Ricki used to work with kids who have Autism, but after she got injured a year and a half ago she decided to take a break to focus on getting well. She found a houseboy (as I covered in the last post), dialed back her work schedule, and discovered another way to make money: cuddling. She knew a friend who’d worked at a San Francisco cuddling salon and decided to give it a try.
She charges $80 hourly and makes $65-$70 after giving a cut to the website where she lists her services.
“It’s my best form of money making at the moment — it’s four times what I normally get paid hourly,” she told me.
When Ricki told me about professional cuddling, it was sort of like when she told me about having a houseboy. It sounded a little too good to be true. Do people really just keep their clothes on?
She insisted they do.
“They come in and lay on my bed and we just cuddle. Sometimes we have music on sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t. It’s whatever they want.
Sometimes I have to redirect hands and sometimes you can tell that there’s a sexual tension. In that case, I try to kind of shift it in another direction.”
I’m not clear whether cuddling falls under the umbrella of sex work. For me, it feels more like compassion work. It reminded me of the work that Amma, known as the hugging goddess, does. Ricki agreed.
“It involves holding a lot of space for someone else and providing a safe and certain type of intimacy,” Ricki said. “It has taken me a while to learn how to set boundaries and do self care, because I am a very empathetic person and I can absorb other people’s stuff. When they’re stressed, for example, I can take on that stress.”
I think this is a universal struggle for all empathic people. Except Ricki literally brings these clients into her bedroom.
Recently, she’s been able to figure out ways to remain empathic while setting boundaries that keep her sheltered from absorbing other people’s energies so much.
“These days I’m present (during the session) but then they leave and I’m done. I have to stop thinking about them, or whatever energy they put in or whatever they talked about — I’m done. At that point, I’ve provided my service and hopefully it’s provided some amount of relief or comfort to them.”
“I try not to overbook myself. I drink a lot of hot tea now and take time alone.
The other thing is that all of this is happening in my bedroom and in my home and in my space. So I change my sheets a lot — not because they’re dirty. But removing them and cleaning them and bringing them back feels good.”
I checked pro cuddling out online.
One of the first links I found was on the website The Snuggle Buddies, one of the largest and most successful sites.
Some observations. 90% of the cuddleworkers (like what I did there?) on the site were women. Not that surprising, but worth a mention. Also, women posted photos with their bios. I guess, yeah, this might be obvious, you want to see who you’re signing up to cuddle. But also, if it’s non-sexual touch, how much should looks matter? The photos, granted, were not overtly sexual. They looked more like tame Facebook profile photos.
Interested? The website is hiring.
If you want to read more about the cuddling industry, I like this article from Pricenomics. And if that wasn’t enough for you, this silly article tells you “what your cuddling style says about you.” Kind of bullshit. And very fun.
Thanks, Ricki, keep on cuddlin’.