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.