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"Why Isn't There a Starbucks for Hugs?"--The Rise of the Professional Snuggler

(Photo: Cuddle Up to Me)

Need to be held and cuddled? That'll be $60 an hour.

Not everyone has the option of voluntary human physical contact. Sometimes, it's necessary to pay for it.

In 2012, we mentioned a woman who offered to cuddle strangers for money. Since then, she's received a lot of competition. There's been a boom in the cuddling industry. RentAFriend alone offers 523,876 people who will do the job for an average rate of $23 an hour--and much higher if you want quality. Olga Oksman describes the development of this essential service in The Atlantic:

At Snuggle Buddies, most of Becky Rodrigues’s clients are a mix of single and married men in their 40s and 50s. She also sees some younger men, who are in their 20s and usually have religious backgrounds that made them feel shameful about human touch. Rodrigues thinks that she sees so few women coming in because women are more likely to believe that affection “isn’t real if you have to pay for it.” She thinks that women have an easier time satisfying their need for physical touch from friends, because it’s more socially acceptable than for men.

There are more options than just cuddling for cash. You can also hire a friend. Oksman talked to Esme Seraifel, a professional friend, about why there is demand for her services:

Esme Seraifiel, another friend I talked to, has some guesses as to why people these days are eager to pay for companionship. She thinks that digital interactions have given people a taste of what it’s like to be able to craft clever responses and upload only the most flattering photos, which makes interactions in person seem less comfortable by comparison. In this context, the idea of a risk-free, on-demand friend can seem very appealing. Indeed, Christie has told me that she has never met anyone who hoped to be friends outside of the service. Clients, she says, are looking for a friendship that they can dictate all the terms of—where and when they meet, or if they ever meet again.

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