- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

LINDON, Utah (AP) - About two dozen pajama-clad strangers and friends gather on what looks like a giant bed in a dimly-lit room in Lindon, Utah.

After asking politely, they begin to massage, caress and spoon each other_even if they’ve just met.

The gathering in July was one of a number of nonsexual “cuddle parties” catching on in Utah, attracting people who crave human touch without engaging romantically with others.

Three chapters of a national cuddle party organization meet regularly in Utah, where relative strangers_and a few old friends_meet up for a four-hour cuddle party. They say holding hands, getting foot massages or running fingers through someone’s hair helps spread good vibes and give people nonsexual human connections.

Many participants told The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/1L6Brbs) that they began attending cuddle parties after a breakup or a move to a new city. Some say they go out of general loneliness.



Pamela Bradford said as a divorced, empty-nester parent a few years ago, she would go months without human touch.

“I hadn’t touched another single human being except in the course of an accident, and you don’t want to get to where you start to arrange accidents,” she said.

After researching touch therapies, Bradford began to help organize cuddle parties in Utah.

Rick Priddis, the host of the July party in Lindon, said he got involved after feeling a similar craving for touch.

“My dad, I don’t remember him ever hugging me,” Priddis said. “When I went off to college, he gave me a nice, firm handshake. … I just had this desire to let down some of the walls that I felt.”

Cuddle party rules attempt to keep the events comfortable and positive.

Participants must keep their clothes on and ask permission before starting to cuddle or touch. Attendees can opt-out of the touching entirely or change their mind mid-cuddle.

But once everyone gives their consent, people throughout the room are exchanging back rubs, massaging scalps and stroking arms.

“It helps people to feel good and experience that kindness,” Priddis said.

Tiffany Field, the founder of the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute, said her studies have found that nonsexual touching can reduce stress and blood pressure, but she has not researched cuddling between strangers.

According to Field, for someone to benefit from touch therapy, they need to experience it regularly.

Organizers of Utah’s cuddle parties say that’s why they hold meetings at least twice a month.

They said that while the parties don’t feel sexual, a few romantic relationships have developed from the gatherings.

Bryant and Diane Hansen, who met at a cuddle party last summer, married in June.

“I was the first person to cuddle her at her first party,” Bryant Hansen said. “But it wasn’t cuddling that brought us together. That’s just a nice bonus.”

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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