Just Hold Me

Do real men like to cuddle?

The author cuddles with his little brother

The first signs came early.

Most infants can’t do much, and I was no exception, according to grown-ups who were present at the time. But there was one area in which I dominated at a very young age: I was a crackerjack cuddler. Given a supple shoulder or a warm lap, I showed all of the necessary skills—the burbles, the sighs, the tiny hand-grabs, the determination to get cozy for hours on end. I snuggled all comers. I drooled in their faces.

And I had a strong will to cuddle. When I got my first big-boy bed, I devised a successful strategy of running around the house at bedtime until I was furnished with a parental snuggle partner. Later, I enlisted my little brother: If there was He-Man to be watched, it was easy enough to convince him to serve as a pillow. (I still find him useful in this respect.)

By the time I started cuddling regularly with girlfriends, in college and thereafter, it was clear I possessed an outsize appetite for sedentary touch. While some of my partners found my cuddliness endearing, it caused problems too: Showers started later and appointments were blown. For some of my associates, morning productivity declined—or so they said—and the narcotic properties of my skin were blamed.

This was nonsense on its face; it takes two to snuggle up. Besides, I viewed cuddling as a productive activity in and of itself, like going to the gym or scrubbing the toilet bowl. A snuggle a day might keep the doctor away.

Yet even as I defended myself, I also harbored insecurities about my tactile needs—doubts that have never gone away. I will confess that a great canoodling session is not the apex of human achievement. No doubt the architects of the Roman Aqueduct were not snuggle-maniacs. If the building of civilization had been left in the hands of unreconstructed cuddlers, the project might have suffered delays.

More vexing than the laziness question, however, is a fractured feeling I sense deep in my cuddly heart. For me, the urge to cuddle is Janus-faced: At times I can play the snuggler-protector—the father figure who enfolds, defends and marches into the future; yet my default setting, if I am being honest, is the cuddle-receiver—an infantile and insecure sensory insufficiency from the distant past. The crux of the problem is this: I want to be held, and it is an awful, wussy feeling.

Oh, Lord! Why must I cuddle so?

Someone must be blamed. I want to blame someone for my cuddlesome predicament. Who can I blame?

My parents seem like the obvious choice: They cuddled me too much. They spared the rod; they spoiled the child. Spartan treatment has been the prescription for making men manly since antiquity. Didn’t Rome fall because its men got soft? And anti-snugglism has a strong tradition in this country: A century ago, physicians were telling moms to keep their cuddle-hungry hands to themselves. Did my folks ignore this important history?

The era of snuggle antagonism—the War on Cuddling—had its origins in the 1894 publication of The Care and Feeding of Children, a book by the eminent pediatrician Luther Emmett Holt that was among the first “scientific” guides to mothering. Holt’s baby book, which would be issued in 15 editions over the next 40 years, provided a strict roadmap to parenting in a new century rife with tuberculosis, swarms of suspicious immigrants, and invisible killers called germs. Scientific regimentation seemed to chart the safest path forward—both in the efficient factory and the economical home—and babies were expected to get with the program.

Holt was obsessed with hygiene, and eschewed promiscuous tactile techniques. On whether rocking was necessary, he wrote, “By no means. It is a habit easily acquired … and a very useless and sometimes injurious one.” On playing with babies, he declared, “The less of it at any time the better.” Holt helped the Labor Department craft a 1914 pamphlet on mothering—3 million copies were distributed—that emphasized discipline and warned that germ-laden smooches could kill. Yet not all touch was taboo: To ensure timely bowel movements, Holt suggested “introducing just inside the rectum a small cone of oiled paper or a piece of soap” while dangling the kid over a chamber pot.

Early reports on the War on Cuddling showed stunning results. A 1910 story published in the Washington Post described a “scientific baby” named Leonard who had been brought up without “all the manifestations of motherly affection, such as cuddling, kissing, exhibition, and fine garments.” Yet Leonard was a bull. Average babies observed by Holt did not hold their heads up or laugh until the third or fourth month. Leonard held his noggin erect by the third week, according to the Post story, and was laughing his little nards off nine weeks later.

Some baby! Just think: If my parents hadn’t indulged my pathetic yearnings, I might have been like Leonard.

The war escalated. By the 1920s, a new school of psychology called behaviorism suggested that cuddling wailing infants would “condition” them to become lifelong crybabies. The behaviorist John B. Watson argued that mollycoddled toddlers grew into weak and whiny adults. In a chapter entitled “Too Much Mother Love” in his 1928 book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, he explained what was good for infants: “Treat them as though they were young adults. … Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning.”

It’s not clear how many Depression-era infants enjoyed morning handshakes, but the anti-cuddling paradigm was promoted in women’s magazines well into the 1930s. Then it started to fade. The demise of snuggle antagonism grew out of the work of a few renegade doctors who noticed that isolated foundlings often wasted away—a condition called “hospitalism“—but could sometimes be brought back from the brink by a nurse’s loving affection.

It was the first hint that the cuddle haters were wrong—very wrong—and the reason why I have to give my folks a pass for their snuggle-positive parenting. Startling experiments in the 1950s showed that baby monkeys will sometimes forego food for contact comfort. Later research on human preemies indicated that massages help babies gain weight. Now scientists may have found a pathway for these love transmissions: special cuddle receptors in the skin that are attuned to social touch. Today, snuggling is seen as so important for babies that many hospitals run infant touch programs staffed by volunteer cuddlers.

These insights prove that Leonard was exceptional indeed. Most cuddle-proofed kids surely suffered as a result. Some blamed their parents: After Life ran an article on the legacy of behaviorism in 1950, John B. Watson’s son went to the trouble to write a terse letter to the editor thanking the magazine for dispelling the “illusion” of nonemotional child care.   The children of another anti-cuddling zealot —a German physician who also advocated strapping kids into mechanical devices to ensure good posture—fared far worse: One shot himself in the head, and another started thinking that all of his body’s physical processes, down to the blinking of his eyes, were being manipulated by cruel external forces.

So, in fact, my parents’ snuggles might have saved my life. Maybe the cuddliness they fostered in me was even a wonderful thing—something I could be proud of. Was it was time to get out there and start flexing my cuddle muscles?

I knew I was an able snuggler, but how good was I? Was I primetime material—as I strongly suspected—or more of a junior-varsity type? To find out, I decided to take my talents to an event thrown by Cuddle Party—an organization dedicated to the delicate practice of nonsexual snuggling. My goal was simple: I wanted to dominate. I wanted to snuggle up and watch as my cuddles crushed the competition. Perhaps it sounds silly to approach a Cuddle Party like a sporting match, but what can I say? Winners win.

Cuddle Party was started in 2004 by sex educator REiD Mihalko (the small ‘i’ in his first name denotes an other-directed focus) who came up with idea while tending bar in New York City. Mihalko has floppy blond hair, the build of a tight end—his dad played the position for the Steelers—and a chill bearing that exudes cutaneous confidence. I first met him at a lecture where he was hawking a DVD that promised to help you earn your “black belt” in relationships. The cover depicted a shirtless Mihalko surrounded by topless ninjas.

Cuddle Party’s conception came in a flash, says Mihalko. He was already throwing massage parties for his friends in the holistic health community, and some of his bar regulars were curious but too intimidated to attend. “One day I just kind of jokingly quipped back, ‘If you’re not going to come to a massage party, then grab your pillows and your blankets and your teddy bears and come to my house and I’ll throw you a cuddle party.’ “

It was like a meteor strike. “Oh. My. God. I’m like, we need to throw cuddle parties. And they’re like, what? I’m like, cuddle parties, man. Like, that’s what we need to do.” The Yoda of Cuddling was born.

Mihalko raced home to draft the first set of snuggly by-laws, and he threw the first Cuddle Party a few weeks later with the help of his partner, Marcia Baczynski. Not long after, the gossip Web site Gawker took note, and a media storm ensued: GQ, People, the Washington Post, Current TV, and countless others ran stories on the trend. CSI: New York built an episode around a cuddle party. Today, Cuddle Party is an international organization with facilitators in the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, and Hungary. Some 30,000 people have cuddled at their gatherings.

On a fall evening in New York City, I entered my first Cuddle Party feeling confident that I would be greeted like a baby polar bear. In addition taking a measure of my cuddling prowess, I was eager to see what it was like to canoodle dispassionately with strangers. I hoped that by getting trained in pure, nonsexual snuggling, I might learn to cuddle less like a baby and more like a samurai. The party commenced in a sparsely decorated West Village apartment with blanket-wrapped air mattresses on the floor. Thirteen cuddlers were assembled, most of them in their 20s and 30s. There was one older cuddler who bore a passing resemblance to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He looked comfortable in his pajamas, and his appearance caused me to wonder for the first time what Scalia’s feet look like. I made for the bathroom to don my PJs. Per Cuddle Party protocol, the festivities began with a “Welcome Circle” where the instructor laid out the ground rules. To wit: Ask first if you want to touch anyone. Also: If you ask to touch someone and they say no, you must abide. We practiced asking each other if we could have a cuddle, and then saying no.

I turned to the person next to me and said, “Can I give you a back rub?”

“No,” the cuddler replied. This was meant to prepare us for the cuddly communication challenges that lay ahead.

Other rules: Keep your clothes on. And: Signs of “arousal” have been known to appear. If a sign pops up near you, do not be alarmed—just stay still and hope it goes away. Also: No dry humping! Plus: It’s OK if you don’t feel like cuddling and just want to sit in the corner. Finally: Cuddle Party is a private space; if you bump into one of your co-cuddlers on the street, don’t mention your shared history. Now, break! Cuddle up!

At this, about half of the assembled cuddlers, myself included, made a beeline to the snack table. Chips, hummus, celery sticks, carrots, water, juice. The mood was indistinguishable from a seventh-grade dance. I quickly decided it was time to get aggressive, so I offered back rubs to several ladies in quick succession. One accepted: a friendly and funny full-figured female.

We retired to an adjoining back room, which held a proper mattress and some burning votive candles. She lay down on her side.

“Um, don’t you want a back rub?” I said.

“Sure, or we could just start like this,” she proposed, suggesting a frontal approach. I plunged in. We cuddled tummy-to-tummy, with our arms wrapped awkwardly around each other’s flanks. I heaved a leg over her waist, John Lennon-style. Gently I began to massage and stroke and scratch and knead her back, working her flesh with mounting fervor, and she squealed when I hit a tender spot. Before long, she was reduced to jelly.

A couple of other people came into the room: A hyper, redheaded female and a sweet-faced dude in an orange T-shirt. Did we want to cuddle feet, asked the redhead? Totally! We did!

The four of us brought our feet together in a pile. We wriggled and flapped them like beached pinnipeds. It was not clear why we were doing this. The experience reminded me of a time in second grade when my best friend Peter and I decided to touch butts. We just dropped our pants and backed into each other. Butt smushed butt in transcendent symphony. Then we fell on the floor and peed our pants laughing. If you ever have to decide between cuddling feet and touching butts, definitely go with touching butts.

While we cuddled feet, the redhead explained that she was into the fetish scene. She liked to get whacked on the bottoms of her feet. One time she’d had staples put in her soles. Another time she and a dominatrix had partied with one of Hollywood’s cuddliest men in a Greenwich Village hotel. A cigar was involved. She was psyched to be at a cuddle party!

Pretty soon more cuddlers joined us on the bed, and someone suggested we do a six-person spoon. So we did: Boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl. I was on the end, cuddling the redhead, who felt small and soft and sexy in my arms. She commented that we were like a bunch of squirming eels. She was right. We were like eels, or those black-headed translucent grubs that you sometimes find in shallow mud, writhing in their own goo. The mass of bodies created thermoregulatory challenges, and before long the spoon gang split up.

As I lay back and watched the redhead bound out of the room toward the snack table, I realized that I wanted very badly to cuddle with her one-on-one. These gathering feelings threatened to derail my training in pure, nonsexual cuddling. For a half-second, I actually cared.

Here’s a question: Is it possible to snuggle in a nonsexual way? The Cuddle Party people claim their events are not about sex: “As adults, we have fully-formed prefrontal cortexes … we can control ourselves,” Mihalko insisted when we spoke. But the temptations associated with mashing one’s body against the flesh of another are undeniable. Was my training in “pure cuddling” doomed from the start?

In fact, this very conundrum weighed on the minds of certain early American purity experts—the Puritans—who practiced an odd form of nonsexual snuggling known as “bundling.” Bundling occurred when a courting young man wound up at his love interest’s home in the evening, and was invited to spend the night in bed with her. They were given separate blankets, and sometimes placed on either side of a “bundling board” that ran along the mattress from head to toe, so as to impede hanky-panky. If the bundling board did yield, and pregnancy occurred, the couple was expected to marry.

The British mocked bundling as a tawdry American tradition, but in fact there is evidence it came from Europe and was practiced from Britain to Holland to Switzerland, perhaps dating as far back as Roman times. Ruth and Boaz spending the night on the threshing floor is an early example of pious and wholesome bundling“>  In Colonial New England, bundling made practical sense due to a scarcity of beds, poor heating, and long rides between towns. It was only practiced in the winter.

Predictably, the practice stirred passions. Controversy over bundling erupted in the 1770s, when a New England preacher began to insist that it was unchristian. Young men returning from the French war seemed to have brought with them “loose camp vices” and a disregard for the church that made them ill-suited for bundling. Several towns tried to ban the practice, to the dismay of mothers and daughters, who thought bundling was totally cool. A glimpse into the debate can be viewed in an excerpt from an anti-bundling ballad published in a 1785 almanac:

A bundling couple went to bed,
With all their clothes from foot to head,
That the defence might seem complete,
Each one was wrapped in a sheet.
But O! this bundling’s such a witch,
The man of her did catch the itch,
And so provoked was the wretch,
That she of him a bastard catch’d.

History’s greatest bundling scholar, Henry Reed Stiles, the author of a definitive 1871 volume on the origins of the practice, credited this song with so stigmatizing bundling that it caused its downfall. (Improved living conditions and warmer houses following the American Revolution also played a role.) The tradition died out in the late 19th century, and it is rare indeed today; a 1969 campaign to revive bundling, mounted by a group of clever Pennsylvania teens, did not catch on.

This history confirms that the line between snuggling and sex is indeed slippery—a fact further demonstrated in the 1970s by Vanderbilt psychiatrist Marc Hollender. Having invented a questionnaire-based body contact score to reflect “the wish to be held,” Hollender found that many women truly ached to be snuggled; one stated that she would rather canoodle than be given a Cadillac convertible. Yet some women avoided cuddling when they were not in the mood for sex, because snuggling too often converted to shagging. The blame often was placed on the man, and on his penis in particular. As one subject put it, “Being held is an end in itself for women, but for men it is only the beginning.”

Back at the snack table. The redhead and I chatted over celery sticks, and she proposed that we go for a cuddle. We lay down and I burrowed in deep, determined to unleash my full snuggly voltage. We got all wrapped up, our legs pretzeled. For the first time since arriving at the party, I relaxed.

And then I felt a feeling. A stirring stirred. Something in my physiology—something about two stops down from the solar plexus—sought to express its special purpose.

A century ago, the pioneering German sexologist Albert Moll described two elementary sexual impulses: the contrectation-impulse—the urge to cuddle—and the detumescence-impulse—the urge to alleviate swelling in one’s johnson. It was in this moment that I very clearly perceived how easily the one can tip into the other.

I was grateful for this embodied insight, but worried about the growing crisis in my pants. Luckily, my nervousness paid off: anxious-making juices flooded my system long before blood started flowing south in any quantity, and the incipient erection retreated, like a turtle to its shell. The redhead remained oblivious to the disaster narrowly averted.

Then she had an idea: She should give me a massage! I agreed and flipped onto my stomach, thrilled at the discretion afforded by the new posture. She proceeded to give me a flimsy back rub. A bonus arrived when my first cuddle partner asked if she could play with my hair. Yes, no problem! I was being cuddled by two women at once. I was commanding a double team. I was the LeBron James of cuddling!

But after nearly three hours of lying around, our allotted cuddle time was almost up, and the organizer let us know that it was time for a ceremonial “puppy pile.” As I stood up, I saw that about half of the partygoers were not cuddling at all; they were sitting and talking about their dogs. I also noticed a talkative male cuddler who was about six-and-a-half feet tall and seemed to be getting a lot of female attention. If I was the King James of cuddling, he appeared to be the Shaq.

A puppy pile erupted. We stacked like Lincoln Logs, or like seven-layer dip but with only three layers. I was in the top layer. Then the party broke. I changed back into my jeans, and went to say my goodbyes. To my sorrow, I saw that the redhead—the target of my tumescence—was engaged in a long hug with Shaq. He was standing and she was swinging around his neck like a Do-Not-Disturb sign. I sensed that they were going to leave the party together. At the cuddle party, I had canoodled with panache, but had I dominated? I was not sure that I had.

My cuddle party adventure had forced awkward truths to the surface. I was not the peerless cuddler I thought I was. Rather than snuggling like a cold-blooded shinobi, I had performed like an overeager teenager. For me, it was apparent that the yen to cuddle welled from some deep, urgent, animal place that I could barely control.

Cuddling is a beastly habit, to be sure: Scientists often turn to our primate kin to learn more about the practice. Some have sought clues in social grooming, a sort of animal analogue to human snuggling. Grooming is a big part of primate life, with some species devoting 20 percent of their waking hours to cleaning fur and tweezing ticks. It’s partially about hygiene—teaming up to clean one’s back makes sense. But primates spend far more time doing it than is necessary for cleanliness. They’re also grooming to make friends.  

Humans don’t have much hair, and we outsource many of our grooming needs to barbers and beauticians. Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar argues that in our primitive past, the emergence of language and gossip largely replaced social grooming as a means of adult bonding. Back scratching went from literal to figurative. But we still engage in some pro-social touch—picture a man brushing lint off his buddy’s suit jacket, or a woman running her fingers through her lover’s hair. Like our primate relatives, we don’t normally groom or snuggle with strangers. That’s why Cuddle Party is unusual: It invites people to cuddle with people they don’t know and then decide if they want to be friends, rather than vice-versa.

Most people don’t fast-track cuddling in this way; traditionally it is practiced after sex—long after decisions about likeability have been made. Yet post-coital cuddling can bring its own tricky politics: Evolutionary theories of sexuality often suggest that women should love to cuddle more than men, because they put more on the line when they have sex. Evolution shaped their minds, so the notion goes, to seek mates who will provide resources and help with the parenting. That means they’ll want to snuggle in the sack so as to draw their partners into an emotional bond. reduce shyness and increase empathy. However, a recent randomized trial showed it only works for individuals with low social skills. It may be that oxytocin does not so much cement social bonding, but rather simply reduces anxiety to allow lovers to embrace in the first place—more like a shot of whiskey than a magic love potion.

“>  Men, by contrast, have less skin in the mating game, so they may try to make a “hasty post-copulatory departure” and get on to the next hook-up. One recent and well- publicized study on snuggling after sex claims to confirm these stereotypes.

For me, this was bad news. God, apparently, had made me nutso for pair-bonding. I was behaving in an evolutionarily inappropriate—and unstudly—manner. I was cuddling like a girl.

How did this happen? I didn’t choose this life. According to my parents, my infantile hunger for epidermal reassurance—whether from a parent, a brother, or a beloved redheaded doll named Dolly who never, ever failed to snuggle me back—was evident fresh from the oven.

Not all babies are like this; in fact, some find snuggling totally disgusting. “Non-Cuddlers,” observed a pioneering 1964 typology, “unfailingly protested at, resisted, and avoided” all entreaties to cuddle “whatever the circumstances and whatever the condition of the child.” “Wriggles and arches back, and only stops when put down again,” said one mother of a snuggle-hating, freedom-loving infant. In contrast, “Cuddlers” were motivated only to cuddle. “Laps it up,” explained a parent. “Holds quite still and puts on a soppy face,” said another.

About 15 percent of developmentally normal babies might be classified as Non-Cuddlers according to psychologist Michael Lewis, who has studied child temperament for 50 years. Lewis described one Non-Cuddler who was born “stiff as a board”—his daughter—and how he learned that she could tolerate touches to her back, but not to her stomach. It’s not clear why babies differ cuddle-wise; some scientists think it may be related to differences in the distribution of reward receptors in the brain—the same kinds of variations that make some people into ski jumpers and others into actuaries. Among adults, there is some evidence that anxious people tend to be the real cuddlers. (These are my people.)

In any case, touch temperament is at least partly genetic. One study found that a mother’s cuddliness gets passed down to her newborn children, and another showed that twins tend to be similarly endowed in the snuggle department. No doubt I inherited the cuddle gene.

If snuggling can be in your DNA, what does that say about gender differences? Is there evidence that girls are innately cuddlier than boys? In 1999, an intrepid research team tried to find out by staging a kind of newborn-snuggle-battle-of-the-sexes in a Montreal hospital. Healthy, full-term newborns—awake and alert—were cradled and cuddled by two experimenters who were blind to the sex of the child. (Freshly circumcised boy babies were excluded on grounds that the procedure might give rise to uncuddly feelings.) Then the researchers rated the babies’ desire for contact on a scale from rigid to cuddly.

In the end, the girls significantly outsnuggled the boys, although it must be said that neither team cuddled well; both averaged out closer to rigid than to cuddly. There was also a good deal of variability—there were cuddly boys and rigid girls—and the researchers conceded that it was impossible to know whether all of the babies had been in the mood. So it’s hard to conclude that girls are any cuddlier than boys, overall; in fact, several temperament experts interviewed for this story argued that they absolutely aren’t.

For a girly cuddle-bro like me, this was cause for hope. Could it be that my sorry, soppy, snuggly disposition was not so perverse, after all?

In 1976—my second cuddly year on this tender planet—Vanderbilt snuggle scientist Marc Hollender got around to considering men. He ran a study that examined the “wish to be held” and the “wish to hold” across genders, hypothesizing that the former would be greater in women, and the latter in men. “[A]ccording to our prevailing viewpoint, it is unmanly to want to be held or cuddled; only women are permitted or encouraged to express such ‘feminine’ wishes,” he explained.

But the data weren’t lining up. Men were just as stoked to be on either side of the spooning. And they were barely any less cuddle-hungry than the ladies. Hollender was especially stunned by some of the wussy statements coming from his male subjects: “To have this woman hold me is like the world is gone,” said one. Here, finally, were some soppy-faced dudes who seemed to think like me. Unfortunately, they were also a bit nuts—the research had been conducted on psychiatric patients. (One man who said he preferred to be held also thought his penis was shrinking.)

Some evolutionary psychologists are now reaching the same conclusion as Hollender: that cuddle-wise, men and women just aren’t that different. “I think that the explanations for males doing it are quite similar for the reasons that women do it,” said Binghamton University’s Justin Garcia, who is trained in both evolutionary biology and anthropology and studies hook-up culture on college campuses. Both just want intimacy and validation, he says—and to feel it in their skin.

In a recent unpublished survey of nearly 700 college students, Garcia found that an identical proportion of men and women—97 percent—said they liked to cuddle in romantic relationships. In a hook-up scenario, 52 percent of men and 61 percent of women wanted to snuggle. “This idea that men want to disseminate their seed and women want love and babies is utter bullshit,” he said. “That is total bullshit.”

Indeed, the idea that evolved biology ought to drive cuddling behavior does not really fit with the evidence. The imprint of culture has always been apparent in touch: Biology does not explain why buddies hold hands in public in the Middle East, but not in the United States. No gene explains why men shake hands more than women. (Although female handshaking must be on the rise.) Some touch traditions defy analysis: Why do women ballplayers go in for more hand slaps, whereas gentlemen prefer butt slaps?

None of this means the world is safe for cuddly men. It isn’t. During the current “mancession,” it has become trendy to wonder aloud about why more men don’t seek out jobs in caretaking professions like nursing. One reason, certainly, is that men intuit that they are not cut out for touch-oriented work: Studies of male nurses show they are cautious caregivers because they fear accusations of inappropriate touch. Lawsuits have made nursing wards—and classrooms—into hostile environments for men.

But there are hints that attitudes may be changing. A 2004 U.K. poll, for instance, found that today’s dads think they adopt a cuddlier approach to parenting than their fathers did. Films and novels today abound with sensitive, touchy-feely men. A pro-snuggle stance can even be seen in the highest reaches of government: our last president was so committed to tactile diplomacy that he could not resist giving German Chancellor Angela Merkel a hearty but poorly received back rub. Our current leader also seems to have the snuggle gene, if the long and sweet bear hug he gave to departing chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is any indication.

In fact, future generations may view the Obama-Rahm sandwich as a watershed moment in snuggling history. When CNBC’s Larry Kudlow wrote a column in October calling the embrace “a hug too far” and claiming that it “lacked dignity” and revealed weakness to the world, few commentators took his side. Most argued that Kudlow was a jackass for his sensitivity to man-hugs, and that he needed to toughen up and put on his “man pants.”

What happened here? Are we becoming a nation of shameless snuggle-bunnies? I believe that we are. In the new era, cuddly men will no longer be deemed wimps. Instead, society will have to designate a new generation of wusses to fill the void: people like Larry Kudlow, people who tremble at the sight of gay men cuddling, people who are terrified to have their junk touched. Today let us bring our epidermises together under a soft banner of cuddliness. The revolution will be staged, conveniently, from bed. Or at least that’s where you’ll find me—snuggling like the day I was born.

Correction, Dec. 8, 2010: This article originally misidentified John B. Watson as “James B. Watson” on the second mention of the name.

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