Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cuddle Party Part Two: I Heart Practicing My “No.”

Before I go back into the Cuddle Party, I just wanted to celebrate the rules a little bit in a different way. As I’ve mentioned, I am training to be an elementary school teacher, and one of the things I’ve worried about the most is the amount that kids always want to be touching—it’s cute and endearing, but it can add up to being too much for me. I’ve given a lot of thought to ways in which I could carve out some space for myself in the classroom, so a few weeks ago, I tried a little experiment—I told my students to ask for hugs. We even practiced it. I said “When you’d like a hug, please say “Would you like a hug?” to me. I might say no, and that doesn’t mean you’re bad or I don’t like you, it just means that I’m not feeling huggy.” I tried this with first graders, and they took to it right away. This is a HUGE load off my mind—if I can create a friendly, open classroom AND have space for myself, it will be so awesome.

Anyway, back to the Cuddle Party. When it was almost time for the welcome circle, I went upstairs to get into my PJs, and ran into Cuddle Host Two, whom I hadn’t met before. She stopped for a mircrosecond to ask if she could hug me, and I said sure. She’s a fit, long-haired hippie-ish woman about my age, maybe a little younger. She had such a smile on her face and a glow in her cheeks-she looked like a Tantric pin-up girl, all bright eyes and flowy clothes. She complimented my PJs.

Before the welcome circle, we heard the Lady of the House, a beautiful, slight-but-strong African American woman (and owner of all the bi-friendly books, maybe) playing the harmonium and singing a song whose melody was “Om Shanti.” We all sang along. I Googled “Om Shanti”  and found out that it means “peace,” and that Shanti repeated three times represents the “threefold peace in body, speech and mind.” (

As I said in the last post, almost everyone had been in Tantric workshops all day. You could tell who was new by who wasn’t sensitive about space—I noticed that a couple of the new guys took up more space than others did, and felt free to touch without permission. It was a good opportunity to practice not seeing them as a threat, and being able to make space for myself.

The first exercise we were to do in the welcome circle was to practice our “no.” A few weeks go, in Tantric poetry class (I really like sentences that start that way) we were practicing our yesses and nos and my yesses sounded great, loud and full and a little defiant, but my nos rang a little false and hollow. The going wisdom is that your yes can’t mean anything until you have your no down, so I was glad to get a chance to practice.

“Turn to your left and ask that person if you can kiss him or her. The gender doesn’t matter. That person’s job is to say “no.” Practice this three times.”

The guy next to me was adorable enough; he looked like he had been sent from central casting. In fact, he was a massage therapist and training to host cuddle parties. He was young, sleekly muscled, and bright-eyed, with a receding blond halo of close-cropped hair. Too virtuous and clean-cut for me, so when he asked, “May I kiss you?” it was easy to say “No.” Easy to say it, but not so easy not to fill the awkward space after it with nervous quipping. We did a great job with that exercise and he accepted a high-five. There was lots more no-saying practice, with different partners offering any number of things—I had a real hard time saying no when the Lady of the House said:

“May I spank you with that copy of the Divine Androgyne?”

I really hoped that one would come back around after no-practice was over.

That offer aside, it should be apparent at this point that Cuddle Parties are not sexy, at least this one wasn’t. They are a way to make connections, yes, even in a divine way sometimes, but they are more of a way to create and practice your boundaries. Anything that happens should not just be a “yes,” but a “hell yes!”—some of us who grew up abused don’t know how to make boundaries, we feel guilty making space for ourselves. That’s one of the things I enjoy about BDSM play parties—both within scenes and during downtime, I can feel about twelve feet of caution-tape safe space around me, and it’s up to me to decide who comes inside it—that’s very powerful. Like play parties, Cuddle Parties are a wonderful way to practice feeling safe around bodies in general.

Next: A Very Chaste Threesome

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