Since launching London Snuggle Therapy, some of the people who have contacted me have made it clear that they are looking for a form of sexualized physical contact. Although I have consistently emphasized that snuggle therapy is a form of therapeutic, platonic, non-sexual, affectionate touch, it seems that some people do not believe that this kind of touch is possible. This provides a clear illustration of the research I have mentioned elsewhere: we live in a touch deprived culture where the primary ways in which we experience touch are through sex or violence or some combination of the two. Many folks are so deeply immersed in this culture that something like nonsexual affectionate touch appears to be unimaginable. They simply don’t believe me when I tell them that Snuggle Therapy is nonsexual and several have been baffled by me turning them away.
This makes me sad. A large part of the reason why I created London Snuggle Therapy was to try and contribute to a world where we spend more time caring about one another simply because we are all people who are worthy of being cared for. It is sad to be reminded that sometimes people are more interested in objectifying, using, and disposing of others for their own gratification. But I don’t mean to complain – after all, I reckon nearly all women (and an increasingly large number of men) are reminded of this on a daily basis as they negotiate the sexual violence that is inherent to our culture. Instead, what I would like to do is reiterate why it is so important to snuggle therapy that the kind of touch shared between the two parties remain nonsexual.
At the core of snuggle therapy as I understand and practice it, is the desire to communicate to other people that they possess an inherent dignity, beauty, worth, and loveliness. It is a way of not only telling people but of showing people that they are beloved. From our childhoods onwards we tend to find things more convincing when we are shown them rather than when we are simply told them – this is part of what makes snuggle therapy so powerful. I am not simply saying to other people, “you are lovely,” I am showing this to other people by holding them in a way that communicates this much more deeply than words usually do. In my own experience, this is where true personal transformation takes place – once I go from viewing myself as conditionally valuable (“I have worth because I’m good at my job,” “I have value because I’m good looking,” “people like me because I’m funny,” that sort of thing) or from viewing myself as having no value (“I’m worthless,” “I’m ugly,” “if people really knew me they would not like me” and so on), to viewing myself as someone who is, at my core, beloved, then everything begins to change. Life itself changes and I begin to experience it in new and exciting ways – ways that I didn’t think possible or thought were too good to be true. I know this because this has been my own experience with love and with knowing myself as beloved, and I have seen the impact it can have on others.
However, and this is part of what makes it difficult for people to believe in Snuggle Therapy, the majority of women in Canada and a very high number of men, have experienced sexual violence. In the majority of those situations, the sexual violence was enacted by an assailant who first gained the trust of the person who was assaulted. In other words, we have a large number of men who are telling women and children that they love them and that they are special – only to then sexually exploit and violate them when these men think they can get away with doing so. This often has a devastating traumatic impact leading to a shattering of trust and a loss of one’s sense of safety. It can also fracture a person’s identity leading to a crisis related to one’s own sense of self-worth (“Am I really lovely or am I just good for sexually gratifying men?”).
Consequently, I think we can now see why it is so critical that the form of touch that is shared in snuggle therapy remain nonsexual and platonic. To experience therapeutic, affectionate touch in a safe way requires that the touch remain nonsexual (I’m not saying that this has to be the case for all touch that you experience in your life – sexual touch, when performed between legitimately consenting adults can also be wonderful and therapeutic – but I’m a Professional Snuggler, not a boyfriend or a sex therapist so that falls outside of the domain of London Snuggle Therapy!). To sexualize the touch would be to completely undermine and counteract this message and to return to reinforcing messages that say things like, “we are only valuable to the extent to which we stimulate and gratify sexual desires in others.” The nonsexual nature of the touch that is shared is critical to communicate to people that they matter, that they are special, and that they are lovely, simply because they are who they are.