I was annoyed by this New York Magazine article about a business called The Snuggery, both by the writer’s snideness (“It almost seems like men are paying to get blue balls”) and by the choice to illustrate with a nude photo, even though The Snuggery has (as the article says) a no-nudity policy.
But the article does raise the question of if “non-sexual” cuddling is still, essentially, a sexual service:
Though touching genitals isn’t allowed, I was surprised to learn that clients are allowed to caress their designated snuggler’s face, hair, and arms. They are also allowed to intertwine legs and play footsie. As long as it doesn’t involve lady parts, it’s basically fair game. It almost seems like men are paying to get blue balls. I had a hard time understanding what, exactly, they’re getting from the experience. “A lot of people come in when they’re going through a divorce or breakup,” Jackie explains. “Because they don’t want to get into another relationship but they miss being touched.” […]
The Snuggery is not a service for straight women, it turns out, but an outlet for men who feel either lonely or alienated. I like to think of myself as open-minded and progressive, but even this was too new-age-y for me. Although there is no sex involved, men are paying women for physical intimacy. Bodies are touching. Caressing is involved. Two people are on a bed and money is exchanged.
Jackie Samuel, the woman who runs The Snuggery (and one of the two snugglers), says “there’s no sex involved.” But if there were no sex involved, wouldn’t her clients be more diverse, instead of being nearly all heterosexual men?
Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against The Snuggery. I think she’s providing a valuable and honest service to her clients, and although I’d have a hard time doing her job, I’m glad she enjoys it.
But it seems to me that what’s she does is a form of sex work. There’s nothing wrong with that. But in a more reasonable society – one in which sex workers weren’t subject to social stigma and (in some cases) arrest – maybe she wouldn’t feel the same need to deny that what’s she’s doing actually does has “sex involved.”