Blogging on this site since its inception five years ago, I’ve felt the gamut of inspiration or lack thereof with my posts. Sometimes my writings here are a free-flowing fountain of personal experience, insight, and hope.
And then other times it’s more of a slow burn of anxiety with inescapable conviction. As a writer I feel the nagging itch from some spirit, Holy or otherwise, to write the thing, something, and I won’t be left alone until I force it out of me.
Physical touch — it’s a thing we write about quite a bit here at YOB. One of our most popular posts comes from Eugene who wrote about something called “bro cuddling,” a term I had never heard before he used it. We’ve gotten a ton of support for that post, but also some negative pushback (as I’m sure Eugene knows more firsthand than I do as our site editor).
Here at YOB, we’re a diverse group of guys. Singles and marrieds and young and old. Conservative and progressive and everything in between. There is no one “stance” here other than we all follow Jesus, feeling called to live out a traditional/biblical sexual ethic, however difficult or tension-filled that journey often is.
How everyone “lives out” that ethic, however, is a gray area — more of a gray chasm, actually. The particular realm of physical touch is a chasm all to itself.
We all have different vantage points in this community, different experiences and lessons learned over the years, and I’ve felt the nag, the itch, the conviction — whatever you want to call it — to talk more about my evolving stance on touch for the last decade. Particularly with what I’ve always called “lingering touch” — or call it “bro cuddling,” if you will.
I once was all for this sort of intimate touch. And to some degree, I think I still am. But I also know I’m definitely not to a larger degree, thanks to the last decade of processing and relationships gained and lost.
It will take a while to unspool all my thoughts on platonic same-sex cuddling: a new series of posts I’m calling “The Cuddle Chronicles.” Has a nice ring to it, eh?
I don’t know how many posts and months this new series will take me to flesh out — a reason I’ve been putting off this project for so long — but I’m determined to christen these chronicles today.
Starting with the story of the first guy I ever cuddled with ten years ago . . .
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Back when I first discovered an online community for Jesus-followers also attracted to the same sex, I made a friend (Cody) who often talked about cuddling with one of his college friends. His college friend was also gay, also raised in a religious environment, but definitely not living out a traditional sexual ethic like me and my friend.
Whenever Cody told me about cuddling with his gay friend, I always recoiled. I was 23 at the time, and keep in mind I’d hardly hugged a male friend, let alone cuddle with one, whatever that word even meant.
I actually asked Cody to define the word one night, because I’d never heard cuddling used in a platonic context with same-sex friendships. Only ever as a romantic gesture between a boyfriend and girlfriend or a husband and a wife.
“I don’t know,” he told me. “We just sit close together on the couch and hold hands and lean on each other’s shoulders while watching a movie and stuff.”
It sounded innocent enough. But it also sounded really weird. Again, I’d gone practically untouched for over two decades. My friend’s definition felt like something from the start of a porn sketch.
Cody had shared his friend’s name with me, and after stalking him on Facebook I found him quite attractive. Add another layer to my tension as Cody’s friend: was it wise to cuddle with a hot guy who didn’t hold to the same sexual ethic as you? Wouldn’t that just be inviting temptation, maybe devastation?
I did genuinely care for Cody’s spiritual health and journey. But at my core, I was jealous. Deeply jealous.
Why didn’t I have a friend like that to fulfill over two decades of touch-deprivation? Or was I even right to long for touch like that? Did that sort of touch between two men cross a line? Could two men cuddle without sinning or pushing boundaries?
Tension. So much tension.
But tension is what happens when you step out of a safe world of isolation. Inevitably, interacting with other people and building relationships invites buckets of new tension previously unfelt in your life.
I have to believe that this new tension is worth the new connection, though.
Somewhere down the road, Cody would be the first guy I ever cuddled with. It wasn’t anything crazy. We just sat close on a couch, our knees, legs, and feet touching for thirty, forty minutes. Essentially, we started playing footsie. We never talked about it happening; it just did.
I was aroused the whole time. I kept gulping back saliva. My heart pounded the same way it did upon watching pornography for the first time. It was the thrill of something new, something novel. Something questionable and mildly erotic.
I went to bed that night — honestly — feeling like I’d lost my virginity. I felt so much guilt for that heart-pounding touch. Nothing “sexual” had happened, but something had happened.
“I feel weird about last night,” I told Cody the next morning, and he assured me we were fine. That nothing was wrong. That I was making a big deal out of a little thing.
It took me a few days of processing, but eventually I came around. No definitive physical lines had been crossed. No touching of private parts or anything like that.
Yes, there was raging arousal. But is it a sin to be aroused? Certainly not.
But still. Why did the lingering touch of my friend cause me such a sexual reaction? And was this a problem for our friendship and shared faith journeys since we were both attracted to men?
I’d never felt such a tumultuous emotional/sexual vortex in all my twenty-some years as I did that night of footsie with Cody. I didn’t want to be aroused by my friend who was also attracted to men.
Further, I didn’t want to be attracted to him, and vice versa. I loved him as my friend, my brother. I didn’t want that ever ruined.
Things were so “safe” in our friendship prior to our first cuddle; they didn’t feel safe anymore.
On the one hand, I felt closer to my friend than ever before. Definitely closer once I — we — finished processing things.
On the other hand, though, I’d just gotten a taste of something I’d gone well over two decades without. Something most folks experience as lovey-dovey teenagers with their girlfriends or boyfriends or, heck, maybe even their friend-friends.
It took until my early twenties for my first bite of some forbidden fruit, and my universe was opened in unforeseen ways.
No longer was I a “cuddle virgin.” Right or not, the ensuing years would take me further along this new journey with touch.
One filled with high highs. And low lows.
Have you cuddled with someone of the same sex? Did your first time cuddling make you feel as if you were pushing limits or boundaries, or did it feel healthy and appropriate?