Americans emotionally devastated by the election of President Donald Trump are turning to an unorthodox form of therapy: professional cuddling.
Rolling Stone recently profiled the Love Dome, an event space in Venice, Calif. that hosts bi-weekly group cuddling meetings. These meetings are put on by Cuddle Sanctuary, an organization that provides group cuddling events, professional cuddling training, and connects interested parties to professional cuddlers.
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For $80, clients of "all genders and orientations" are treated to an hour-long session of "hugging, spooning, holding hands, and sharing compassion and kind words" from a professional cuddler on the huggable team, "selected for integrity, professionalism, and clear communication skills."
Rolling Stone described the scene at a cuddle party organized by Cuddle Sanctuary:
Along one wall, participants sit stacked snugly in between another person's legs, one person using another's body as a support pillow; in the middle of the room is a spooning train; others sit side-by-side coloring. Just as touch is optional, so is speaking.
According to Cuddle Sanctuary's website, arousal—a common concern—is not an issue. The organization recommends clients simply "shift positions and move your attention to bring the experience back to platonic."
Here is Cuddle Sanctuary's founder and CEO, Jean Franzblau, demonstrating what a typical private cuddling session looks like for the UCKYA website:
Since November and the election of Trump, the number of people seeking out professional cuddling services has increased, according to Rolling Stone. Cuddle Sanctuary has gained 252 new clients since Trump was elected. The day after Trump's victory, Cuddle Sanctuary held a workshop entitled "Election Detox" where five of the 21 attendees were new.
The owners and operators of cuddling services organizations profiled in Rolling Stone all attribute the spike in numbers to trauma associated with Trump's election.
The co-founder of Cuddle Party, Marcia Baczynski, told Rolling Stone her organization's work has become a "political" response to the government's violation of "boundaries" and said Trump is "essentially an abusive asshole." She said her clients feel "triggered by Trump's actions, history of sexual abuse allegations, and manipulative behaviors." She also likened Trump to an "out of control, abusive father."
"A significant number of those seeking professional cuddling services have experienced abuse, and some see in Trump qualities that remind them of past trauma," Rolling Stone claimed
One client raised the possibility of Trump's election "subconsciously" driving him to seek out professional cuddling.