In many places, hugging a stranger might get you punched at best, arrested at worst. In Los Angeles it’s being actively encouraged.
It’s important to point out, this is not everywhere in the city. Normal rules regarding personal space still apply.
But at the Cuddle Sanctuary, they can’t get enough hugs.
CGTN’s Phil Lavelle has more.
Every week, sometimes twice, a group of strangers gathers in a small yoga studio called, appropriately enough, ‘The Love Dome’ in the Venice neighborhood. The intention: To spoon, stroke, hold and hug complete strangers and make them feel wanted.
Think it sounds weird? It’s totally not, Fei Wyatt, the experience’s Chief People Officer said.
“In the moment that you are hugging another person, you no longer feel like strangers. In fact, you may feel closer to them than all the other people you know in your life who you never touch,” Wyatt said.
Visitors sit on mats and go through some preliminaries. They’re asked to introduce themselves, tell the others what gender they wish to be referred to as and they’re given some basic house rules: Neutral body language when you ask somebody if you can touch them, encouragement to say ‘no’ if you want and don’t take offense, don’t worry if you get sexually aroused. Just ignore it, and if you fall asleep, don’t panic. Just say beforehand if you want to be woken up.
Pleasantries out of the way, it’s time to get down on the floor. And if you’re not totally on board, time to feel a little embarrassed and awkward, but to try to ignore it.
“I think for a lot of us, we recognize that there is a need for connection and touch that maybe can be separated from relationships. I think it’s a very muddled world out there, where we’re only allowed to get touch from certain people,” Fei said when asked why on earth people would want to put themselves in this situation.
“What if we like connecting with more people? And having more intimacy and more connection in our lives? A lot of the folks who come to find us are the people who recognize that they have the need for touch in and of itself, nice and simple, a physical need for touch. And also the emotional need to feel community and connection.”
That’s something that Louis Carvalho relates to. He comes here regularly. Since he was diagnosed with depression, he feels this gives him that emotional connection that helps him every day.
“It fills a gap in my life that nothing else does,” he said, between sighs and moans, as he is massaged by Fei.