The Professional Cuddle Buddy: Would You Pay to Snuggle?


A pro cuddling “shop” has opened in Portland, Oregon. Yes, it’s a place where you can have a cuddle buddy, professional cuddler Samantha Hess, for a fee.

We all love a good cuddle buddy, but a cuddling shop brings both quaint and creepy implications.

On the one hand, yes, we could all use a good cuddle. Hess says she’s getting 10,000 cuddle buddy email requests a week, an indicator of our overwhelming need for connection. For a $60 hour-long cuddle, customers get hair strokes, handholding and their choice of cuddle positions. It’s not sexual—at least not for Hess—who says the idea came to her “during a low point in her life,” the Independent reports.

“I was at a place where I thought paying someone to hug me and not have ulterior motives sounded like a great idea,” she added. “I decided why can’t this be a thing that we can easily and safely reach for?”

Customers have said a cuddle session with Hess has given them “a new outlook on life.” That’s a pretty big statement for a cuddle.

But perhaps Hess’s success is revealing something deeper about our cultural loneliness.

We spend more time than ever before “connecting” with each other online, until our necks are strained from scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds on our phones. We text constantly, but yet we’re lonely—sometimes even if we’re in relationships. It’s almost as if knowing there are so many people we’re connected to but not connecting with creates a deeper sense of loneliness.

Salon explores the popular internet thread “i am lonely will anyone speak to me” that went so viral it ranked at the top of Google’s search for “I am lonely” and has its own Wikipedia page. It has become “a decade-long anthem to the phenomenon of loneliness in the Internet age,” reports Salon. “[It’s] a poignant record of a certain type of Catch-22 loneliness: the isolation of people who turn to the Internet to make them feel less alone.”

People are lonely, and as more jobs become home-based, it’s likely more people will experience these confounding feelings of being hyper-connected, yet totally isolated.

Whether or not we should pay for nonsexual intimacy delivers a whole new set of questions about what risks and benefits there are. Oxytocin, the chemical associated with love, is released through physical contact—a deep hug will do it. Does this rush of chemicals have the potential to put professional huggers at risk of unwanted sexual advances or threats? It’s certainly likely to happen.

And just like paying for sex doesn’t deliver much more than the mechanics, could paying for cuddles bring about even more loneliness and despair after the session ends? What does going home to an empty apartment do to an oxytocin rush?

Or, if we made cuddling purchases as common as buying a cup of coffee, could we bust through our loneliness epidemic and help usher in a kinder, more compassionate culture where we solve our problems by getting into our pajamas and giving strangers hugs? If we take away the perception that we’re all “strangers”, hugging and cuddling with anyone could have health implications beyond our imagination.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.