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Is cuddling a form of cheating? Studies show that cuddling bestows remarkable health benefits, and we should definitely do it more. But with who?

There’s a great deal of power in cuddling. Scientists have shown that when we embrace another human being, it can lower our blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and even make us less likely to get sick.

But the benefits don’t stop with a great medical checkup. I have found that cuddling that be a great tool in breaking down traditional patriarchal norms that dictate what is considered acceptable in relationships. This is why I make it a point to cuddle with most everyone I know — and yes, that includes my boss.

To some, this may seem unconventional, but I think it’s important to always find new ways challenge these norms in order to create a more inclusive and equitable society. By cuddling with my boss, I am disrupting traditional power dynamics and showing that all relationships can be based on intimacy, love, and trust. This challenges the notion that bosses must always maintain a certain level of formality with their employees and promotes the idea of creating a more harmonious and supportive workplace environment.

This kind of laissez-faire cuddling also challenges traditional gender roles that dictate that men must be strong and unemotional, and women must be nurturing and passive. By cuddling with those around me, I am actively breaking down harmful gender norms and creating a new, more loving and accepting environment.

But I know this level of feminist praxis isn’t for everyone.

Even if no sexual activity were involved, would the average Joe and Jane be comfortable letting their partner or spouse cuddle with someone else? I set out to find out.

There are dozens of apps and websites catering to our need for cuddling.

There’s no shortage of services, apps and websites that connect platonic snugglers. One of these websites, CuddleComfort.com sort of like an OkCupid for cuddling — even advertises as a handy resource for people in long-distance relationships who are looking for non-sexual intimacy while their partner is away. Other websites require its users to sign a contract promising not to kiss, flirt or come on to their “cuddle partner.”

But even if you sign such a contract, could it lead to an affair anyway? I asked around the therapist circuit for some contemporary views on this new stranger cuddling phenomenon.

“Not necessarily,” says Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, a family therapist and sexologist who founded the Northwest Institute on Intimacy, as long as nobody in the relationship keeps their cuddling a secret.

Sellers says she works with many couples — often, long-distance relationships, or relationships where one person is sick or doesn’t like being touched — who have created these kinds of arrangements.

“I think [these websites and apps] are speaking to a need that has been looked down or poo-pooed for a long time — this idea of just platonic touch,” Sellers says. “We have sexualized touch and forgot that being held is an important thing men and women really long for and miss. This is something we’ve kind of stopped talking about.”

Amanda Pasciucco, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Connecticut, agrees that extraneous cuddling isn’t something couples and counselors should be so conservative about.

“It’s a much better alternative to infidelity or cheating,” she says.

Not everyone agrees. Rick Brown, a therapist and marriage counselor based in Florida, says that even if a person starts “cuddling” with honest intentions, it can easily lead to an affair.

“If such an experience is done right, it is an intimate experience,” Brown says. “Such intimacy can, and often does, lead to a deeper connection with the other person. This would become confusing and threatening to the significant other. I would advocate such experiences only between partners in a committed relationship.”

Anita Chlipala, a relationship therapist in Chicago, agrees these apps and websites can only lead to trouble. “If you’re browsing through pictures to find a ‘platonic’ cuddle buddy, I highly doubt someone would pick someone who they are not attracted to,” Chlipala says. “Signing a contract that no sexual activity will happen will not keep sexual activity from happening.”

I think we’ll have to agree to disagree for the time being.

As a society, we have long associated cuddling with intimacy and romantic relationships, and we have to break down those old traditions and knowledges to progress forward. By perpetuating the notion that cuddling is only meant for intimate partners, we are limiting people’s opportunities to experience the benefits of physical touch and comfort in a digitizing world that is increasingly becoming atomic and lonely and cold.

The truth is, cuddling is a universal language of love and care, and it should be shared freely with everyone. It’s time to make it an accepted and normal form of physical comfort for all, of no more significance than a handshake.

So let’s embrace laissez-faire cuddling and start dispensing cuddles and snuggles and yummy huggies freely. By doing so, we will not only make the world a happier and more comfortable place, but also break down the social norms that limit human interaction and comfort. So, go ahead and snuggle with your best friend, give your colleague a hug, or offer your neighbor a warm embrace. It’s time to spread the love and comfort of cuddling to everyone around us.

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