'IT'S LIKE CONSENT TRAINING MADE FUN'
KELOWNA - There’s a new kind of party which on the surface is nothing more than a chance to grope some strangers, but the organizer of Kelowna’s first 'cuddle party' says that has nothing to do with it.
“It’s a workshop and a party all in one,” Erica Scott says. “It’s like consent training made fun.”
An official cuddle party, when hosted by a certified facilitator like Scott, lasts around three and a half hours. About ten people of all ages and genders showed up to Kelowna’s first official Cuddle Party last Saturday, Dec. 5.
Most who attended were first-timers who had only heard about the trend, which started in the U.S. about 12 years ago. Scott says the initial nervousness passes quickly and is replaced by a feeling of comfort, safety and acceptance.
“The main thing is that you don’t touch anyone without getting verbal consent. Either they ask you and you say yes or you ask them and they say yes,” she says. “If you get a no or a maybe or silence that’s all considered a no. Only a verbal yes is a yes.”
Scott says this aspect not only provides a safety element to the exercise, but also helps with a stigma Scott says is resulting in a lot of hurt and miscommunication between the genders.
“What we’re doing is building consent culture,” she says. “We’re raised to feel very uncomfortable with saying no. Men are supposed to be aggressive, that it’s more manly and more sexy to go for the kiss rather than ask and girls will say no because they’re supposed to say no but it doesn’t really mean no.”
That’s why, according to Scott, first-timers are encouraged to practice saying no as often as possible.
“We take it to the extreme,” she says. “You end up asking if you can touch them, then you ask if you can stroke them rather than touch them. Every time you’re going to change the touch you ask.”
The goal is to get comfortable saying no and also hearing no without taking it personally.
“People feel uncomfortable saying no,” she says. “You feel like you’re going to hurt (their) feelings. These exercises are to get over that.”
Scott says a lot of people who have never heard of a cuddle party before mistakenly assume it is a way to hook up with strangers.
“It’s a non-sexual event and we advertise it as such,” Scott says. “It’s about kindness and compassion. Clothes stay on, there are no hands under the clothes and we instruct everybody if they have feeling of attraction or arousal not to pursue them.”
Scott says she is looking for volunteers willing to host their second cuddle party in January. She charges $30 per person with a percentage going to the host.
If you are interested in either attending or hosting Kelowna’s next cuddle party, visit the cuddle party Facebook event page.
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