Q: I am a cuddle professional, also known as a cuddlist. The field was born out of the need for affection in a society that is suffering from chronic social isolation, touch deprivation and interpreting all touch as sexual. We acknowledge the need for food, water and rest, but affection is as important.
The problem is that many people are not familiar with this profession and I receive calls for appointments from people who don't know it's a serious profession that has nothing to do with sex, sexuality and sensuality. That is not allowed in the profession and there are many rules, but I seem to have to continually educate people. I use my apartment as my office because it can be expensive to rent a place for professional use. How do I convince people that cuddlists are serious professionals who have to go through training and testing? I'd like people to understand that lack of affection is a serious need and not something to be taken lightly.
A: It sounds like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield's lament, "I don't get no respect." But seriously, when a new soft-skill field is developed, the creators of such fields must offer constant information to the public, making them aware of the profession's purpose and goals. You are correct that the lack of affection can be the precursor to many emotional and physical illnesses. According to Kory Floyd, Ph.D., Psychology Today, more Americans live alone than ever before. Loneliness among American adults has increased 16 percent in the last 10 years, 3 out of 4 adults agree with the statement that "Americans suffer from skin hunger." Also, the lack of affection can result in a person feeling less happy, more lonely, more likely to experience depression and stress and in general, are in worse health than happy people.
Cuddlist.com rules for both the practitioner and the client are:
--Client and Cuddle Professional both verify that they are at least the legal age of consent in their location.
--Client and Cuddle Professional both agree to be free from any mind-altering substances during the sessions and are thereby fully able to give consent.
--Client agrees to fully disclose any diagnoses or conditions that may affect their cuddling session to the Cuddle Professional.
--Client and Cuddle Professional both agree to practice consent and attention to personal boundaries at all times.
--Client and Cuddle Professional will communicate to find what is mutually comfortable throughout each cuddling session. This applies to all communication prior to and after sessions, as well.
--This is a non-sexual service. Client and Cuddle Professional both agree to not pursue or encourage sexual arousal. Also: *Minimum clothing of tank top and shorts to mid-thigh for both client and Cuddle Professional at all times. *No hand to genital or breast contact. *No intentional genital stimulation of any kind. *No exchanging of saliva in any way.
--Client and Cuddle Professional both agree to respectful personal hygiene. Client agrees to let Cuddlist.com know if any Cuddle Professional does not have acceptable personal hygiene.
--Client confidentiality is to be respected at all times.
--Either client or Cuddle Professional may end the session at any time.
When any professionals meet with clients in home offices, those office spaces should be completely separate from one's living quarters to uphold the separation of business and personal life. You are opening yourself to potential liability and dangerous situations because no matter how careful you are in screening, you are cannot control another's behavior. When screening potential clients by phone, email them a copy of the rules, as it is not enough to ask them to read the requirements on the Website. Distributing the rules in advance shows clients you mean business and will not tolerate inappropriate actions.
The most practical path is to seek other independent practitioners, whether cuddlists, therapists or any business owner whose work requires one-on-one private contact with clients to share an office space than to invite strangers into your home, even if your office area is not close to your living areas. You may not make as much by having to pay rent, but sharing an office location shows the public you are a serious practitioner.
Lindsey Novak's weekly column, "At Work," can be found at creators.com.