Category: cuddling current events


This week, reports that the Tennessee State Senate had voted to ban handholding in schools swept the internet, provoking disbelief and outrage amongst readers. The disbelief was warranted, to some degree—early comments were overblown, making it seem as though the body had moved to block the activity itself. While this isn’t true, the reality is equally depressing and significant. In this post, we’ll clarify the situation, and offer insight on the public response.

The legislation in question is Tennessee Senate Bill 3310, which renders it legally actionable for teachers to demonstrate what it calls “gateway sexual activities” to students during (the state’s abstinence-only) sex education, or recommend them as alternatives to sexual intercourse. The bill, then, was presumably intended to prevent teachers from suggesting the use of oral sex or mutual masturbation to replace sex. But it defined gateway sexual activities very broadly and vaguely, such that, depending upon interpretation, they could refer to almost any non-sexual social contact.

The huge response to the bill seems to have followed an article on local news website wmctv.com, titled “Bill would define holding hands, kissing as ‘gateway sexual activity’”, an overstatement of the actual situation. Daily Kos picked up on the story with a similar title, “Tennessee senate warns ‘hand-holding is a gateway sexual activity’”, after which a number of other news outlets followed suit in similar or even more misleading terms. It was generally represented as a targeted attack on handholding itself.

While this isn’t true, it is within the realm of legal possibility, and the bill does present a couple of interesting sexual and physical contact issues. First, as Planned Parenthood has pointed out, even when conservatively interpreted, the bill seems ill-advised. The state’s sexual education program is already based upon strict abstinence policies, but Tennessee has a higher than average rate of sexually active middle school and high school students. Trying to go further in this direction seems unlikely to improve matters. But, that’s not within our area of specialization.

Second, the overwhelmingly angry response to the perceived threat to handholding underscores just how strongly people feel about non-sexual social contact. A commenter on ThinkProgress’ coverage wrote, “So if I help a child cross the street — and hold the child’s hand — that makes me a potential pedophile? Maybe Tennessee is simply proving that we are not all evolving. Some are actively devolving — back to the slime from whence they come.” A post from a blogger going by Sherrie Questioning All is on the first page of Google returns for “tennessee handholding” and consists of a similarly-inspired rant, arguing for her beliefs in non-sexual social contact.

The reaction to this vote demonstrates, more than anything else, that people take our social contact very seriously. We have strongly negative feelings about the suggestion that touch need have sexual overtones or connotations. People already know that touch is an important part of all relationships, romantic or no—but sometimes society’s rules and perceptions are slow to catch up. (As a sidenote, I would argue that the reaction demonstrates our present lack of faith in government to a nearly equal degree: we expected so little of it that a bill banning handholding seemed entirely plausible. That realization is a sad one, but absent people’s strong emotional reaction to an anti-handholding agenda, the response would likely have been considerably weaker.)

In any event, we feel the response has offered strong evidence of the importance of our mission to advocate for an increase in polite, responsible social touch. And we’ll use it as motivation for taking our actions to the next level. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, please let us know in the comments below!

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My good friend alerted me to this awesome and short article from The Atlantic and I wanted to pass it along to anyone who likes Cuddle Labs! So here’s the link:

A Whiff of Extroversion: Sniffing Oxytocin Could Make Us Outgoing

Soon to come: Want to show your Cuddle Pride? While you wait for Cuddle Labs itself to start making merchandise, we will aggregate some sites that already make cuddle-related products. For starters, check out this oxytocin necklace from made with molecules.

Nick Frost, Cuddle Champion (cont’d)

We don’t want to go overboard on the Nick Frost posts, or anything… but his hugging demonstration on Conan last night sums up our hug philosophy pretty much perfectly. He gets all the right pillow parts involved. The hug talk starts at around 3:25 in the video below.

Edit: Unfortunately, Conan‘s player seems to start clips immediately upon loading no matter what, so we’ll just link to the video.

Last one… we promise. (We think.)

Exciting Times at Cuddle Labs

An unloadably dangerous cuddling position.

Cuddle Labs does the hard research, so you don't have to.

Cuddle Labs is hard at work, pushing the boundaries of cuddling research and reformulating our web design.  We’ve been lax in sharing the knowledge of late, and we apologize for that. But we have continued to hungrily accumulate it, so stay tuned as regular updates resume this week! Things will only get cuddlier from here on out.

For now, stay cuddly, and stay warm.

Welcome, Nick Frost followers!

Nick Frost putting Simon Pegg into a Headlock

Nick giving a... perhaps... overenthusiastic hug? to friend Simon Pegg.

Amazing actor Nick Frost gave us a shoutout on Twitter today–and it’s getting us more traffic than we’ve ever had before. We’re so grateful! Thanks, Nick! You are owed a great many cuddles. Everyone go see The Adventures of Tin Tin!

Ahem, sorry… we’re quite excited. To all our new visitors, welcome. If you’d like to catch up on the cuddle science we’ve shared so far, please check out some of our best posts:

And if you’re wondering exactly what in the world you’ve arrived at, please visit our first post. It will explain everything.

…It will explain as much as can be explained.

The flood of research on oxytocin doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon! (And we couldn’t be happier about it.) Just yesterday, CNN reported on a new study from Oregon State University, which seemed to indicate that empathy and social skills are strongly influenced by variations in an oxytocin receptor gene.

In the study, OSU scientists swabbed saliva from one partner in each of 23 couples they’d recruited, in order to test for their variant of the gene. They then videotaped them listening as their partner described a difficult time in their lives. Next, the scientists played the videos, muted, for another group of 116 people. They asked this group to rate the recorded partners on kindness, caring, and trustworthiness based solely on body language.

The gene in question can manifest in any of “GG,” “GA,” or “AA” variants. Six out of the 10 partners judged “most prosocial” were found to possess the “GG” genotype for the receptor gene; 9 of the 10 “least trustworthy” partners were found to possess at least one “A” variant. Continue reading

Oxytocin: More Good News

We’ve been waiting for this one to become available for a long time. Ladies and gentlemen, a talk by neuroeconomist and oxytocin scholar Paul Zak has gone online at TED.com. In it, he details his personal research on the “cuddle hormone,” suggesting that its effects may be even greater than previously imagined. Zak argues that oxytocin is the “moral molecule,” responsible for human goodness—and he brings the science to back it up.

All Cuddle Labs fans should watch this video. Zak’s research on oxytocin has uncovered yet more reasons for the work that we do. Cuddling deserves consideration! This talk explains why.

Cuddle Away the Cold!

Penguins covered in snow

It's cold.

The winter is bearing down upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. We can think of no better reminder of this fact than that it’s snowing today in New York… and it’s not even Halloween yet.

It’s only going to get colder, but there’s no sense in lying down and taking it. Lie down and fight it! Cuddling’s a great (, free!, fun!) way to keep warm while the mercury falls, which makes this the perfect time to start brushing up on your snuggling skills. If you’re staying inside today (Halloween weekend be damned), find somebody to stay in with you—even if it means you have to coax them into going outside first. You’ll benefit from increased warmth as well as increased oxytocin levels.

“Cuddle more” is the most important suggestion that we give vis-à-vis cuddling, and that message is certainly at the core of this post. But, if you need some extra help (maybe some advice on technique) check out our most important posts so far! You’ll be on the way to a cuddling black belt in no time.

And either way, stay warm, and stay cuddle-hungry.

Children Riding a Sled in the Snow, Cuddled Together

We hope this image inspires you to achieve cuddling excellence.

Today’s post was scheduled to discuss the physiological benefits of the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin—our raison d’être. But when a friend linked us the call for Occupy Portland’s “MARCH to Occupy Pearl District,” scheduled for tomorrow, we realized that transmitting another idea of ours might be more useful.

Occupy Portland Rally Poster

100% of people should cuddle, but we'd settle for 99%.

You see, he quoted one part of the post specifically:

Camp Meeting starts at 4:00 PM, with a Potluck at 7:00 PM, and a CUDDLE PARTY at 10:00 PM. We plan on staying the entire night. {Caps ours.}

Including a cuddle party in this event is a great idea precisely because of oxytocin. Released by social touch, the hormone will help to bond the protesters together, as well as increase their contentment and reduce any anxiety associated with their actions. Considering that the protesters are already convinced of this, however, we felt that it would be more useful to discuss the physical act of cuddling en masse—and the pitfalls and benefits associated with it.

Continue reading

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