Content warning: Brief mentions of historic sexual violence.
So when we were planning our most recent trip to Berlin, I really wanted to go back to Insomnia, the club we went to last time. I felt so comfortable there and it was small and unpretentious compared to some of the others I’d researched. I wanted to go back to the regular weekly fetish party, but then Cadi spotted a cuddle party on the listings. She was immediately really keen on going, and asked if we could please go for her birthday.
According to Wiki, a cuddle party is an “event designed with the intention of allowing people to experience nonsexual group physical intimacy through cuddling.” I’d heard about them and I am a very tactile person, but I’d never really thought about going. Cadi told me that she’d had a fantasy of being a soft, nurturing sort of Domme and having a whole harem of calm, sleepy S-types to take care of. She said she’d like to cuddle multiple people at the same time, while also keeping us all in line and stopping us being naughty. I sent her a video of a Mama cat lightly biting her kittens every time they tried to get up and stumble out of her embrace and she replied “Yes, that’s what I want.”
I literally cannot believe how on-brand this is for her Virgo sun, Taurus moon! Astrology is fucking real.
We made plans to go and reserved a space in advance, and I’m so glad that we did. The party was in the main nightclub space, with all the red latex beds pushed together to make one very large bed. The last time I saw those red beds, Cadi was fisting me on one of them! This time, we sat down while the facilitator talked about the purpose of the cuddle party. We learned about the benefits of physical touch for both mental and physical health. The facilitator was amazing, she explained the instructions and the boundaries in both English and German.
The facilitator warmed us up physically first! We danced to Happy and Uptown Funk and it was surreal, bouncing around to bubble-gum pop while sculptures of bound and gagged people gazed down from the walls!
I did have a little moment where I abruptly remembered the Rainbow Rhythms scene in Peep Show…
(Usually I’m a Jez and Cadi is a Mark. But when we’re dancing that definitely swaps…)
After the physical warm up we did a warm up for our minds. A guided meditation, reinhabiting our bodies and letting go of unhelpful thoughts. I was a naughty girl and opened my eyes, and the facilitator called me out right away! We’d emailed back and forth a bit and she remembered my name. It was hard not to giggle when she hissed, “Enid, close your eyes!” across the room.
Even though we were in this nightclub space we were wearing pyjamas and no make-up, with our hair up in buns! It was a big difference from every other night out I’ve ever been on!
The next warm up was our first taste of actual cuddling. It reminded me a bit of the “Peace be with you,” “- and also with you” bit in Church where you get up and shake hands with people! But instead of shaking hands, we hugged strangers for five seconds. It was interesting how different each cuddle was! The people taller than me, shorter than me, the tentative ones, the confident ones, a whole tapestry of cuddles!
As a survivor of sexual violence, it was really soothing to try and let some of my walls down around men for a bit. Usually when I’m in a public space and an unfamiliar man approaches me, I feel my body prickle all over as I prepare to defend myself against potential assault/homophobia/fatphobia/unreasonable expectations of emotional labour etc. However, in this space we had all been comprehensively briefed on consent and we were all there for the same thing, releasing oxytocin and endorphins through cuddling. Whenever I felt those prickles I reminded myself of that, and tried to enjoy the moment of connection instead.
I felt like all participants were equal, and aware of boundaries. I enjoyed exchanging non-sexual touch with strangers, even when (and maybe especially when!) sexual attraction wasn’t present. A man saw me massaging Cadi and after I had finished he came over and asked me for a massage. I love massaging people and I was more than happy to oblige, and then send him on his way! I appreciated how straightforward the transaction was, and how kink opens a space for that to happen.
The music was really relaxing, I particularly remember loving a bit of Depeche Mode and Ibeyi! The lighting was relaxing too, tiny little fairy lights like a starry sky. We moved between the bed and the pillows on the floor. People came and went. We lay together and when we’d got comfortable, we might stroke each other’s skin or put our arms around each other I remember lying alongside a woman and entwining our wrists, watching our hands dance over our heads.
There was an older gentleman (not the one we met before!) who massaged us both. He had a great determination and fluidity in his touch. I suffer with terrible TMJ in my jaw and he worked wonders on it, before talking to me about stress and the importance of looking after myself! He massaged Cadi’s shoulders, neck and breasts too, and the experienced and intentional way he touched her was a real turn on.
The evening was strictly split into sexual and non-sexual sections. To mark the beginning of the more x-rated part of the evening we did another warm-up. This time, we played a trust game where we walked blindfolded through a narrow corridor made up of the other attendees. As we walked, the other people reached out to stroke us. Again, there were very clear parameters about what was acceptable before we started the exercise. I very much enjoyed taking part, the other people made me feel super sexy when they touched me. I liked that some people even stroked or grabbed my stomach, which is something that often people shy away from.
I enjoyed doing the touching too! It was interesting to see so many bodies that were different from Cadi’s body and my own. I ran my hand down THE FIRMEST ABS I HAVE EVER TOUCHED, and also enjoyed pulling a man’s bright red chest hair.
After the trust games, couples (or groups) were invited to enjoy some more sexual and sensual touch on the mats or elsewhere in the club, including the private rooms. To be honest, even though I found it very sexy I didn’t actually feel like being “sexual” (in the sense of touching genitals and bringing someone to orgasm.) I felt way too soft and sleepy and relaxed, like I just wanted to curl up somewhere warm and safe!
Instead, we lay down and watched an impromptu rope suspension demonstration with a couple who seemed very confident and very in tune with each other. Watching them was just absolute heaven.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a cuddle party regular, but I will always remember the feeling of relaxed sensuality, openness, and the healing quality of the touches I exchanged.