, however, is a broadly used term that anyone is free to use. While we suggest that your snuggle parties follow the definitions and rules outlined here and in The Snuggle Party Guidebook, it is up to you how you choose to conduct them.
Cuddle Party is a specific brand of event. The term is owned and trademarked by the organization Cuddle Party. It is reserved to describe events thrown by individuals who have completed the training program offered by their organization, or who helped to develop that model. It was founded in New York in 2004, independent of the Portland community’s events.
We do not believe that either approach is superior to the other. Broadly, the snuggle party approach is geared toward individuals who enjoy taking a relatively DIY approach, who like learning from books, who want to invest a minimal amount of money and time, and who wish to get started relatively quickly. The Cuddle Party approach is probably better suited for those who want more structured guidance, including support around basic facilitation skills, and who are willing and able to invest more money and time to obtain that. These concepts are very important, and it takes a diverse set of voices to convey them to the world.
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