Cuddle my world

Maybe the first night of your freshman year was awkward. At least you didn't ask a stranger if you could caress his shoulder. But, according to REiD Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, founders of Cuddle Party, that's your loss.

"We need more touch in our lives. Period," Mihalko says. Since 2004, his answer to this problem has come in the form of Cuddle Party, a company devoted to throwing self-described "affectionate play events for adults."

This February, the University of Southern California invited them to join its Gender and Sexuality week. In Cuddle Party's campus debut, 20 students in pajamas transformed a regular dorm common room into the site of nuzzling, spooning, backrubs and the signature Cuddle Party puppy pile finale.

The parties are facilitated by certified Cuddle Lifeguards who ensure consensual cuddling. Questions like, "Can I hold you now?" and, "May I touch you here?" are encouraged, and their website states clearly that erections should be embraced.
But the founders insist that their events are less hot and steamy, and more warm and fuzzy. Mihalko views the sessions as communication workshops "about how you make yourself feel at peace."

But USC freshman Felicia Hunter, curious at first, soon found herself "very uncomfortable." While cuddling takes place on a mat, Hunter stuck to the snack table to avoid what she termed "basically, one huge, PG-13 orgy."

Scott "Kip" Payne, a junior who covered the event for the USC Trojan, suspects "college students have a tendency to believe that they should experiment with whatever they can get their hands on."

Thanks to Cuddle Parties, that might be one another.