April 7, 2014

Cuddling businesses rub regulators the wrong way

By Anastasia P. Boden Attorney

Here at PLF, we are accustomed to overzealous regulators stifling entrepreneurs’ right to earn a living, and we’ve defended movers and pest controllers and written briefs in support of casket-making monks, and more.  So we shouldn’t be surprised that regulators have their eyes on another ridiculously benign target.  But we are.

No, it’s not her.

Regulators have their eyes on… wait for it… professional cuddlers.

Snuggles, the bear.

“Touch therapy” is an up-and-coming industry, in which patrons pay for some light, g-rated, cuddling.  Supporters say the benefits range from emotional perks to physical changes; one website says that cuddling can result in increased oxytocin levels that last for days.

But the city of Madison says these cuddle cottages could be a front for prostitution, or a risk of assault.  The city was planning on raiding one such establishment when the Snuggle House instead voluntarily shut down.

“There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” said assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”

What’s truly offensive is the notion that the government has to prophylactically shut down a business and unemploy its workers out of fear of an already criminalized act that ostensibly, the Snuggle House itself is best able to protect against.  Government shouldn’t be able to smother businesses to death out of paternalistic, sexist, unfounded fears.

The enterprising huggers are confident they can protect themselves. Ali of Cuddle U NYC strictly vets potential clients, asking them to make their social media profiles public, documenting their driver’s license, and interviewing them.  Funny business is strictly prohibited.  Her first client was a stressed out college student, not someone trying to cop a feel.  The Snuggle House took even more precautions, installing panic buttons and security cameras in the rooms, and warning clients they’d be let go if there was any misbehaving.

No sign yet if other cities will follow Madison’s example, but I for one, hope Ali C at least is left to cuddle another day.

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