Someone writing a column about the new Downtown Madison pay-per-snuggle business called The Snuggle House could probably benefit from an actual paid snuggle or two.
You know, for research.
But The Snuggle House isn’t going to open until Wednesday at the earliest. And then there’s my wife, who prefers to have a monopoly on my snuggling activity.
Most problematic — for newspaper columnists or anyone with a libido — is that spending $60 to bed down an attractive man or woman for an hour’s worth of spooning, pillow talk, hair-sniffing and full-body embraces has the tendency to make the flesh a little too willing, if you get my drift, regardless of whether the spirit is able.
Snuggle House backers have gone to pains to emphasize that the physical and emotional intimacy they’re selling does not include sex — and there’s research suggesting that this won’t be a barrier to business success, according to UW-Madison sociology professor John DeLamater, an expert on human sexuality.
Studies have shown that 20 percent of the time men who hire higher-priced, so-called in-call sex workers aren’t interested in having sex with them, DeLamater said.
Similarly, researchers have found that while men seek titillation at strip clubs, they’re also buying strippers drinks and forking over cash “in exchange for taking them seriously” and for the chance to talk to an attractive woman for a few minutes, he said.
“These snuggle clubs are just the next step,” he added, and he declined to put such commercial activity in the same ballpark as sex work.
Whatever the snuggling industry is, Madison is at its cutting edge. I was only able to find two other similar endeavors — one in New York called The Snuggery and one in San Francisco called Cuddle Therapy.
Assistant Madison city attorney Jennifer Zilavy was aware of the Snuggery; a snuggle business in Boulder, Colo., called Be The Love You Are; and a place in Atlanta that she said had turned out to be a place of prostitution.
The owner of Cuddle Therapy, Travis Sigley, told me he’s heard of other snuggle businesses that have opened or plan to open in Tokyo, Australia and Virginia. He also said Cuddle Therapy isn’t about prostitution, and I couldn’t find any evidence to the contrary. Nor could I find any evidence of prostitution at the snuggle businesses in Boulder and New York.
“It’s probably as much a form of therapy as anything,” DeLamater said. “I think that people who are paying for it probably perceive it as being as intimate as if they weren’t paying for it.”
Zilavy and Snuggle House representatives were scheduled to meet Tuesday to go over the Snuggle House’s business plan. Zilavy said if everything is in order, the place could open its doors to the snuggle-deficient Wednesday.
I don’t doubt that nonsexual intimate human touch can provide health benefits, and I hope The Snuggle House really is something other than prostitution papered over with a little psychobabble and a kind of good-natured permissiveness common in Madison.
But they’re up against a willing flesh that, historically at least, has been able to find the spirit of capitalism more than able.