cuddle parties?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: December 11, 2013 05:53AM


Opening of Madison's Snuggle House delayed by city concerns

MADISON (WKOW) - The opening of a Madison business involving staff members cuddling clients on beds is delayed, as the business operator attempts to allay city concerns.

The Snuggle House at 123 East Main Street had planned to open Tuesday. But the owner's attorney, Timothy Casper says there will be no launch until city officials are "comfortable" with the operation.

City officials say the business has yet to pass building and fire inspections, and needs to do so in order to qualify for an occupancy permit.

Assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy also says no detailed, business plan has been presented.

"The city's primary concern is, we don't want a house of prostitution popping up," Zilavy says.

The Snuggle House assistant manager Emily Noon says clients will sign contracts, and contact between snugglers and clients will have enforced boundaries.

"Intimate, non-sexual touch," Noon says.

Noon says the approach is considered cuddling, or touch, therapy. She says it's success at a business in Rochester, in New York is serving as an informal template for Madison's location, although the two businesses have no affiliation.

Noon says there are also business based on cuddling in Colorado and California.

"There's so many people who don't have a significant other in their lives that just need to be held," Noon says.

Noon says part of The Snuggle House's target clientele is the elderly and hospice patients.

But the Snuggle House's web site and Facebook page feature the current five, staff members, or snugglers, with only one man on staff. Noon says all staff members are in their twenties.

There's no state licensing of practitioners of cuddling therapy, and Noon says staff members have no special training. "We're just college students that know how important it is to have physical touch in our lives."

Zilavy says The Snuggle House's representatives have yet to articulate a plan to address potentially risky situations, such as a snuggler in bed with a pajama-clad client who demands sexual touching.

Noon says the business owners has indicated rooms will be equipped with surveillance cameras and panic buttons.

"Matthew is our creator, is our owner, and he's really taking care of everything for us," Noon says. "We have Matthew, and he's taking care of us."

Matthew, is Matthew Hurtado of Lone Rock, who has a current book that's advertised online as a biography of being a sex-addicted misfit, who becomes a millionaire.

Hurtado is also listed on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's web site of tax delinquents as owing more than $10,000 in state income tax.

Casper says Hurtado disputes the delinquency.

Online, federal bankruptcy court records show Hurtado has filed for bankruptcy twice since 2002, most recently in Missouri in 2009.

Casper says Hurtado is committed to the touch therapy concept and anticipates The Snuggle House will overcome any initial skepticism.

"We're going to be watching the business very closely," Zilavy says. "And monitoring it to make sure what they presented to us, is, in fact, what they're doing."

Other media coverage:


Attorney confirms Wisconsin snuggling business has closed amid brothel, sex assault concerns Todd Richmond / The Associated Press December 9, 2013 08:03 PM - See more at: []


(picture caption)In this Oct. 15, 2013 file photo, Matthew Hurtado talks about The Snuggle House in downtown Madison, Wis. Customers at Madison’s new Snuggle House can snuggle with professional cuddlers for $60 an hour. Supporters say the business helps people relax through non-sexual touch. But city officials suspect the Snuggle House may be a thinly veiled brothel and cuddling will lead to sexual assault. Hurtado’s past is raising red flags; he has filed for bankruptcy twice, written a book about a sex addict meeting a supernatural being and according to city attorneys has worked as a stripper. Hurtado (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold) - See more at: []

MADISON, Wis. - The owner of Madison's new Snuggle House has decided to shut it down just three weeks after it opened, choosing to pack up his pillows and beds under intense scrutiny from city officials who questioned whether the place was a front for a brothel.

The Snuggle House, part of a growing trend of touch therapy establishments and cuddle parties around the United States, was located above a bar about a block from the state capitol. It offered customers an hour of cuddling in a bed with a professional snuggler for $60.

The business announced its closure on Facebook late Friday evening.

Timothy Casper, the owner's attorney, confirmed the closure to The Associated Press on Monday, saying Matthew Hurtado was sick of the city harassing him and negative publicity."He's tired of people taking potshots at him," Casper said. "He doesn't need that."

The place got off to a rough start, even in uber-liberal Madison. The business's original October opening got pushed back to mid-November after city officials raised concerns about whether it was really a front for prostitution and the potential for sexual assaults.

They also questioned why Hurtado, who has filed for bankruptcy twice, had no business plan and no business insurance.

Hurtado developed a policy manual forbidding sex during snuggle sessions, installed security cameras and a panic button in each snuggle room, and promised to perform background checks on clients, assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said.

Meanwhile, police said they planned to run a sting operation at the business, sending in an officer posing as a customer to test the establishment's boundaries, and Zilavy began work on a new ordinance regulating the business.

A number of media outlets, including The Associated Press, ran stories about the city's concerns.Casper said the place had two or three dozen customers in the three weeks it was open, but that Hurtado had had enough."All of this is so slanted and incorrect," Casper said.Police Lt. David McCaw said the agency never received any complaints alleging criminal activity at the Snuggle House. He denied that officers had harassed the business, saying on its face, at least, the business was legal.Zilavy also denied hounding the business. But she said the city had to make sure the Snuggle House didn't devolve into a house of prostitution.Casper said Hurtado didn't open the business to make money.

He got the idea when he was in the hospital suffering from Lyme's disease and people were poking and prodding him."He often thought," Casper said, "it would be nice if someone came in and gave him a hug." © Copyright 2013 - See more at:

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: cuddle parties?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: December 11, 2013 06:03AM

[] Subject
At Cuddle Parties, Strangers Don PJs and Snuggle Up

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2004; Page C01

If Reid Mihalko is right, nearly all of us are desperate for someone, anyone, even someone we've just met, to hold us, rub our feet, stroke our hair. And because this is about healing, this someone might give us a long, soul-baring kiss. Then, our needs fulfilled, we might venture back into the real world, boasting that we'd been to a cuddle party, the grandest social experiment since the 1970s brought us primal screams and group rebirthings.

If Reid Mihalko is wrong, then the scores of people who've been paying him for the privilege of letting strangers spoon with them are really, really weird.

In a "puppy pile," Su Sinclair, left, and organizer Reid Mihalko, bottom, are among those sharing their personal space at a recent cuddle party. (Photos Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____

• News Headlines
• Home & Shopping
• Entertainment Best Bets

But let's take the optimistic view. Let's celebrate the cuddle party, a six-month-old trend that started in Manhattan but feels decidedly West Coast. It hit Washington recently for the first time. It is run by Mihalko and his business partner -- two self-proclaimed (that is, uncredentialed) sex and romance coaches.

Everybody needs their "daily recommended allowance of touch," says Mihalko, standing in a suite in the Hotel George on Capitol Hill last Saturday with the blissed-out expression common among gurus. "We live in a very touch-deprived society."

Mihalko is a strapping blond fellow with big teeth and a superhero jaw. Today he is wearing a Superman T-shirt stretched across his muscled chest and a pair of orange flannel pajama bottoms. He keeps invoking his favorite word, "touch." He says that his mission is to encourage "touch-positive" behavior. He says things like "everybody has concerns regarding touch" and "affectionate touch doesn't need to lead to sex." He also likes the word "confronting," as in, "intimacy can be really confronting for people."

Thirteen people arrive, mostly in twos and fours, at1 p.m. They change into pajamas and put on name tags. World music and jazz soften the mood. Mihalko asks them to gather in a "welcome circle" on the blankets arranged on the floor. He calls himself "your cuddle lifeguard" and introduces the other organizer, Marcia Baczynski, who wears thick-rimmed hipster glasses and pajama bottoms printed with a Froot Loops design.

"This is about people being able to explore touch and affection in a nonsexual way," Mihalko says. "Just because we 'grow up,' whatever that is, I don't think that we all of a sudden stop needing to be held."

He explains the rules: Everybody must ask permission of everyone else before doing anything. Kissing is as far as things can go. Nobody has to cuddle at all if he or she doesn't want to. Nobody can take off his or her clothes.

Mihalko tells people to discuss their "cuddle boundaries" and turns them loose. Within minutes, he is bundled up with three women, his legs intertwined with theirs, his expression beatific. Elsewhere in the room, there is foot stroking and a four-person back-massage chain. An exotic dancer, Jade Patten, 25, massages the hand of a 28-year-old Web site developer named Robbe Richman. There is discussion about society's cuddling hang-ups, and someone makes reference to Plato being "touch-negative."

Coby Mitchell, 34, a "varsity cuddler" from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has come to Washington for the day, is lying on the floor behind Joe Glassman, 35, of Arlington. Mitchell has a leg snuggled between Glassman's legs and an arm is draped across his chest. They've known each other for an hour.

Glassman's fiancee, Su Sinclair, 26, is at the other end of the blanket, cuddling with Mihalko.

There are a few people on the bed, stiff and unmoving. They look around uneasily.

Reid Mihalko often muses on the adult world's loss of innocence. As kids, he says, we made pillow forts in the living room. We threw slumber parties. We held hands and braided each other's hair. Then adolescence happened, and all of that ended.

"Why did we stop touching each other?" he asks with the earnestness of a pageant contestant who has just discovered world hunger.

Page 2 of 3 < Back Next >

Perhaps because of his concern that people will confuse cuddle parties with orgies, Mihalko has adopted a kind of kindergarten teacher language. He calls the people who attend his parties "cuddle monsters" and calls their praise "cuddlemonials." He signs his Cuddle Party newsletters with phrases like "Happy spooning." He says his parties create a "safe space" that allows people to be "energetically open." He has a community of apostles who attend cuddle party after cuddle party, saying it relieves stress and social anxieties.

Cuddle party guests have included a born-again Christian, a sanitation worker, a tattooed general contractor and a man who was either an Orthodox or a Hasidic Jew, Mihalko isn't sure which. Many of the cuddlers are in their twenties and thirties. The oldest cuddler was an octogenarian.

In a "puppy pile," Su Sinclair, left, and organizer Reid Mihalko, bottom, are among those sharing their personal space at a recent cuddle party. (Photos Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____

• News Headlines
• Home & Shopping
• Entertainment Best Bets

It costs $30 to attend a cuddle party; $20 if you take advantage of the Endless Summer Spooning Special and sign up with a friend. There are also cuddle party T-shirts and mugs and teddy bears and thongs. Mihalko and Baczynski say they're planning a book and training courses so other people can throw cuddle parties.

As she collects money by the door, Baczynski says she wants to hold an HIV-positive cuddle party and a senior citizen cuddle party. Perhaps they should hold one for college freshmen, she says, and for people with autism, and for the S&M community and members of Alcoholics Anonymous and for practitioners of polyamory, a modern twist on sexual swinging.

Mihalko says he caps the sexual tension at his parties by holding them during the day, banning alcohol and making sure no one wears lingerie. He says kissing is allowed because it's not necessarily sexual.

"When is kissing making out?" Mihalko asks. "When's kissing just nurturing? . . . I can be hugging you and my hand is partially touching your breast and you can feel completely at home and safe. Or, you can be in an elevator and you can have somebody barely touching you and you can feel unsafe."

Still, there are moments when the cuddle party feels like a warm-up for something steamier. There are a few swingers at Saturday's event, though they don't wish to be publicly identified. Toward the end of the afternoon, a cuddler in a group hug surreptitiously caresses the backside of the woman beside him.

"I get now what my life's been leading up to," Mihalko says in a moment of introspection. "We all want touch in our lives, but nobody's telling each other."

Mihalko's journey toward his destiny has been uneven. At 36, he has held just about every job other than professional cuddler. He grew up in Pelham, a small town in southern New Hampshire. At Brown University, he studied fine arts and did comic book illustration and played football. He studied karate and massage. He moved to New York and played an evil henchman and an evil nurse on soap operas. He became a minister on the Internet through the Universal Life Church. He spent 2 1/2 years taking courses at Landmark Education, an outgrowth of the '70s est movement.

For 14 years he has also been working as a bartender. After talking to many customers about their relationships, he says, he decided to become a sex and romance coach. Although he has no degrees or official training, he has read a lot and "had a lot of conversations with experts."

He has written several romantic comedy screenplays and sitcoms, none of which has sold, and an as-yet unpublished "humorous how-to book for men on oral sex."

He met Baczynski at a party.

"Our first conversation was like, 'Oh, you're a sex educator? I'm a sex educator!' " Baczynski says.

Now 26, Baczynski studied public relations and women's issues at the University of Georgia. According to her online biographies, she has been involved with AIDS groups and women's sexuality forums, and is a "registered Barbara Sher success team leader."

In February, after throwing some massage parties, Mihalko came up with the idea for a cuddle party. He invited Baczynski, who offered to join forces. These days, the business is about breaking even, Mihalko says, and he pays his bills bartending and working as a romance coach.

He is unmarried, and won't say much about his dating situation. "All the relationships in my life are fully expressed," he says.

In a "puppy pile," Su Sinclair, left, and organizer Reid Mihalko, bottom, are among those sharing their personal space at a recent cuddle party. (Photos Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____

• News Headlines
• Home & Shopping
• Entertainment Best Bets

About two hours into the cuddle party, the three men and a woman who've been sitting awkwardly on the bed stand up and move toward the door. They look shell-shocked. "There's a guy's nipple hanging out of his shirt," one of the shell-shocked fellows says, eyeing a husky cuddler in a loose-fitting tank top. He and his friends head out the door as Mihalko strokes a woman's face and talks about something being "so confronting."

It is only over the next few days that the rest of the cuddlers find out that the four who left abruptly were employees of DC-101's "Elliot in the Morning" radio show, sent by shock jock Elliot Segal to infiltrate the party and report back on the air. On Monday, they entertain the listening audience with tales of a foot massage.

The cuddlers also discover that the impostors came with the permission of Mihalko and Baczynski, who kept the whole thing a secret. Suddenly, the cuddle party's "safe space" doesn't seem so safe anymore. Several cuddlers feel betrayed. Mihalko and Baczynski are suspect. Was getting publicity more important than maintaining the sanctity of the cuddle party?

"It sort of felt like they were sort of shamelessly self-promoting themselves," says Patten, the exotic dancer. "They've just basically violated trust."

"This has been an amazing learning experience," Mihalko says in the days after the party, as he sifts though angry e-mails from D.C. cuddlers. He says he wasn't going to let the interlopers come to the party until he had an "amazing phone conversation" with Segal, who convinced him radio coverage would be a positive thing.

"We actually have a lot of people who have signed up for the newsletter, crediting DC-101," he says.

Perhaps these are the inevitable growing pains of a new movement. In any case, several of the D.C. cuddlers are still high on their experience. Ursula Esser, 28, of Arlington, says the cuddling gave her an epiphany. She realized that she has been starved for emotional intimacy. And even Patten says she might cuddle again. She feels like she made several good friends, which is strange, she admits, given that she doesn't know their last names.

But who needs last names when there is the power of touch?

At the end of the cuddle party, Mihalko and Baczynski initiate a "puppy pile." Everyone lies on the floor on top of one another, arms and legs intertwined. Someone's head is on someone else's buttocks, and someone else's head is just about in someone else's armpit.

"Whose foot's that?" someone asks.

The music cycles around to John Lennon's "Imagine." And for the moment we're all dreamers, and the world is living as one.

Options: ReplyQuote

Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
This forum powered by Phorum.