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Getting all cuddly

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You’ve probably heard of Tinder and Gindr, but have you heard of Cuddlr? It’s a new app for people who just want to cuddle. At first I thought it must be a joke. Why would anyone want to hook up with a stranger just to cuddle? Don’t most people think of cuddling as a prelude to sex anyway?

I tracked down Cuddlr’s creator, Charlie Williams, to find out if it’s for real. “Lots of people have had a similar reaction to yours,” he says. “It’s not something we do and not something we talk about.” But apparently it’s something people want. Williams says they’ve had 70 000 downloads since the app launched on September 18. Someone in New Zealand has already logged 55 cuddles.

The app is simple. When you log in, it shows you first names and pictures of people within a 30 minute walking distance of you that are open for cuddling. You can ask them for a cuddle or they can ask you. When you get a request, you have an hour to respond. Williams says it’s not meant for planning dates and developing relationships, it’s for finding someone close to you that’s available for a nice hug when you want one. “I don’t think this app is just for people who aren’t getting hugs, everybody gives different cuddles and it can be nice to explore that.”

Williams says it’s about more than hugs. “Communication is so important, but we’re not always very good at it. So having something like cuddling, where you have to talk about it because it’s not even well-defined— what is a cuddle exactly? That will get people better at communicating, so that in their relationships or work or whatever else they can be better at knowing what they need, and vocalizing that to other people.”

After talking to Williams and watching the Cuddlr video, the cynic in me softened. Physical touch is a basic human need and yet our culture is conflicted about it. Often we are scared to hug or touch others for fear of crossing boundaries or having that touch interpreted as sexual. That means that a lot of us don’t get to give and receive simple physical affection as much as we might want or need. Cuddlr is a way to do that in a simple, structured and, hopefully, safe way. The first step of consent is already built in with sending and accepting a request and, as Williams says, the cuddlers will need to talk about what kind of cuddle they want.

Non-sexual touch can be as intimate, sometimes even more so, than sex. Being that vulnerable and open with someone you don’t know, for perhaps a very short time, could be amazing. It’s a beautiful thought that strangers could meet to simply give each other that and nothing else.

I downloaded Cuddlr just to see how it worked. I got two cuddle requests within a few hours. When I first heard about this app, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would do such a thing, but now I think maybe I just might accept. V

Brenda Kerber is a sexual health educator who has worked with local not-for-profits since 1995. She is the owner of the Edmonton-based, sex-positive adult toy boutique the Traveling Tickle Trunk.

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