April 30th, 2015

nuzzle

emotional/artistic work is still work / types of cuddles: giving, receiving, sharing, passive

icon: "nuzzle (a photo of two snow leopards, one facing the camera and the other in profile, nuzzling the first so much that the first one is leaning over)"

[been thinking about cuddling for a living]
I've been thinking about cuddling for a living since I found out that there is a service near where I live that is hiring. I posted on facebook asking people if they'd be interested or knew others who would be. Some said yes and some said "yes I want cuddles but I wouldn't pay for them" and I found myself getting really offended and upset about it. Even after working it out logically (I do understand that reaction and don't need it explained) it's still upsetting. It feels like people are saying my skills aren't valuable or worth me being able to live on, which really is something I get constantly about everything I do (except stats).


People do this about every skill that is emotional or artistic in nature. Sure, it is rewarding to make art or teach people emotional skills, etc. But it takes energy! no one has an endless supply of that. Further, energy spent on emotional/artistic work means less energy for making money. Money is a thing that can get me food and shelter. If you don't think my emotional/artistic work is real enough work to earn me food and shelter then no, I don't want to give it to you. And when I have put hundreds of hours into building my skills, no, it's not the same as some random person who has never worked on it. It is really unlikely that any random person can give the cuddles I do. Affection or connection doesn't cut it; this is a skill. I have worked on these skills consciously for many years on many people. Cuddle skills are not common and even the sweetest and most loving people often have very low cuddle skills.

I am really fucking good at cuddling. I imagine that most people who are uncomfortable with the idea of paying for cuddles have in their mind the idea that cuddles are automatically mutual. They aren't. There are four kinds of cuddles as I see it - giving, receiving, sharing, and passive.

  • Giving (one-way) - this is where you are actively giving touch, such as stroking someone's hair or rubbing their back, and they aren't actively touching you, nor is there any plan for them to.

  • Receiving (one-way) - this is where you are not actively touching the other person while they are giving you touch, and there is no plan for you to give them touch.

  • Sharing (mutual) - this is where you and another person are engaged in mutually active and emotionally-present touch, such as both stroking each other's backs while lying together, or mouth-kissing, or hugging, or holding hands. It is only sharing touch if you are both actively, presently, and deliberately giving: it is quite common for one person to give a hug and the other receive it - that may look like sharing but it isn't.

  • Passive (can be mutual or one-way) - this is where you are touching the other person, but in an absent-minded or inactive way. An example would be leaning against someone while you both watch a show, or hugging while neither of you are focused on it.

If you have never just received without giving, you can't imagine how rejuvenating it is*. Shared cuddles are energizing but just receiving is like three times that intense. And it takes at least three times as much energy to just give: it's a huge investment of energy to just give fully-present cuddles, which is why I don't often do it for long stretches of time. I often brush Topaz' hair for hours on end because that is a less-present kind of giving that doesn't take much of my energy yet energizes them a lot. It's kinda halfway between passive and giving, because I shift in and out of being fully present in what I am doing (we're usually watching a show during this).

With people who do not give in cuddles for whatever reason, I only give if I am in a place where I can handle that much drain, or if I feel confident enough in their honesty & ability of response to request something that will help refill me. Mostly people are willing to give back, they just don't know how, because this is a learned skill. Sometimes I will have only passive cuddles with a person because that is something I can usually do without drain.

I probably seem arrogant, and I'm afraid someone's gonna be like "actually your cuddles stink" but I think that's an illogical fear. Though I think maybe I suck at cuddling Heather partly because I have been lazy the last few times we've hung out and partly because I don't think I've ever made them sigh in contentment, and after braggin on myself I'm also looking at all my cuddles given and thinking about my flaws.

I came up with a list of essential qualities for being good at cuddling, but I'm going to post that friends-locked because I sent it to the two places I applied to and I want to keep it under wraps until I get responses. If you're reading and you don't have an LJ, message me and I'll email it to you.

*I am sure that not all of this is true for all people, especially those who are not nourished by touch (less common, but certainly existing). Please take this with a grain of salt - I phrased it boldly because I feel strongly, not because I really think it is true for all people.
woven souls

essential qualities to be a good cuddler: good at consent, emotionally present & aware, not in need

icon: "woven souls (a photo of me and Hannah laying nude on black fabric, holding hands and facing each other with legs intertwined at the knee. the photo is overlaid with a scarlet and violet color filter)"

The qualities that are most vital are being good at consent, being good at staying emotionally present, and not radiating need. Consent is vital because any touch needs to be consensual and a cuddler needs to know how to navigate that and give someone safety. Being emotionally present and aware is necessary because that is the building block for being able to give cuddles that are emotionally nourishing as well as physically pleasant. Not being full of need is necessary because even if you are otherwise perfect, if you have great need you may unintentionally drain people with your presence unless they know how to guard against that, or you are amazingly good at putting it in a box for a time. (for people who are full of need, guess what would be great for them? a professional cuddler!)
A professional cuddler needs to be:

1) good at consent: good at noticing non-verbal "no"s and asking clarifying, specific questions such as, "is there any part of your body that you would like me to avoid touching? Is there any particular kind of touch that you do not like?" and things like "would you like to be spooned? would you like me to stroke your arms? do you want me to play with your hair?"

2) not touch-starved or affection-hungry. If they go into a session without their own tanks full, it is quite possible that their touch will drain the client rather than nourish them.

3) good at boundaries. They need to be able to state their own comfort level and to be willing and able to say no and perhaps end the session if the client is not listening to those statements and honoring them.

4) calm, with settled energy about them, so that the cuddles they give will be relaxing and they won't transfer any stress to the client.

5) comfortable with other people's emotions, able to listen, care, and hold space without getting swept along.

6) good at separating sexual touch from affectionate touch, so that they can both offer touch with no sexual energy and they can read when a client is not being platonic and set boundaries accordingly.

7) good at paying attention and good at reading people's reactions, so that they can tell how to adjust their touch according to what would be the most nourishing for the client.

8) very comfortable with cuddling, so that they don't feel self-conscious and make their client feel awkward and uncomfortable about receiving their touch. They need to have a level of confidence and willingness to change something that is not working for the client.

Only the last one is really about physical aspects. The rest is all mental! Not all of it is stuff you can control -- obviously people don't have a lot of control over how much they need or how calm they are or even how emotionally present they are (some disabilities can break you out of being present no matter how hard you try). Some of this is skill, and some of it is just qualities that you might have or you might not, and some is a combination.