Part 4: Snuggling with Peers—Reflections on Platonic Touch in Portland
Guest post by M. J. Coreil
Biases toward people who attend cuddle parties present a different kind of challenge. Within the touch community itself, as we have seen, people are often turned off by the strangeness of participants. For outsiders, on the other hand, the stereotype of someone who attends a snuggle party is that of a socially handicapped person unable to meet their touch needs through traditional relationships. In either case, perceptions are skewed toward unflattering images of participants.
There is no simple fix for derogatory images of snuggle participants. Within Oregon Touch we experimented with various strategies, including trying to create stable friend groups and smaller cuddle circles within the membership, but these efforts had only temporary success. As for negative stereotypes within the larger society, these will change over time if peer touch events become commonplace and people hear them discussed in everyday conversation. When everyone knows someone close to them who attends snuggle parties, attitudes will change.
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With a heavy heart I left the group that had given me cherished moments of affective touch as well as hope for the legitimation of peer touch in mainstream society. I didn’t want to contribute to an organization that harms the larger mission of destigmatizing touch. Snuggling is firmly tethered to sex-positive culture in Portland, and that is a good thing for the sex-positive movement. For peer touch, however, linkages to sex positivity may be a hindrance. Other cities where the sex-positive community is less dominant may fare better in promoting platonic touch independent of sexuality.
My greatest hope is that peer touch groups will become widely available to meet the needs of touch-deprived adults, and that singles, introverts and other marginalized people inevitably drawn to them will be afforded a welcoming place of quiet, comforting touch without having to don a costume.
About the author: M. J. Coreil is a cultural anthropologist who writes about contemporary social issues. She is the author of “Margaret Mead and the Single Life,” Social and Behavioral Foundations of Public Health, and tropicofcandor.com.
[Artwork, courtesy of Kristen Reynolds. Photo of M. J. Coreil, courtesy of Susan Perez.]