Cuddling Therapist Faces Sexual Misconduct Charges After Her Nipple Ended Up In Client's Mouth
Talk about a nip slip.
It used to be that women were expected to do everything, work all day at a job, have kids, nurture their marriages and maintain a healthy social life. Now, with more and woman being real about just hard daily life can be, self-care is a concept that many of us have become a lot more familiar with. For some, self-care means making sure to take time for yourself with a good book and a great cup of a coffee.
But for others, self-care can be a little bit less traditional. One woman on a quest for self-care decided to try out professional cuddling.
Who is Susanne Woodward?
The professional cuddler who crossed the line and got people talking about how we regulate services with close physical contact.
A massage therapist named Susanne Woodward recently got into hot water for delivering a service that one of her female clients found totally unacceptable.
You see, in addition to being a massage therapist, Woodward also offered her services as a professional cuddler.
That's right, if this is the first time you're hearing about it, professional cuddlers are people you pay to platonically cuddle with you. According to this client of Woodward's however, the therapist violated the terms of their agreement when during her $80 session, she spent more than five minutes with Woodward's nipple in her mouth. Yikes.
Immediately after her experience with Woodward, the client in question called the police.
She was in shock and feeling violated and ready for someone to help her feel like everything was going to be okay. Unfortunately, the police didn't blink an eye, telling the client that Woodward hadn't done anything wrong. So the client called a group that certifies cuddlers, including Woodward, and told them about her nipple-surprise.
These cuddlers may be a peaceable folk, but even they were stunned and immediately took away Woodward's certification as a professional cuddler. If she was going to cuddle now, it would have to be consenting people she knows. Unless there's a black market for illegal cuddling. There probably is.
But this client wasn't going to stop there.
After getting Woodward stripped of her credentials, she filed an official complaint with the state board that regulates massage therapy because Woodward was also a licensed therapist and it's illegal for her to have sex with her clients.
But Woodward's lawyer wasn't going to let this further indignity fly. They argued that the board had no say in the case since this was an issue that arose during a cuddling session, and not during a massage therapy session. The lawyer, Flynn Carey, said that if they heard the case, they would be changing the role of the board. "You are actually going to be now the massage therapy board and the cuddle therapy board," he wryly added.
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The board agreed and said that technically there weren't any massage practice rules broken, because the nipple slipped into the mouth during a cuddling session. But, the board did insist that Woodward separated her cuddling from her massage, making them both separate businesses with separate websites.
We think of self-care treatments we receive as being well-regulated, but the fact that cuddling isn't underlines one of the problems with seeking out newer alternative forms of treatment that involve up close physical contact. We want to do right by ourselves, but it's not always safe.
Believe it or not, "professional cuddling" has been around for slightly more than 20 years.
Yup, and it's still not regulated.
Professional cuddling, in case you don't know, is exactly what it sounds like: you pay an individual to cuddle with you in a non-sexual way. This can happen one on one with a professional cuddler, or it can take place at larger gatherings known as cuddle parties.
The idea behind professional cuddling tugs at the heartstrings: many people are raised without a lot of physical contact, and in our digital age, disconnection is common — professional cuddling hopes to address that.
While there are a few companies that offer to certify and train professional cuddlers, Cuddlist is one that has been around for a long time and seems to have the best type of approach to what it's offering.
Cuddlist makes it very clear that cuddling is a "platonic service," with a code of conduct, one which includes the rule that all parties need to be clothed during a session. It was Cuddlist where Woodward trained and was certified, and it was Cuddlist who removed that certificate when they found out what she was up to. A rep for the company says, "It breaks everything in our code of conduct."
To date, Cuddlist has trained more than 1,300 people to be professional cuddlers, with less than five eventually being decertified.
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