Half a dozen men gather in Plymouth Meeting twice a month to help each other work out through their past traumas, and they do it through a very unconventional way: through cuddling.
Even though it may seem odd to some, members of the Men’s Therapeutic Cuddle Group say that the practice has helped them cope with everything from childhood traumas to the loss of family members.
The group exists for two years already, and it draws men from different backgrounds. For example, a 37-year-old Mormon who works at an airport, a 62-year-old retired man, and a 57-year-old married father of three. There is also a range of different sexual orientations as well.
At a time when toxic masculinity is becoming more widely known as an issue, this group aims to give new ways for men to express themselves. Scott Turner, a 46-year-old member and co-founder of the group said that we’re taught that to be an emotional stoic is the mark of manhood, and if you show an emotional weakness or vulnerability, it’s seen as a failure to the title of a man.
However, if we want to expect men to be emotionally sensitive to the needs of others, they first need to be able to build an emotional vocabulary.
Men need to learn that platonic affection exists, and that physical touch extends beyond intercourse.
The group charges no fees, and members are not required to undergo training.
The group held a demonstration for The Inquirer, and everyone agreed not to engage in intimate touch at the beginning of the session and to ask for consent before each action. Then, they gathered in a huddle, and breathed meditatively together.
The cuddling started when the group was preparing to do “the motorcycle hold”, in which one man sits with his back against another man’s chest, like if they were riding on a motorcycle.
Some stroked the other person’s beard, while others massaged their partner’s shoulders. The room fell into silence, and they closed their eyes. They switched to a new partner after 15 minutes.
Then they cuddled as one large group in a “puppy pile”, in which they law with their hands in each other’s laps and chat.
At the end of the session, the group huddled once more, and each member said the phrase “As a man among men, I feel…”
One said “grateful to be with all of you”.
Another said “worthy of connection”.
A third one said, “loved, accepted, and included.”