Tag Archives: hugs

Want to get more cuddles? There’s an app for that

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted an article on facebook titled “Tinder for cuddling: This app will find you a random stranger to spoon”, which initially I thought was satire because it just seemed so unexpected. The article is about a new app called “Cuddlr”, and when I tried to google it, I actually couldn’t even see what looked like an official website, or press release, or anything. So things didn’t quite seem to add up.

But then I spotted an article on medium by one of the inventors of the app (Charlie Williams). His article, “It’s Touch, Not Sex”, is about the app, its inception, its purpose, and its goal.

What is Cuddlr? Put simply, it works like Tinder, but is meant to help you find willing, platonic cuddle partners. I’m sure a lot of you can think of problems with this idea, but hang on for a second and hear them out.

Cuddlr is all about the power of touch, though some folks are confusing “touch” with “sex”. Oddly enough, the hubbub shows exactly why the app and the discussion it is creating are necessary in the first place.

Coming this week [out now as far as I know], Cuddlr connects you with new people in your immediate area who are up for a cuddle. (It’s sort of like Tinder or Grindr, but for public cuddling instead of hookups.) Once you and the other party agree to cuddle, the app helps you find each other, and the rest is up to preference and communication. For each user, the app shows a tally of how many successful cuddles they have had already: the more someone has been vetted by other users, the more likely they are to be good at cuddling, communication, and respecting boundaries.

I like that he is immediately addressing issues of communication and respecting boundaries (ie consent). That tells me that his intents for the app are more on the positive side.

He also addresses another important distinction here:

While we seem wired to pursue both sex and closeness, we aren’t necessarily wired to expect them to come packaged together into one experience. Before the birth of the modern egalitarian relationship, no one would have expected a romantic partner to also be a friend, a confidante, to share one’s taste in music or books. Now, if and when we find a partner we’d like to marry, or have children with, or buy a house with or just stay together with for a long, long time, there’s a presumption that we no longer need close touch to come from anywhere else.

But we are born needing, even craving touch. As children, we revel in the closeness we get from snuggling with parents and close family members. As teenagers or young adults, we discover sex, and generally speaking we try to do as much of it as we think we can get away with. By the time we form a stable adult peer group, we’ve effectively trained ourselves not to cuddle except for with people we’re sleeping with: not because it wouldn’t be pleasant or fulfilling, but because of inherited social rules left over from our ancient pregnancy anxiety.

I really like that he addresses the distinction between intimacy and sex (since it rarely seems to get addressed otherwise), and how many people who are not in romantic relationships (such as myself), often get little to no physical touch of an intimate, caring nature. And to be honest, a hug from a family member is not the same as a hug from a female friend, co-worker, or new acquaintance. They don’t have to love me, so getting a hug is at least somewhat of an implicit “you’re a nice person and I like you”.

And this is the paragraph that I practically tripped over myself to quote because this really is my experience:

It’s not just me: a friend who had moved away to teach at a private high school came back for a visit, and when I gave her a “welcome back” hug she was momentarily overcome with emotion. It took us both a moment to realize why this was happening. Then she said, “I just realized that I haven’t actually made contact with another human being for three months.” [emphasis added] There she had been, unaware of the sort of contactless confinement she’d fallen into even as she was surrounded by people all day long. When people relocate, we rarely acknowledge how it will also radically affect our day to day intimacy needs, nor do we have any systems in place to accommodate. I think future civilizations would find her lack of opportunity for benign touch disturbing. We find it normal. That’s not something we should let continue; it’s something we should work to change.

I had had a vague sense for a little while now that I lacked intimacy in my life. I was trying my best to reach out to women via OkCupid (as one example) to try and make a connection, to meet and maybe start dating. I really do love hugs, cuddling, hand holding, gentle physical touch, and I rarely get it. In fact, the only person who ever really regularly hugs me outside of my family, is my best friend’s girlfriend, and I feel a bit weird of wanting to hold on for a couple extra seconds, but I really don’t want to let go. Then this came along and I was just like “holy crap! I am totally starved for physical intimacy!”.

I actually sought out “friends with benefits” arrangements earlier this year, and while sex did end up happening, I did not really get intimacy and I ultimately realized that was what I wanted more than the sex itself.

There’s even science behind all of this – hugs have been shown to release oxytocin which is a natural anti-depressant hormone, so hugging people is literally good for your health. Yet, many people who are not in relationships rarely get that physical contact, and it’s something that we literally need as human beings. I certainly try to make the most of things, but the absence has definitely been noticed and felt.

And so, with my “not quite poly, but supportive!” attitude, I’ve decided to be proactive. I have actually reached out to a couple females specifically, to ask in the most respectful, transparent way that I can, if they would be willing/interested to be platonic “cuddle buddies”. And I plan to reach out to more yet. Technically, all I need is one. I can’t get the app (sadly, since it’s currently iPhone only as of this writing), but the idea has been planted and I want to be proactive about it.

If you want to watch a video showing how the app works, you can see one on www.cuddlrapp.com.

So honestly, I think this is a cool thing, I’m glad someone made it. It also helped me realize a deficit in my own life that I am serious about addressing in the most consentual, mutually beneficial way possible. If you’re not really into hookups, but would rather meet someone more sensitive and arguably nurturing, this might be for you.

Are we inadvertently teaching kids that consent doesn’t matter?

I’m not a parent myself (but am an uncle), but I do often read articles about parenting and behaviour modification. Partly because I might actually learn something from it, and partly because I’m always asking myself “what could I be doing better?”.

I think most parents genuinely “try their best”. No one is really given a manual, and some of us had some pretty poor examples to work from. You can read parenting books, which most likely won’t hurt, but even still, no parent is going to be perfect, and everyone is going to have days where they lose their composure and don’t make the best choices.

That said, I did just stumble across this article on Everyday Feminism, called “4 Ways Parents Teach Kids That Consent Doesn’t Matter”. It is quite interesting. Some of you might react with the sentiment “this writer is over-thinking it!”, but the more I read about sociology and the true emotional roots underneath behaviours (and thus why certain CBTs work and others don’t), the more I think most people may be under-thinking it.

Anyway, here’s a brief run down of the article:

The first is tickling and other types of roughhouse play. Now, I think that tickling and being silly and pretending to eat my kids’ feet is one of the greatest parenting skills out there. So, I definitely don’t really think that tickling is bad or roughhousing is bad.

I think the important thing is that the minute your kid says “no,” you stop. Even if you know they are kidding, teach them that “no” means the other person will stop. They’ll learn both that their “no” matters, and they’ll learn that if someone says no to them, that they should immediately listen.

Now, with my kids I know if they say no and I stop, they’ll come and put their foot back in my mouth, because they don’t really mean “no,” they want me to keep chewing, it was just a game. Or they’ll pull the shirt up again and ask me to tickle. And that’s fine, so we keep going on. But I do immediately listen to the word “no”.

So, remember to stop periodically and “check in”. I’ve heard the same advice given a fair bit for healthy relationships – check in with each other at regular intervals and ask what’s good, what’s bad and what could be better. Similar idea here – give your kids a chance to tell you if they want to keep doing something. That will teach them that they have a choice, and that they are allowed to not want to.

The second way that we sometimes teach kids that consent doesn’t matter is by contradicting their feelings. I think this is a huge problem because it just comes so naturally. I’ve talked about this before where a kid says “I’m cold” and we say “No you’re not, it’s hot in here” or “I’m hungry”, “No you’re not, you just ate.” “I’m tired”, “No you aren’t, you just got up from your nap.” I think that we, in our minds as parents, we know “What? Why are they saying this? She can’t be hungry, she just ate.”

But by saying so, we teach them not to trust their own instincts and their own feelings, and then these are feelings that we want them to trust when they’re in their twenties and they’re in a situation that they are not feeling comfortable with, we want them to trust their gut reaction.

So, instead of contradicting kids, we can just ask them an open-ended in a neutral way. So, when your child says “It’s cold in here”, you can say “Is it? I’m kind of hot in here.”

I think I’ve noticed my sister do this with her son. All too often adults will tell kids things in a matter of fact manner which re-inforces the idea that they always have to do what they’re told. We inadvertently train and program them to be purely obedient and not develop healthy free will or sense of personal awareness and exploration.

Really, this comes down to a subtle change in the way you phrase your response, but that small difference matters. That’s something I have been learning about and trying to implement here – avoiding negative or critical phrasing, sticking to neutral or positive word choices when I can.

Next:

The third way that we sometimes teach kids that consent isn’t important, is through forced hugs and kisses, and this is all in the guise of teaching politeness. We want them to give Uncle Joe a hug and a kiss when you see him because he is their elder and it is important to respect him in that way and because he wants a hug and a kiss, regardless of how your child is feeling. And the idea being that if they don’t go give Uncle Joe a hug and a kiss, it reflects poorly on you, that your kids are rude or standoffish or whatever. And we worry about that as parents, and so then we end up, you know, whether it’s by force or coercion, getting our kids to hug and kiss someone that they don’t want to.

This is a huge red flag. You know, we don’t want our teen daughters or teen sons to be in a sexual situation where they are feeling like they don’t really want to continue. But they feel like they can’t say anything because they have come as far and it would be rude to stop, or that type of thing.

So, it’s very important not to make your kids hug and kiss or shake hands or anything like that, you know. You know Uncle Joe, you saw him last year and if Uncle Joe asks for a hug and kiss, you can say “Do you wanna give him a hug and kiss or just wave hi?” And then have a wave hi or blow a kiss, whatever is comfortable

I have a family member who is older, and who likes to hug everyone and also kiss on the lips. I only started openly resisting/avoiding this a few years back, because I really wasn’t comfortable with it, but I lived with that person at one point, and at that time I didn’t feel I could say no. So I can relate to this one. It comes down to not forcing anyone to engage with another person in a way that they don’t want to.

The last point comes down to the partially flawed idea of respecting your elders, no matter what, which I basically agree with the author on. There is a certain level of respect that you do have to give to elders and figures of authority, but as long as you are still polite and respectful on a base level, you don’t have to completely bow down to anyone who is bigger or older than you, period. The distinction needs to be made clear to kids so they know the difference.

On a semi-related note, I just finished reading the chapter about Dogs in Temple Grandin’s book “Animals Make Us Human”, and I was really blown away by how much raising a dog well is like raising a child (seriously). Dogs are very social and emotional and require a lot of social attention and need to be trained to control their impulses and moderate their emotions and to have patience. She writes that dogs that bark at everyone and everything, and misbehave a lot, are often poorly raised/trained, and emotionally immature. In human terms, we might call that a “brat”.

So, I think this is worth thinking about and that if we properly factor these things in, we will have happy, healthy, consenting, respectful kids.

Here is the video included in the post about these ideas:

If this doesn’t convince you that Gay people are alright, maybe nothing will

This is one of the best videos I have seen. The premise is basically “take people who are afraid of or made uncomfortable by something (ie homophobic people), and expose them to that thing in a non-threatening way”.

The result? Oh hey – turns out those homophobic people realize that gay people aren’t that much different than them after all.

Kudos to all involved for their grace, humility and for being good sports.

Racism: Don’t lose faith in humanity just yet

Here is an awesome, humbling and inspiring video which shows you that even those who’ve been kicked while they’re down can still choose not to kick others back. Sure, people can suck sometimes, but they can also be awesome. These videos are my anti-cynicism.

And on the topic of racism, and in the spirit of Face a Fear Friday (which I haven’t been able to do on a weekly basis), I will share with you a Medium post I wrote recently, “Confessions and Insights of a Former Racist”. It is part of the Human Parts Collection on Medium.

Science proves that hugs are awesome

I love hugs. Hugs are great. You get physical closeness, intimacy, warmth and you feel good.

I have seen this in more than one place but can’t recall the original source I wanted to cite, so this will have to do.

Two reasons why you should hug more (from breakingmuscle.com):

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us.

When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Dopamine

In addition to releasing Oxytocin, hugs also stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. Fortunately, we’re never going to see D.A.R.E posters with “The Faces of Hugs” showing the downward decline of the chronic hugger.

Increasing pleasure, decreasing stress, increasing human bonding, and all the while decreasing the risk of common heart ailments – sign me up please!