This continues my “Cuddle Chronicles” series. Check out Part 1, “The First Guy I Ever Cuddled With.”

I used to be so innocent. Sheltered. Paralyzed by loneliness. I couldn’t imagine befriending another man, let alone hugging one. Let alone cuddling on a couch with one. Let alone sharing a bed with one. Let alone this, let alone that.

After my friend Cody and I played footsie on the couch that night, I expressed a lot of morning remorse. Something about it felt off. Nothing had “happened”; no genitals were touched, no obvious lines crossed.

But were some less obvious ones maybe crossed?

Why had that hour with him on the couch aroused me more than anything I’d ever experienced with another person not on a screen? Did the dampness in my underwear suggest something sinful, something sinister beyond four feet colliding?

Weeks passed after “the incident,” and I learned to be okay with what had happened. Like gasping for breath after an 800-meter sprint. I’d gone twenty-some years without any kind of meaningful touch with another man, and suddenly I’d just gorged on an hour of footsie.

Of course I’d need to catch my breath.

Cody affirmed we were okay, and I learned to believe him. I started to look back on that night with less regret and more fondness. Sharing his bodily warmth in the dark of his house was endearing, tender — beautiful, even.

The next time I saw Cody, I barreled into him with a giant hug. We went to his car where he took a call, and I just leaned into him in the driver’s seat for a solid fifteen minutes while he talked to a friend.

Between our last visit and this one, I’d crossed a threshold where lingering touch was no longer alien, no longer daunting, no longer anything sinister or potentially sinister. On the contrary, I felt comforted, connected with my brother in his car.

I felt anchored by his touch, secure, no longer lonely. Is this how everyone else felt all the time having same-sex friends?

I stayed with Cody for a whole week on this visit, and we planned all sorts of adventures along the way. Sites to behold, Pixar movies to check off my list, and much more cuddling in between.

Before visiting him, I can’t remember our ever talking about what would happen at night. Cody had a bunkbed in his room, even though he lived alone. The top bunk was made for me when I arrived, but I didn’t sleep in it once. It just sorta . . . happened.

The first night, we watched Up while leaned against one another. When the movie ended . . . we just stayed in the same bed. We lay down and wrapped our arms around each other in the stillness of night.

I felt far less trepidation about our lingering touch this time, and still no temptation or desire to take things any further. I honestly didn’t want to do anything overtly sexual with him, and I didn’t perceive that from him either.

But I experienced the same arousal, the same dampness, the same lingering questions about lines being crossed from footsie several months prior — if not sinful lines, then relational boundary ones.

Was sleeping with my friend as beneficial as the physical rush it brought me? Would sharing a bed with him be a step forward in platonic intimacy, or would it actually be detrimental to us — and to me?

~ ~ ~

I suppose the first time I actually slept with another man would have occurred in late middle school or early high school. I ran cross country, and occasionally we’d take weekend trips to compete in larger meets hours away. The boys shared a couple hotel rooms, which also meant sharing beds.

I slept beside several guys on our team over the years, and something about it always made my heart race. To be able to turn over and look at a guy just lying there with his eyes closed. So still. So pretty.

So close.

I remember scooting an inch closer (maybe more like a millimeter) to diminish or blur the boundary between us in the bed. To bask a bit more in his breath. To hope he might adjust in his sleep and unwittingly inch closer to me himself. Maybe even to experience his incidental touch.

It never happened, the touch part. Cross country season after cross country season, hotel trip after hotel trip, I always hoped for that happenstance touch with a teammate in the night. But it never came.

Still, even without his touch, there was something satisfying about sharing such sacred space with another guy. About staring into his shut eyes and admiring his innocent face.

Something deeply curious. Something pulsing. Something a little arousing.

Something I could never quite pinpoint in all those shadowy years before coming out to myself.

~ ~ ~

When Cody and I slept together the first night, I didn’t want morning to come. Our arms wrapped around each other, we took turns spooning all night long.

How much did I even sleep by sunrise? An hour, maybe? It’s like I wanted to absorb every conscious moment of touch and intimacy I could while the sun was at bay.

I’d simply never felt a thing like it.

Night one turned to night two turned to night three, and I noticed something happening the more Cody and I slept together: the more unsatisfying it all grew.

The more we shared a bed, the more we cuddled, it was never enough. I kept begging the sun not to rise, but still it rose again. Mornings and afternoons felt jarring, disconnected from such consistent human warmth.

By night four, something happened: Cody turned away from me in the middle of the night. He broke free from my arm and flopped to the other side of the bed.

I winced. Did I do something wrong? Was my touch now repulsive? Was he conscious or unconscious of his heartbreaking action? Should I scoot closer? Or should I . . . wait for him to flop back?

He wouldn’t flop back to me the rest of the night. I felt like a blinking battery. Or maybe more like a battery overcharged?

It happened a couple more times before our week together ended: our sleeping together, our starting out cuddling, and then his eventual breakaway. The most overt time it happened, I’d grown so obsessed with his touch that I’d placed my hand on his head, only for him to turn away seconds later, my hand dropping limp to the mattress.

It all felt so fulfilling and deflating and addictive and demoralizing, one intense cycle after another, all night long, all week long.

We “debriefed” about our week together after I’d returned home. I mentioned our sleeping together, his constant breaking away.

“Yeah,” he messaged me. “Sometimes I just felt smothered lol.”

Another wince. Maybe worse than the one I suffered in bed with him.

The concept of being “smothered” was foreign to me. Could there be such a thing as too much touch? After twenty-some years, my soul still felt starved for it. I couldn’t get enough touch from another man. How could Cody, how could anyone ever have “enough”?

And so my journey with same-sex cuddling continued to evolve. A journey that would soon lead to a wretched turn in the bend . . .

Have you shared a bed with another man, platonically or otherwise? What voices did you hear, what feelings did you feel? Have you experienced sleeping with another man as good or healthy, or was it detrimental either to you or the relationship?

  • Great post, Thomas! As always, I love your candor.

    I really felt all the emotions you described, from the longing for touch to what it felt like to be told you were smothering Cody. Ouch. FYI, I’d totally let you smother me. ❤️

    But you bring up some great points. I struggle with whether or not I could innocently sleep with a guy and not be consumed by desire. I would love to, but I doubt I can and that makes me sad a little.

    Eventually, my desire would demand more than spooning. I have only slept with guys where more than spooning was not only allowed but expected. My history has left me broken in that way.

    Would I want to sleep with a guy without the risk of going overboard? ABSOLUTELY! All day long, everyday! It would be beautiful, just like you described. But damn myself! I can’t be trusted!

    You left me dangling with this post. I don’t know what direction you intend to go. I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next part…

    • Oof what happens when desire spirals out of control? That’s where my next chapter comes in. It’s not a perfect analogy, but male touch to me feels very close to drinking and over-drinking. Hoping to flesh that out the deeper I get into this part of my story. Thanks for reading and responding, Xiao! Hopefully this post didn’t “smother” you like I did my friend. Haha.

  • Very interesting Tom, I’m curious to see where this heads! Yeah the dampness is annoying, completely involuntary. I remember a long time ago just sitting next to my close straight friend caused that, even though there was no touch. Come a long ways from that.

    • “Involuntary Dampness” would be a fantastic band name.

      But in all seriousness, I’m glad I finally got over the shame in telling this story. I have a weird relationship with touch, the high highs and the low lows. Eager to flesh this out all year long and hear where other people have criss-crossed me on this journey along the way.

  • This a great post and brings up a lot of things guys with SSA have to think about and decide for themselves what they are comfortable with.

    I believe wanting physical touch is a true need – not a want and not something to be ashamed of. There are physiological and psychological effects to touch deprivation. It seems that a lot of guys with SSA were either deprived of it, or didn’t get enough from their fathers or peers as they grew up and have a gender wound.

    I have found that as I have been able to find loving safe friends that share appropriate physical touch with me then my needs get met and don’t have as many cravings for touch from strangers and others. I also get physical touch needs from my children watching a movie or wrestling with them.

    I think those desires for physical touch with other men shouldn’t be dismissed and you deserve to feel loved in that way Tom. Yes there are limits and I think as you get more of it, you will become desensitized and it won’t be as erotic or sexually stimulating. At least that has how it has been for me.

    If you look at Muslim or European cultures men are much more physical and affectionate with each other. That is healthy and good and I think our Western Culture has stigmas and homophobic beliefs that need to change. Jesus Christ loved and touched and was very close to other men. I think as Christians we should strive to follow his example.

    • Great thoughts, David. I’ve struggled with that line of deprivation and need. I don’t want to dismiss my needs. But I also want to be mindful of what my needs can do to me if left unchecked. Like anything in life, you live and learn. I’m just glad I’m finally giving myself space to process it through this blogging series. Long overdue.

    • I especially appreciated your last paragraph. Having been to Asia (Hong Kong and The Philippines), I was struck by how much guys were physical and affectionate with each other in public. Our Western culture sure can learn from this. I noticed something while over there. The people, who often had very little materially, had rich, rewarding relationships and friendships from what I can tell. I asked my host if there was much mental illness over there, and he said not a lot. I think part of that is the fact they put a priority to friendships and felt no shame in showing it. Here it seems like it’s gotten so that even if we look at a person they’ll sue you (well not quite, but it has given me a culture of fear in relating to others).

      I remember once arriving at the train station back home and my parents were there to meet me. I had talked with a Christian guy and he got off the train to say goodbye and he gave me a hug. My late dad had a fit and his first question was, “is that guy gay?” He wasn’t, but I was very sad that even a simple gesture of a hug would be met with anger and questions. My dad had a firm belief that men should never give each other a hug…I think that mentality is changing…hopefully!

  • YES. Such an important conversation.

    This one came at such a perfect time for me. Recently I’ve been asking myself what boundaries I should really be setting in regards to male touch, especially now that I’m married. Most of the advice I’ve gotten has been to “Cut off the hand” completely and just not allow myself to even be alone with men anymore. I’ve had to seriously consider that in light of my past mistakes, but through those considerations I realized that the other hand to cut off was the stifling of physical touch with men. The only season of complete victory came when I had a fare amount of healthy touch with my brothers. A big part of it though was accountability, and the public nature of it. The healthy relationships I’ve had all had one thing in common, we could be affectionate in public and with our friends. I’ve realized for me that if I lean too far into the quiet, alonetime intimacy, that’s where I will become dependent. And chief among that alone time, is sleeping in the same bed.

    I have felt that same feeling you did where you just never wanted it to end. It became an addiction and I couldn’t get enough. I was even too much for the man I was cuddling, who is extremely physically affectionate. I think it’s just a level of intimacy that I personally drink too deeply of.

    I don’t have too many answers now. Will I never sleep in the same bed as a man again? I don’t know. I know there have been times my friends have had panic attacks and I held them until we fell asleep, was that too much intimacy? Don’t know. But as of right now I feel like the Lord brought me to the realization that I personally just can’t allow myself to be in that situation, at least for a long time. I can have, and truly do need, a level of physical affection with my brothers. Every issue gets worse if I don’t, but sleeping together is just an intimacy I get too drunk on.

    Thanks for this one Tommyboyo. God really used it to confirm what I had been praying about and conclusions I had been coming to JUST last night. Goodness his kindness is all I can see.

    Excited to hear more of this story. I’m quite intrigued to hear and glean from your journey.

  • I have shared a bed with a fellow male many times, though never for romantic or sexual reasons. Some of the times I did so were during sleepovers. My friends and I used to sleep outside on their trampoline, and in the morning we would always end up sort of piled up in the center. Other times were during the yearly one-act competitions my high school theater company would participate in. We would generally be two to each bed in the hotels we stayed at. That was never uncomfortable for me (unless they snored). I have never fully understood why some guys are so uncomfortable with sharing a bed with another guy. If it were a friend of mine who brought that up, I would tell him, “Dude, it’s only weird if you make it weird.” I would say those experiences that I’ve had are generally part of normal life, so I have never perceived anything about them as particularly noteworthy. In fact, this is a small part of the reason I feel blessed to have grown up outside of the US. Of course there’s no way of really knowing, but I feel like I would have acquired more of an aversion to platonic touch if I had grown up in the States.

    I did have one experience that was closer to what you described above, Tom, except that we weren’t actually sharing a bed. First, a bit of context. In my high school theater company, there was one person whom I had a crush on. I hated the fact that I did, so in order to make having a crush on him feel weird, I befriended him. I am so glad I did, as he ended up being my closest friend at the high school. So I was able to redeem my attraction toward him, and it evolved from a mainly physical attraction to an emotional attraction—which to me seems appropriate and natural for a close friendship—as I got to know him more. Fortunately, I can truthfully say I have never been sexually attracted to him. He fascinated me then, and I would say in some ways he still does. I never got to share a hotel bed or even a room with him, though if I had I strongly doubt I would have turned it into an immoral situation; rather I would have considered it a privilege and an honor. That’s the feeling that went through my mind in this story I think—privilege and honor. It was an honor and a privilege to do something so simple as take a nap—each to a couch—with my dear, mysterious, fascinating friend in the back of the theater. I will admit though, I don’t remember ever catching a wink that afternoon. It was such a surreal and intimate experience for me. There is something so precious, peaceful, and trusting about a sleeping form. It was probably the closest I have come to being in love. I don’t like thinking of it that way, but that’s how I can think to describe it right now. I look back on that afternoon only with fondness.

    • Love your perspective, Hugh. Thanks for sharing! I often wonder how different my life would be having grown up in a different culture. Be it internationally or even in a different part of the US, a different church/school, etc. How would that have affected my relationship with other guys and my supercharged relationship with touch? I wonder. I can relate with your story of falling asleep in the same room as your friend. Something about being able to sleep comfortably in the same room as another person that is just so endearing to me. To be able to let one’s guard down like that in the presence of another. So simple and yet so profound.

  • I may well regret this post, but here goes.

    I stumbled across this website tonight [from TikTok] and I can’t fully understand the angst I see here.

    Now, I am older— 67 — but I did grow up in a nominally Christian family and I have, since the age of 13 or 14, contemplated the same issues. But I arrived at different conclusions.

    Though not a church-goer, I remain fully convinced that Christianity is the single, most positive force for good in the history of mankind. It truly has changed the world for the better.

    But, that said, I also suspect that many of the scriptural admonitions about homosexuality have been seriously misinterpreted — sometimes through a lack of historical knowledge, sometimes through subsequent translations from one language to another, and sometimes willfully by a society that craved sameness.

    The tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, is not about sex between men at all. There are two other verses in the Bible explaining it : Wisdom 19:13 and Ezekiel 16:48-49. The sin of Sodom was a failure of hospitality. To the extent that sex was involved, it was a desire for sex with angels — strange flesh. Odd as it may seem to us, that was a recurring taboo in the ancient world.

    Yet, this single story has been used to justify the mistreatment, the imprisonment, and the killing of gays for 1000 years.

    We needn’t consider Leviticus because, as Paul pointed out, Christians were not required to observe Jewish religious law. Which is why we don’t, any of us, keep Kosher or worry about mixing fabrics.

    And if anyone labors under the impression that David and Jonathan were just good buddies, then he’s willfully avoiding the import of what he reads.

    Finally, Jesus never spoke a word about the topic. In fact, you may know the story of Jesus visiting the home of a Roman Centurion who worries that his slave is dying. To us, a slave is a slave, but the ancient Greeks had many words to describe slaves. The Centurion refers to the slave as “my boy” — “pais” in Greek.

    The word had the connotation among the ancients as a young boy and probably a sexual companion. Jesus would have certainly understood the relationship yet he simply cured him — without any lecture on sexual vice. He cured him out of love.

    So. I apologize for barging in here and I hope I haven’t offended anyone or trod on anyone’s feet. I’ve only skimmed the topic. There are other examples in the Bible where it’s likely that historical ignorance and mistranslations have contributed to a misunderstanding.

    I’m so sad reading the comments on these posts. I don’t think there’s good reason to be sad. Christians are human and are subject to all the weaknesses of humans. Among those is a craving for everyone to be the same — to conform to the majority. It’s not evil, but it’s misguided.

    God made us. We’re different. But we’re perfect as we are. Honor the commitments that you’ve made, of course, but don’t beat yourself up for your feelings. It’s the only conclusion I’ve been able to reach.

    God bless you all.

    • Our first TikTok commenter! Craig, thanks for taking those honors. Appreciate your well-thought out comment here. I won’t dive too deeply into my conviction to pursue singleness/celibacy as a gay/SSA follower of Jesus. I always direct people to Preston Sprinkle’s “People to be Loved” as he does a great job looking at Scripture’s references to sexuality and its overall narrative. Indeed, there are gray areas! The Sodom/Gomorrah example you mentioned stands out as a common misconception amongst believers. Ultimately, I feel the conviction to walk this road, and this community is for other Jesus-followers with similar convictions: to have a safe place to share wounds and longings, yes, but also to share a lot of joy together. For all the sadness you may see in these stories, man, there is a ton of joy. I’m so grateful for the guys in YOB who have revolutionized my outlook on my faith journey forever.

  • When I was 19, I was a camp counselor at a Christian camp. Terry was the counselor in the cabin next to mine. We quickly became the closest of friends. After the campers were settled in each night, he and I would meet between our cabins to talk and pray, often with arms around each other, usually until 2 a.m. or later. He was from out of state, so on the weekends, he came home with me, where we slept in the same bed. On Sunday nights, back at the camp before the campers came the next day, we would take two mattresses off the bunks in my cabin and set them on the floor so we could sleep next to each other. All summer, we had an intense physical, though not sexual relationship, in addition to a deep spiritual and emotional relationship. There was a purity, and innocence, in our affection.

    After 30+ years, I still long for that type of closeness with a man. I’ve been happily married for 29 years, and very much in love with my wife. I won’t say, like David talking about Jonathan, that my relationship with Terry was better than what I have with my wife (because it wasn’t), but it had its own kind of depth and specialness. I’ve not connected with anyone else in quite the same way. I know that I won’t ever be able to recreate what Terry and I had. Now that I know the pleasures of sex and have looked at softcore gay porn (I didn’t have those images or ideas in my head way back then), I don’t think I would be able to be that close physically in bed with a man (especially one as beautiful and affectionate as Terry was) and keep myself from going farther than I did with Terry. Plus, of course, I don’t want to cheat on my wife.

    Several years after our summer at camp, Terry told me that he was struggling with same sex attraction, and then that he had been hooking up with guys. He cut me out of his life for quite a few years, but we’ve since reconnected. He’s in a long-term relationship with a man. I didn’t realize at the time what a rare gift Terry was. I thank God for him and for the intimacy that we shared.

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories. May God give us all good strength to be content and to continually encourage one another.

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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