Yes, yes it’s a real, paid job.
“Clients tell me it is more refreshing than a massage and more exhilarating than sex, as it is encompassing a deep, profound energy exchange, enabling them to surrender and just be in the present moment,” says Kundala, who has what most would classify a very unusual job.
Kundala is a professional cuddler, a new breed of professional becoming increasingly sought after in the fast-paced Western world where stress is on the rise and physical human connectedness at an all-time low.
And Kundala doesn’t come cheap.
As a snuggle aficionado, she makes up to $80 an hour pampering clients with a cuddle sesh, typically held at her premises.
“I work for a professional commercial company, and we don’t do out-calls all too often. We prefer to have clients come to us. Although we do offer the out-call option, we only do that for clients who are physically unable to attend, such as disabled or mentally ill patients. There is always a carer present in those situations, or at least in another room,” explains Kundala.
And before you jump to conclusions, professional cuddling is not a thinly veiled excuse for prostitution. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from it. Cuddle clients are made to sign strict waivers eliminating the possibility of sexual activity before an appointment, and are often asked to sit an interview with their professional cuddler before the session goes ahead.
As Kundala puts it, professional cuddling is a purely platonic, affection-based service designed to provide comfort, relaxation, and awareness of the present moment.
“Clients want the closeness and the intimacy that platonic cuddling brings. They feel that they can surrender into the nurturing without expectations or of any desire for sexual exchange. They may have had some issues relating to connection, warmth and hugs, and want to experience the tenderness that it brings.”
As for the core benefits of cuddling, there are many. Platonic human touch has been shown to release oxytocin, the same feelgood hormone we get a hit of after sex, also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, which influences us to let our guards down and trust whoever we’re with. Oxytocin plays a major role in lowering blood pressure, reducing stress levels, managing social anxiety, pain relief, and protecting against inflammation (which can actually age us faster). As such, lack of physical contact can be a major factor in contributing to clinical depression and health issues. (Come to think of it, it’s a wonder the saying doesn’t go, ‘A cuddle a day keeps the doctor away.’)
But doesn’t it ever feel awkward, or even threatening?
“There has never been an experience where I felt threatened or unsafe. There have only been times when clients may want to be more intimate, but they are always respectful and maintain the boundaries set prior to a session,” Kundala explains.
If you peruse the profiles of professional cuddlers, you’ll notice a trend. All workers come across as warm, caring, and often describe themselves as ‘maternal’. They love providing non-sexual physical affection, and are perfectly comfortable with it. Combined with the strict guidelines set out pre-consultation, and the willingness of clients to comply, it is definitely possible to have one without the other.
Evidently, the demand for platonic physical contact hasn’t dissipated with MySpace and the VHS. Never underestimate the power of a good, warm hug, which is often so hard to come by nowadays. Thank goodness for Kundala and others like her, who are willing to brighten the lives of so many people on such an intimate, base level. Next time you feel like a snuggle, why not Google your nearest professional service? You never know what benefits you may reap…