I’ve been casually following the saga of the Madison Cuddle House with interest over the last several months. For those of you not in the know, cuddle houses are things that have been cropping up here and there around the country where people can go and essentially rent time with a stranger for hugging, cuddling, and other non-sexual physical contact. This is something I strongly feel there should be more of in the world, but I’m also prone to rant about how under-served the female androsexual demographic is by the sex industry in general, and cuddle houses seem like a gateway to exploiting that demographic, so I’m probably heavily biased.
As far as I can tell, and I’d caution you to note my use of “casually” in the first sentence when evaluating how much credit to give what I say, the Madison project is/was being run by a hippy with more heart than sense, who’s entire approach came down to, “Hugs good, therefore it’ll all work out, man.” The city took one look at this, went, “Well, the only way that’s possibly going to work out is if this guy is the dullard front for an organized prostitution something something, so we must thwart it!” Which is exactly what your response should be if you credit humanity with sense and intelligence. I’ve spent enough time interacting with the Madison activist hippy scene that my gut suspicion is that the guy really is just that bright-eyed and naive. Apparently the city of Madison has more faith in the quality of humanity than I do. That’s okay – so does a broken pencil.
After weeks of delays for permitting, getting insurance, developing minorly important things like staff training and a business plan (!), etc, the Cuddle House opened. And as far as I can tell, shortly after, it closed, surprising precisely…well, I guess the people who were sure it was a front might be surprised.
At several points in the course of watching this story I thought about blogging it, just because it’s kinda funny, and captures Madison being Madison really well. But I never got around to blogging while things were timely, and so didn’t. And then this article came out, containing this quote:
“There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”
As horrifically problematic and not okay as the first part of the quote is, I’m going to let it slide due to lack of context. It’s entirely possible that she was saying that in direct response to the poor or absent training of the Cuddle House staff, and therefore not operating on the assumption that it’s not possible to have a safe environment for this kind of behavior. (It is. There’s a long history of sex and swingers clubs managing to do it just fine) Let’s instead turn to the unambiguously unacceptable sexism contained in the second half the quote.
Uhm, excuse me Ms Zilavy, but how man men do you know? Because I’ve heard the, “Dating is hard because I want cuddles but girls hear that and assume/require sex,” from more than one of my guy friends. In one particular case I’d assumed the guy was using “cuddle” as a euphemism for sex for months, and didn’t figure it out until my punchline failed when I teased him for wanton catting around. (Want to have a hilarious conversation with a friend? That’s not how to do it)
Can we just all get something straight here? It’s easy: Women are just as capable of wanting sex for its own sake as men, and do. Men are just as capable of wanting the non-sexual elements of a relationship as women, and do. This is not shocking. It is not obscure, esoteric, or even subtle.
Want to know the most second most disappointing sexual encounter of my life to date? Tough, I’m going to tell you anyway: I wanted a warm body in bed and some cuddles. Send willing, eager, available man to bed for to get these things. He also wanted a warm body in bed and some cuddles. We both thought the other one expected sex. Neither of us was interested at that particular moment, but hey, whatever. This led to a great deal of awkward meh, and then the cuddles we were both after the whole time. I tell you this because it’s stupid statements like Ms Zilavy’s and the cultural memes they reinforce that caused this misunderstanding. We do not need more things in the world that lead to meh sex.
Also, we don’t need more reinforcement of the idea that men are supposed to be so stoic, macho, and emotionally disconnected that they can’t possible get behind touch-feely things like intimate relationships and cuddling. Though, really, it’s the meh sex that has me het up. I can’t help it, I have a pathological aversion to boredom.
I’m kinda hoping somebody with some business sense tries the cuddle house idea in Madison again, but I suspect this failed iteration has poisoned the well. More likely, I’m hoping Ms Zilavy meets some more guys, or bothers to have an actual conversation with the ones she knows because the lady is seriously missing a few clues.