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Americans simply aren’t conditioned to think of something as physically intimate as “cuddling” in a non-sexual or non-romantic way.(Heck, it’s in the very definition of the word.) And while Williams’s quest to change their minds on that score is admirable — visionary, even — a geolocation app is self-evidently not the way to do it.The app, which promises to connect consenting adults for safe, fun, nonsexual snuggling, relies on the same geolocation technology as Tinder, Grindr and their ilk.It also relies on the same core philosophy: That, given the opportunity, people will use their phones to make connections with each other — in this case, unsexy, platonic connections that just so happen to involve lots of physical touch. Call it the app equivalent of the popular Internet axiom, Rule 34: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” It doesn’t matter how much Cuddlr insists the app is for free hugs only — in its seven days in the App Store, it’s already turned to distinctly less PG purposes.When he asked to see my picture, I sent him a picture with my boyfriend. Williams points out, in his impassioned raison d’etre on Medium, that mainstream America finds it more acceptable to use an app to meet a stranger for sex than to use an app to find a friendly hug.
It also echoes an argument made by the “cuddle party” gurus of the early aughts: “We live in a very touch-deprived society,” the self-proclaimed sex coach Reid Mihalko once said.
But there’s a reason cuddle parties aren’t in vogue today, just as there’s a reason that every Cuddlr user I corresponded with for this story asked to see my picture.
Or the fact that every Cuddlr user I messaged for this story was in bed, asked for my picture, or both.
When I finally found a suitable cuddle this morning — young guy, normal picture, just a couple neighborhoods away — we exchanged a series of texts negotiating (what I thought would be) a friendly hug. “I’m into the idea of spontaneous, no-strings-attached sex,” he texted back. American society has a complicated, and kind of bizarre, relationship with interpersonal touch: It’s expected between sexual partners and family members, but takes on a distinctly creepy connotation between just about anyone else.
Consider the number of requests sent in the witching hours after 11 p.m.Or the fact that, despite much trying, the Daily Dot’s EJ Dickson could not find a single other lady to hug earlier this week.