You’ve probably heard it said before: we’re more connected today than we’ve ever been before.
Still, many lack the physical contact and companionship that digital technology can’t replace. Stepping in to fill that void is professional cuddling, a line of work that provides clients with a strictly platonic human touch.
Kristi Lippincott, a professional cuddler and licensed massage therapist based in Austin, says she got into this line of work after joining a Meetup group that hosted cuddle parties.
“I touch people for a living, so this wouldn’t be much of a jump,” she says. “I love helping people.”
Lippincott says cuddling has more equality in the power structure. “It’s two people that are holding each other, usually,” she says, “instead of one person working on another.”
Cuddling requires well-outlined boundaries, Lippincott says. She screens her clients, thus far all males, before their first cuddling session by meeting them in a public place, getting payment ahead of the session and making them sign a contract outlining her guidelines for sessions.
Most of her clients are older men who have been divorced, she says, but she doesn’t ask about their relationship status. Her sessions involve a lot of talking, because if someone’s never had a cuddling session before, they’re often nervous. Lippincott says she often spoons clients, but has to start out with less intimate positions to get them comfortable.
“I don’t start with that one usually, because people are nervous,” she says. “I’ll start them with a neutral position, to get them relaxed, because the whole point of it is to feel relaxed and to feel connected.”
Sometimes clients fall asleep, but that’s the point, Lippincott says. “I want them to fall asleep,” she says, “because that means they’re really relaxed. They’re really getting their money’s worth.”
Sessions last anywhere from a half-hour up to five hours, though Lippincott has yet to have a five-hour client. She charges $65 an hour and New Yorkers pay up to $80 an hour for cuddling. She says there’s bound to be inappropriateness in the industry as it becomes more popular, because the massage industry saw that happen when professional massage first became popular. Lippincott says she welcomes putting rules on the books related to professional cuddling.
“That would help legitimize it,” she says. “I would like to be in on it and talk to lawmakers about this. I would love to see it be a legitimate business, like massage therapy – licensed and everything.”
Post prepared by Hannah McBride.