Crazy as it seems at first blush, those whose “real life” world consists of social media and, to the extent they come within touching distance of other human bodies, stand in a minefield of problematic words and actions such that the only safe course of conduct is an apology, could probably use a little physical contact.
They could, of course, go to a family member when they need a hug, but structural problems often get in the way. They live far away. They have “issues” with family members, real or imagined. It’s somehow different, even if it’s free. Enter “professional cuddlers.”
By “professional,” they mean you have to pay for it. It’s not professional in any meaningful sense of the word, such as training, testing, licensure and code of ethics. Or, for that matter, professional malpractice insurance. That proved to be a problem for a cuddling client of Susanne Woodward.
“Specifically in her complaint, complainant says, ‘I told her it has always been my dream to be held naked by a woman.’ Police reached the same conclusion,” he added.
To each her own, right? So the unnamed woman sought the services of Woodward, who is also a licensed massage therapist and has a few letters after her name, none apparently related to science.
“Speaking biochemically, we need physical touch in our life,” said Woodward.
The client availed herself of Woodward naked services, but things did not go as smoothly as hoped.
According to the Arizona Republic, the complaint involved the client having Woodward’s nipple in her mouth for five minutes.
It’s one thing to complain that a nipple inadvertently (or otherwise) founds its way toward a mouth. For it to get in a mouth, however, seems to require a choice on the mouth side of the interaction. But then comes the kicker. “for five minutes.” Now, it’s wrong to victim-blame, as has been made abundantly clear of late, but it still needs to be said. If a person does not want a nipple in her mouth, and (being as generous about it as possible) recognizes after the initial error of welcoming it just to find out, one can simply, well, set it free.
If it was there for five minutes, then it’s not the nipple’s fault, and this is just another ordinary case of nipple blaming. Or perhaps the mouth suffered from tonic immobility, or it seemed worth a try at the time but, in retrospect, consent was less than enthusiastic.
But “professional cuddling” is unregulated, because what would you regulate? Woodward, however, isn’t just a cuddler and accused nipple batterer, but a licensed massage therapist, and while the nipple-blaming client couldn’t go after her cuddler license, her massage license seemed fair game. So she filed a “formal complaint with the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy, accusing Woodward . . . of sexual misconduct.”
“Nothing illegal occurred,” said Flynn Carey, Woodward’s attorney, when speaking before the board in late July.
Woodward and Carey explained their side before the board, asking that no action be taken regarding her massage license.
“[The client] went to see Dr. Woodward as a cuddle therapist…not as a massage therapist,” said Carey.
Unlike the efforts of the ABA, the regulatory body for massage therapists in Arizona demonstrated the good sense to stay within their lane and consider only conduct related to Woodward’s retention as a license massage therapist, which apparently did not include naked cuddling.
“If the board finds that this falls within their scope, you are de facto expanding your power to cuddle therapy. So you would be the massage therapy and the cuddle therapy board,” argued Carey.
Some of the board members agreed.
“We have no jurisdiction over this,” said one board member. “We are not in a cuddling business; we do not regulate that.”
While the argument and conclusion is sound, it’s essentially backwards. The question isn’t whether the massage therapy licensing board was to assume jurisdiction over cuddling, but whether a licensed massage therapist who cuddled, and was accused of sexual misconduct in the course of doing so, had committed a violation.
The point isn’t that the massage therapy board would assume jurisdiction over random “professional cuddlers,” but whether it would assume jurisdiction over its own licensed massage therapist who cuddled.
So if a line is crossed during the intimate business transaction, there is very little recourse for the victim, whether that’s the client or the cuddler.
As new therapeutic occupations arise out of thin air and emotional voids, it’s hard to tell who, if anyone, is a victim. Then again, given the inclination toward regulating all human interaction for the good of the children, this case could well be the precursor for formalizing a regulatory regime for “professional cuddlers,” which would include education, licensing, rules and, of course, malpractice insurance.
Will there be battles over the unlawful practice of cuddling? Is there a difference between, say, giving a hug and cuddling. Will the regulatory board conclude that nipple insertion for more than four and a half minutes is a violation of the naked cuddlers’ code of conduct? And how criminal sanctions will be imposed to assure compliance?
If cuddling becomes a crime, will the isolated be forced to seek their cuddles in dark alleys and dirty back rooms? And when will cyber-cuddling become a thing, because it’s almost certain there will be an app for that? Surely there will be empirical studies to address the many facets of cuddling uncertainty required for the inchoate cuddling Ph.D.