Probably my most popular and well-known YOB posts are my several blogs on cuddling and nudity. Some people have praised these posts for articulating their own feelings, while others have felt I’m “playing with fire” and leading others to sin.

Some say these posts have made YOB look less interested in following Jesus, obsessing only over cuddles.

It’s now been three to four years since I’ve written those blogs on cuddling and nudity, and I’ve shared many cuddles since with guys I’ve met through YOB. But have any of my thoughts changed since I wrote those posts?

I’ve maintained a lot of wonderful, platonic cuddling with friends. Other friends have shared that their experiences with male touch to be loving and very beneficial.

On the other hand, I’ve talked with others who have felt such touch was too arousing for them. I’ve also heard from a handful of people whose cuddling experiences went into overtly sexual territory.

Results from cuddling seem to be uneven with a lot of variables.

My own cuddling experiences are all over the place. I’ve had instances where I felt strong emotional warmth and love, more than anything sexual — a pure emotional euphoria, if you will, sometimes extremely relaxing.

And I’ve also had instances where cuddling with other men has felt more arousing.

I’ve often pondered the variables in cuddling. Perhaps it depends on the person, or maybe what mood I’m in at the time. The latter seems to happen most often when I’ve been going through emotionally hard or stressful times at work or whatnot.

I’ve heard some unfortunate stories of people going too far and messing up with their physical affection, or trying to justify acts that are very questionable. Perhaps boundaries have been crossed lately as people finally meet up after a year of miserable isolation from COVID-19.

Beyond this past year’s pandemic difficulties, I want to reexamine some things about cuddling and nudity.

As celibate gay/SSA Christians in this community, we agree that the Bible forbids gay sex. But how does one define “gay sex” and what touch to pursue or avoid?

One helpful thing, at least, is our belief that Scripture completely eliminates sexual intercourse with other men — that is, anal and oral sex. It’s good news that we do have a clear “black zone”; after that, though, there is a lot of grey.

What concerns me is that I see people trying to justify some physical acts by saying, “Well if it’s not intercourse, it’s not sexual!”

Trust me, I wish things were that simple. One group of Christian men out there believes only anal sex is off-limits, while literally everything else (yes, including oral sex) isn’t “gay” — it’s just “good male bonding.”

Yeah, needless to say I find this particular group’s views deeply hypocritical and homophobic. While many Side B friends wouldn’t agree with their philosophy either, I sometimes see people tip-toeing that line.

I could write a book on the number of websites and blogs I’ve come across that claim to be a celebration of brotherhood and male bonding. At first I’ve found myself quite on board with them as they challenge society’s restricting views of “proper affection” between men.

Much to my dismay, though, the images shared on these sites have grown more and more risqué to the point that I realize I’m looking at gay porn disguised as “bromance.”

The general view adopted by most folks in the Side B world is more or less forbidding of any “genital expression” between unmarried people, be they gay/SSA or straight. This makes sense to me. I don’t have the time or word-space to go into the biblical exegesis, but if you want to do further research I recommend Preston Sprinkle’s book People to be Loved (link on our Resources page).

This belief still leaves ambiguous room with cuddling and nudity. Indeed, many straight men will say, “Pff bruh that’s gay. I wouldn’t cuddle or be naked with anyone other than my girlfriend.”

And yet history shows us such attitudes weren’t always that way. I’ve also met a few straight men who defy conventional gender norms and don’t mind those things.

Social norms and customs do muddy the waters. I often wonder if my sexual pulls toward things are mainly due to my not being used to them, similar to how a gay/SSA guy with “daddy issues” might be attracted to older men.

Did my adolescent lack of affectionate touch from male friends sexualize things later in life? This gets complicated as it starts to resemble Side X or “ex-gay” theology, and many Side B folks will balk at that.

But something I’ve found very fascinating about gay men is that many of them are drawn to nudism or exhibitionism, some to extreme degrees: from the secular gay world, and across the Side A, Side B, Side X, and Side Y belief spectrums. I find this curious.

It seems even non-believers want to reclaim more innocent, non-sexual experiences among men.

If anything, I’ve learned that sexuality is far more complicated than people think. Most people, gay and straight, seem to think you are either gay, bi, or straight, and that’s it: gay people act this way, straight people act that way. The end.

However, there are a lot of grey zones with sexuality. Take me, for instance.

I’ve blogged about the asexual side of my sexuality. It does give me a huge advantage in that my cuddling or shared nudity doesn’t turn sexual.

But if I’ve given the impression in my blogs that “cuddling is so easy a gay caveman could do it,” I do apologize. In my defense, I hadn’t fully articulated that side of myself while first writing those posts years ago.

On top of that, everyone is different. What may be no big deal with cuddling or nudity to one person may be very sexually charged for another. For example I don’t think twice about using a urinal in a public restroom, but I’ve spoken with other guys who find it deeply arousing and/or terrifying.

The one common denominator I’ve found is that guys who have sexual histories with other men or hookup addictions often have a very difficult time not sexualizing cuddling. 

At the end of the day, are cuddling and nudity “playing with fire”? I don’t engage in these activities with other men or recommend doing anything with someone simply to see “how far you can go” without things turning sexual.

“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

“Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”

2 Timothy 2:22 (NIV & NLT)

While I’m at peace remaining single and celibate, goshdarnit I need physical touch. Living without touch feels deeply unhealthy, and it’s made me feel like a zombie. Touch is a need for me, not an indulgence.

I also have a genuine curiosity to explore and challenge masculinity norms, as well as the grey zones of sexual orientation. I am certainly not doing so recklessly, as I want to do what is loving for my brothers, what is healthy for me, and what is pleasing to God.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

I don’t want to be the “affection police” dictating what is okay and what isn’t for people to do. Everyone is different, and I want to encourage my readers to be responsible adults who carefully work out what’s best for them with God’s guidance.

Avoid black-and-white thinking at all costs, be it “this behavior is gay and this behavior isn’t,” or “this behavior isn’t sexual intercourse so it isn’t sexual” on the other end of the spectrum.

It’s such a tightrope act between prudishness and sexual debauchery; what culture says and what the heart says; love and lust; context and true intentions.

Always remember, there’s a difference between challenging gender norms and violating boundaries for selfish gain.

Where have you landed on issues like cuddling and nudity with other men? Have your beliefs and practices changed over time based on personal experience? Does cuddling and/or nudity contribute to a healthier masculinity, or do they cause you harm?

  • Dang, good post. What’s funny is locker-room nudity has never bothered me much. It has given me mainly an “oh were all in this together” sense and the sense that I saw naked men and didn’t hyper sexualize it made me feel more secure. At the same time, this wasn’t very intimate. So, my intimate longings weren’t helped much really, so nudity alone for me has been cool, but not deeply helpful.
    I’ve never really cuddled, though I have had my arm around straight friends for an hour -during counseling sessions. THAT has been amazing and for days after these experiences, I had a greatly increased sense of my masculinity, so much so that, at times, I had the confidence, to pass the gift onto others, to ‘bestow’ if you will, what had been ‘bestowed’ to me. I didn’t feel needy for men for days. I WAS the man, now. But it wears off.

    • Thank you Michael! Man, I would kill to have the latter experience. That sounds so wonderful. I also have had some more simple physical touch (like a friend putting his head on my shoulder) be the most affective opposed to big ol snuggles on the couch. Its funny that way. But yeah sadly those feelings fade after a while. I wonder how different I would be if I got this sort of thing more frequently.

  • thanks for the write up Eugene. I too have gone back & forth with this issue. Unfortunately, for me…cuddling can arouse me too easily. I love hugging so much & do it a lot. I’m ok with it too. It’s more of cuddling on the couch or elsewhere that does me in. I couldn’t live without touch either – even the past year of Covid didn’t rob me too much as in Kenya it wasn’t too prevalent. Unfortunately, recently it has become a huge issue here… but I do have my double jab.
    I find your writing very intriguing. Keep it up bro.

    • Thank you very much Greg! I sometimes get arousals as well but they come and go. I don’t freak out about them too much as long as it isn’t overwhelming. Just saying its not uncommon. But its good that you at least get hugs in, gotta at least have that touch since its healthy.

  • Cuddling for me has been life-changing. Being held in a safe situation seems to have really helped me overcome PTSD triggers and flashbacks. Nudity is no longer a terrifying experience. There’s a difference between curiosity and lust that I now appreciate.

    • That’s wonderful, Tristan! Touch is truly a powerful thing, and it is also mentally and emotionally healthy. Studies show you literally need touch to keep you healthy.

  • This was a fun “time capsule” post. Thanks so much for looking back and writing this one, Eugene. This blog really exemplifies the “navigating” in our site tagline.

    I’ve been all over the place with touch, especially cuddling, over the years. Even if we’re not the ones course-correcting ourselves on any number of issues, it’s always good to look outside our bubbles and recognize how/why others are course-correcting along their own journeys.

    • Thank you Tom! Yeah its definitely good to go back and clarify things. Physical touch is a great thing but like all things in this world it can be spoiled by sin.

  • “While I’m at peace remaining single and celibate, goshdarnit I need physical touch.”

    Join the club! 😁 I too have also accepted the fact that I will remain single and celibate for my lifetime. Yet if I could simply engage in simply hugging another man for a prolonged time, that would go a ways in filling my emotional fuel tank. However, you (Eugene) asked if my “beliefs and practices changed over time based on personal experience?” They have to a degree. Unfortunately I have taken part in being physically intimate (not sexually nor overtly sinful) with another guy and it didn’t turn out well. I traveled to his town and met with him to spend some quality time together as he was feeling lonely and isolated. We held hands and “shoulder cuddled” while seated in my car. Very PG rated stuff up to that point. But then it got uncomfortable fast. I wasn’t planning on staying overnight, but he suggested I get a hotel room and so we could spend more time together the next day. But my sixth sense suggested to me, he wanted to have a one night stand with me at the hotel. I managed to decline his advance and drive back to my home city that day. Physical touch and intimacy can be a wonderful thing, yet caution, certainly in this case, is warranted.

  • So longtime lurker on YOB, and now that comments aren’t on disqus anymore, I can actually comment.

    How often have I desired to express love, care, and friendship with other guys through physical touch? If a buddy or even not-all-that-close friend puts their arm around my shoulder for a REAL length of time, it’s like permafrost begins to finally melt, and I might start to feel alive again. Feel loved again. I’d do just about anything to have this (hopefully regularly) in my life. My guess is that empathy + physical (not sexual) touch from a close male friend would change nearly everything in my life for the better. And my desire is for my brother to feel loved deeply too.

    Closet SSA here – Please don’t even attempt to persuade me to go public. It’s not a good idea for countless reasons in my life. It would shut too many doors. I’ve also not seen public disclosure of SSA do much to improve the lives of people I know who have disclosed.

    For me, SSA mainly manifests as emotional (unmet) needs for close friendships and physical touch with other guys, preferably brothers in Christ. I’ve never desired to have sex with a guy or to kiss a guy (both completely repulsive), and the idea of having a “boyfriend” makes no sense and never has entered my mind. But I deeply desire physical touch. Eugene, I completely resonate with you when you say you NEED it. Sure we can survive without it. But I ask the question personally to myself, “Is my life really that worth living, absent of physical touch?” No I don’t want to die or end my life, but living without having this kind of love present in my life, it’s barely living at all. What’s the point?

    I believe Jesus designed us to need REAL and CLOSE relationships with others in the Body of Christ. We’re supposed to be a CONNECTED body. But this is barely talked about.

    But it would change my life if I could mutually embrace another guy who:
    A. has mutual empathy, he and I.
    B. Isn’t selfish or conceited
    C. Takes reasonable good care of themself (health & hygiene)
    D. Is open to cuddling and actually wants to cuddle

    And I consider myself an alright guy. Reasonably extraverted, but not intimidating to introverts. I’m humble though, and I do fight for my friends. It rarely comes back my way though. And secretly I feel like I’m slowly dying of loneliness. Yes I pray about this. Yes I’ve told others I feel like I’m dying of loneliness. Nothing seems to be changing. I feel tortured at times by it all.

    And I know there are other guys out there just like me. I just wish we had a better way of finding one another, and that we all lived in the same town. If I knew a guy felt as lonely as I do, and felt loved by physical touch, I’d probably tackle him to the ground with my hug.

    I hope you forgive the venting, but this is very real to me. -Adam

    • Adam, I totally resonate with this comment and how you mentioned that Jesus has designed us for close and intimate relationships in the body of Christ. It is tough when this gets neglected. I am finding in my church, though, that there are definitely guys who are looking more for this. If you keep your eyes open to the opportunities around you, you never know who God may place in your path.

      I also understand the longing to find a brother who gets you in these areas. We know, as you said, that they exist, but finding them is a whole other matter. Have you told anyone in your life about your ssa? I know you mentioned not going public, but letting someone know whom you trust may be very helpful for support. If you want to talk through this with someone, just let me know. My desire is that no person would feel alone in this battle.

  • Thank you so much for tackling this topic. I am also SSA Christian who wants to have celibate life. I met a guy who is also SSA but called to be celibate Christian 2 years ago. We started to develop our friendship so beautifully but then the romantic feeling started to kick in. We got attracted to each other physically and mentally. It was a real genuine love but had a romantic feeling behind all the cuddling and touch we started to enjoy (holding hands in the car and movie theater etc). We started hug each other very tight and I felt so great so healed, while we both felt arousal. After several months, while we were sitting on the sofa at my place, we started to cross the line. Kissing, spooning, embracing each other body without shirts, then kissing with tongues and completely naked exposure in the bed, and yes we had sex in the end…. We repented our lustful sin later but realized that we could not enjoy this relationship or even cuddling with secure feeling. We started to keep distance, which was very painful. I loved and still love him genuinely but if I meet him now, I am sure that the temptation will get too strong to keep chastity again – even with the slight touch or hug. This is my particular weakness and brokenness that I developed in my past – I had several relationships which involved the sex very actively. I feel I can not simply enjoy cuddling and hug from someone attractive whom I might have fall in love. Strangely, I tend to resist to get a intimate hug from someone not attractive to me. I feel awkward to touch hands of someone whom I don’t really love deep enough. So knowing this behavior that I developed, I am wondering if I might not get any touch nor cuddling in my life, which makes me sad and hopeless. I know I should seek God for the real love affirmation but my body sometimes need the REAL touch, the REAL physical affirmation. I hope I can develop something non-sexual, non-romantic to receive this kind of touch more freely. But at this point, it just seems very hard to reach that.

  • I don’t think I could ever cuddle with another man and not think it will turn sexual in the end. I am not a touchy feely guy. At my church not many men hug one another and I don’t think I would feel comfortable with it.

  • It sounds like you have thought through this pretty well Eugene which is a good thing. Physical and emotional connectedness with other guys can definitely be a tricky subject to navigate through when dealing with ssa. It is a balance of being in close relationship with other guys, while also keeping these relationships healthy. Loving a brother in Christ in this way is definitely possible.

    I know personally that I experience some very healthy touch from one of my friends in the form of hugs. It is really cool because we have been roommates for a couple of years now and have really bonded in a healthy way so that we mutually support one another, care for one another, and push each other to growth. We have communicated what we need and when we need it. At this point, we don’t even need to say anything to tell if each other is having a tough time. When this happens, we encourage each other through the means that we’ve communicated to each other that helps when going through a rough time. For example, if he notices I am down, he naturally just gives me a hug and holds it for a good while. I support him with what I know helps him too. Mutual brotherly love that is giving in its nature is awesome. When you don’t even have to say what you need because someone already knows what it is and gives it, this is such a wonderful demonstration of Christ-like love.

    I know many guys are looking for mutual brotherly love, both those who do and do not struggle with ssa. I’d encourage all of us to be intentional about giving to others in a loving way, whatever this looks like and to communicate with others about what helps us as well.

  • As for me, I would recommend to reduce cuddling with other SSA guys, unless they really are your brothers and completely unattractive. In my culture, straight men are very macho, but hug, touch and put their arms around each other. (No nudity though.) However, I was raised with a close mom and a distant dad, so I identified with my mom and sisters. The boys and men were scary, manly, so I avoided their frequent manly touches, even though I craved them. I never had a close dad or positive father figure to show me how to be a man among men, so I didn’t know how to fit in. Yet, I hid this inside and was straight-passing. In puberty, when I sexualized my longing for male touch and developed SSA, male touch became even more complicated, because it turned me on. So I kept avoiding it. Until I made some cool friends that are very straight, very confident in their masculinity, and love me as a brother. Their touches do not arouse me, because they feel like my brothers (off the market). So I finally get male touch and closeness from guys, which affirms me own masculinity and reduces my interest in sexualizing guys. I’m careful, though, not to become co-dependent or needy!

    • Well Petro, the sad thing is that here in the USA men are not like that at all. Physical touch between straight men is very frowned upon. There are some here and there who break this mold but they are sadly a needle in a haystack. I need physical touch for my own well being, and it only SSA men can provide it then I’m still going to take it. I’ve had lots of cuddles with other SSA men that have not turned sexual. For me, healthy boundaries are fundamental for helping this touch keep from turning into something it shouldn’t.

  • Hi, Eugene… The subjects you discuss in your posts are very pertinent for men in the Side B community.  I think YOB fulfills its mission by addressing issues remates to our concrete everyday existence. Thank you.

  • Eugene Heffron

    I’m a 30-something still trying to find my way in the world. Lover of all things creative, I am a drawer with an intuitive mind while also a deep thinker. I can be a person of extreme opposites: one moment a lone wolf, the next a social butterfly; one moment joyful and optimistic, yet sad and melancholic the next. As I came to terms with my SSA I met fellow SSA Christians and formed deep, intimate bonds. I’ve always longed for brotherhood and, at last, I have found it after years of social isolation. I am glad to be part of this community of bloggers and share my stories and struggles, joys and sorrows, dreams and longings.

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