Need a hug? A fledgling Rochester, New York venture could be just what your snuggle-deprived body craves. Jacqueline Samuels started The Snuggery about a month ago when she realized she could transform her love of touch and years of practice into a cottage industry. Literally --she performs "private snuggling sessions" in a residential cabin, for sixty dollars an hour.
Samuels journey from selling hugs on the street with her sister for fun, to launching what she hopes becomes a feasible business model, may sound like the world's oldest profession, but she insists there is nothing sexual about it. That said, Samuels clientele is primarily men.
Strictly in terms of supply and demand, one would think that women might be more in need of snuggling than men. Isn't that the stereotype, some woman complaining that her man doesn't like to cuddle? Samuels agrees, but says women aren't seeking her out.
"I think women have more of a problem paying for it. It's a blow to the ego."
Samuels' average customer is a professional middle-aged male because men, she says, are just more comfortable paying women for services. We know, we know. However, Samuels she is very clear before cuddling sessions that the experience is strictly non-sexual.
Still, this is body-to-body contact. There are certain biological tendencies. The FAQs on Samuels' website directly address the question of sexual urges:
"Don't worry, it happens! Although sexual activity is not permitted, arousal is perfectly normal and should not make anyone feel uncomfortable."
Samuels does not inquire whether her clients are married or single.
"I don't think a whole lot about marriage," she said. "Dishonesty is always bad, but if someone's needs aren't being met that's also detrimental."
Could this type of paid affection actually benefit committed couples? Maybe, but Samuels is not interested in working with couples or groups. And she won't be hosting any cuddle parties. (Yes, that's a thing.)
Samuels doesn't just like to snuggle, she believes in its restorative effects. Why not become a massage therapist?
"I've never liked giving a massage. It's boring. And it's one-sided. Cuddling is interactive. There is talking and movement."
(See sexual arousal above.)
You might wonder what type of person needs to present a credit card for a hug. Samuels says her clients are not incapable of cultivating real relationships. "Sometimes that relationship is stressed, or they don't have a relationship at the moment."
Samuels, who holds a bachelor's degree in Brain and Cognitive Science, hopes to expand her business. Though she's not sure Rochester is large or liberal enough to support a full scale cuddle empire, she hopes to someday add staff and provide complimentary outreach services to underprivileged people who just need a hug. In the meantime, while pursuing a Masters in Social Work, she will supplement her income cuddling.
Unlike my massage therapist, Samuels has no plans to offer bulk pricing.
With or without a frequent snuggler punchcard, would you pay for a hug?