One woman in Oregon is taking cuddling public. Thirty-year-old Samantha Hess, a professional cuddler, is about to open up her first retail shop for her cuddling business, Cuddle Up To Me. Currently, she offers two different sessions for her platonic touch therapy. One is a 30-minute session for $35 and the other is a one-hour session for $60. She also offers prepaid weekly sessions and a flat rate for overnight cuddles. And she says she’s willing to take her cuddling anywhere that best suits the client, from movie theaters to their own home.
The concept isn’t new; there are at least two other women in New York with similar services. But in Oregon, Hess stands as an entrepreneur. With opening her retail store, she also plans to start a national 40-hour certification program.
Hess says she came up with her idea after she read about people offering others free hugs. After receiving hugs, many more people were willing to pay for the touch than those who walked away with their free one. Understanding a business opportunity when she saw one, she decided to pursue it, saying, “…There’s real value in affection.”
To protect herself and the client, before taking on a new client she will screen them and conduct a 45-minute meet and greet to understand what they are looking for in the sessions. She says that if they’re looking for a sex substitute, her services will not meet the clients’ needs. She makes sure patients understand that though touching in this sense is generally associated with romance, that nothing romantic is happening; she wants them to see it as therapy.
But that can be a part of what makes her job difficult. She says most of her clients are men between 20 and 75 years old. Many have suffered in ways that have prevented them from gaining physical contact from others. During some sessions, patients will then pursue personal topics of that can be very deep and draining.
But through all that, Hess says this is her life’s work. She has made it her mission to change the way the world views platonic touch.