Cuddle Party has come to the the Kootenays.
Castlegar resident Erica Scott is training to be a Cuddle Party facilitator, and has two upcoming cuddle parties in the area. The first will be in Nelson at the Health Collective on September 26, and the second will be in Castlegar on October 17.
A cuddle party is in some ways exactly what it sounds like. A group of people get together to cuddle each other. But before the cuddling comes the workshop and the laying out of ground rules.
“It’s very important that everyone involved be part of the welcome circle,” says Scott. “So what we do is, we open the doors half an hour before it starts, but when it starts we shut the doors and we lock them, so that no one new comes in without being part of the welcome circle.”
The welcome circle gives participants a chance to get to know each other, and it’s where the facilitator—in this case, Scott—leads consent and communication exercises like “practicing saying no, practicing hearing no, practicing asking for what you want and how to do that, and verbal consent, what that looks like and what it doesn’t look like.”
Scott will also go through the rules.
Cuddle parties are non-sexual events, and many of the rules reinforce that idea.
“The general idea is if it’s something you wouldn’t do beside an eight year old, then don’t do it,” says Scott.
The first rule is that pajamas—which participants are encouraged to wear—stay on. Pajamas should be cozy, not lacy or sexy.
Another rule is that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.
“If you decide tat you don’t want to be a part of it at all, but you want to stay, you can sit and watch, you can write in your journal, you can read a book, [or] you can sketch,” says Scott.
During and after the welcome circle participants still have the chance to decide whether or not Cuddle Party is for them. If it’s not, they can leave and get a full refund.
Cuddle parties last for three and a half hours, and at the end everyone is invited to join a puppy pile.
A lot of the media coverage around Cuddle Party emphasizes the benefits of human touch. Among other things, people who are deprived human touch don’t live as long.
But Cuddle Party also provides an opportunity to learn about consent and communication in a safe space.
“Some people come to Cuddle Party just to practice saying no, because they’ve never been able to do that before, or they struggle with it in their daily lives and they just want to practice,” says Scott.
Participants are also encouraged to change their mind, and are taught ways to express that.
“If you say yes to something, and five seconds later you decide it’s no, then you are encouraged to be authentic in that moment, and change your mind,” says Scott. “And we encourage people to take that experience out into the world.”
Scott works as an electrician, but she’s been looking for something else.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to integrate how I feel inside with how I make a living and how I am in the world,” she says.
Scott started her training at a workshop in Chicago, but to complete her certification she needs to host three review parties, each with a minimum of eight participants who will give feedback on her performance as a facilitator.
She hopes that the parties in Nelson and Castlegar will have enough participants to count as her first two review parties.