I’ve been writing for YOB these last seven years, and my “bro cuddling” blogs have consistently been my most popular. Every time a reader emails me, he typically tells me these particular blogs have moved him or helped him the most. One guy even approached me at a recent Revoice conference and told me that my first bro cuddling blog was his favorite. He said that it helped him a lot when he was first setting out on his journey with faith and sexuality.

If that guy is out there reading this, just know you made my day!

Looking back on those blogs years later, after experiencing much more bro cuddling, how does it all hold up? Have any of my thoughts or feelings changed around the subject? Or have I perhaps received some new insights, especially after a lot of cuddle mileage?

It’s easy to understand why cuddling is such a popular subject. Many queer or SSA (same-sex attracted) men with whom I’ve talked, across various sexual ethics, have told me about experiencing the same thing: an intensely emotional longing for male physical touch that has nothing to do with sex or sexual attraction. I’ve heard this sentiment from queer men without any faith background, as well as queer believers who are both Side A (affirming) and Side B (traditional), including bisexuals, as well as ex-gay people, and yes even the rare, occasional straight guy!

The first guy I cuddled with was flamingly gay, and he told me cuddling was even better than sex. This suggests some deeper longing of the soul, not some cheap sexual fantasy — a basic need with both mental and emotional health benefits.

A lot of confusing feelings can surround this topic. My desire to hold and be held by another man (perhaps even share some roughhousing) has never felt sexual or even inherently “gay” — not unlike what many younger boys experience with one another.

Our culture, though, immediately labels such behavior as “gay,” even with good intentions. One side says, “Ew, that’s gay,” while the other says, “That’s so gay, isn’t that sweet?”

And yet somehow baseball players who jump on each other and hug each other and slap each other’s butts get a pass?

Things get even more confusing when we live in a sex-obsessed culture that lumps all intimacy under the umbrella of sex. People can’t possibly be “intimate” without any sex involved, right?

My bro cuddling blogs did receive a fair amount of criticism. Many folks brought up the old “slippery slope” argument, warning such behavior would undoubtably lead to sexual sin. Some said that my focus on the physical aspects of same-sex attraction was obsessive and not that different from dating couples trying to figure out which affections are “too far” before marriage.

One guy even messaged me: Goodbye. Men are not to cuddle.

Can’t argue with such a deep intellectual argument like that, right?

Bro Cuddling: A Beginner’s Guide

On social media, a huge argument erupted about the above image, which I designed for one of my bro cuddling blogs. One man ranted (edited for grammar):

This is disturbing and effeminate looking. This is not two guys embracing each other as brothers; they are cuddling, and the one is looking at the other the way a woman looks at the man [even though each man’s eyes are closed like they’re sleeping]. Same-sex attraction is an abomination to God, and honestly a lot of the things you share are disturbing. The Bible says the effeminate will not inherit the kingdom, and if that’s anything, that’s at least letting go of your past and reckoning yourself dead to it. A lot of the articles and things you share really show that you’re letting your past be part of you rather than letting Jesus wash it all away with His blood and being a new creation.

I do understand people’s concerns, and I get where they are coming from with most arguments (well, maybe not the latter ones). Frankly, physical touch between people in any context can be a complicated thing.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that something healthy and life-giving can also be abused to hurt people or be partaken in irresponsibly in ways which lead to sin. But that doesn’t make something like physical touch inherently bad.

One must carefully decipher the gray zones, including societal stereotypes and stigmas. I’ve been researching the societal standards of male intimacy and physical touch across time and cultures, and I’m more and more convinced that desires for emotional intimacy are not “strictly gay” desires; they are more prevalent than most people think. Perhaps queer/SSA guys feel this desire more strongly and acutely, but it’s also not uncommon among straight men.

Yes, I have talked to a few straight men who long for intimacy with other men, even cuddling or otherwise engaging in extensive, platonic physical touch with them. In fact, not too long ago a reader posted this comment on a blog (edited for grammar):

I am Jewish and do not deal with what you gentlemen refer to as same-sex attraction issues. I had wonderful male friendships all through life (still do). Growing up I had two best friends, one from kindergarten through high school, another from college onward. The earlier one — we shared everything together as we grew up with one another. While I ended up with an affinity for bike-riding, he was a tennis player. Despite an athletic outer shell, it never dawned on either one of us that when we stayed over at one another’s home — which happened most of the time — we should stop sleeping together in the same bed as we did when we were 5-year-olds (and always in a small twin). We slept in our briefs, wrapped in each other’s arms and against each one’s breast. When I met my other friend it was a similar friendship, maybe a bit more intense. We did everything together (it was dorm life): shared one another’s clothing, ate together, showered together. And we also slept in the same bed together, this time without clothing. This happens far more often than you think. Heterosexual men in the past always did this but never talked about it. I have a married buddy who enjoys going camping where he can have the chance to skinny-dip, being nude in the company of another man (he is surrounded by girls in his house), as well as another best friend who likes to come over and watch TV with me in just his shorts or sometimes his underwear. Why? His wife doesn’t like it; he has to be clothed all the time. I have a den in my basement, and since my wife passed — I’m a young widower — it is a great viewing room for movies. Nothing else happens there, but it is a great male bonding experience for him (the guy can’t get a few times in his shorts or underwear in his own home!).

Wow. And it’s not just him; I’ve talked to a few others. Many people seem to think emotional attraction to the same sex is inseparable from being gay and also having sexual attraction.

Frankly, all the evidence and research I’ve done seems to say otherwise. I’ve enjoyed this article as well as this one from Art of Manliness, and I’ve also read John Ibson’s Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography, which features affectionate images of men together from cover to cover.

Yes, men expressing physical intimacy was once the norm, and I’m convinced the desire for it is not a “strictly gay” thing. Men haven’t changed; social norms did.

Historians are adamant that if the men in these photos were in sexual relationships with each other, they would not be flaunting it. Being in an openly gay relationship back then would have cost them their lives.

And yes, there’s also the ultimate historic example of bro cuddling — Jesus with John at the Last Supper:

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

John 13:23-25 (NKJV)

I’m also seeing more and more non-sexuality focused organizations forming and promoting deep male friendships and intimacy, which is very encouraging. Perhaps society is finally resetting its course?

So, have any of my views changed since I wrote those bro cuddling blogs? Especially after experiencing lots of cuddling since?

On the whole, no. Cuddling has remained a deeply healing and loving experience that I’ve shared with many men. At its best, cuddling has been utterly euphoric. Not once has it led to sex, and afterward it’s actually helped me stay away from porn. I’ve often felt quite emotionally fulfilled after cuddling with other men.

All that said, though, I do need to clarify a few things on cuddling . . .

I’ve since written about my asexual side, or having zero desire for sexual intercourse with men despite being otherwise completely attracted to them. Essentially, I have a unique guarantee that none of my cuddling will end up in sex — something that may be more difficult for men who do desire sex.

It’s not impossible for men who do desire gay sex to have totally platonic cuddles, as I’ve cuddled with such men with nothing going wrong. But such men may also need to take extra caution or realize that my own experience has an “advantage,” of sorts, over theirs.

I’ve also had a lot of awkward interactions with people reaching out to me online, wanting to meet — clearly just to cuddle with me. It’s quite apparent that such messages come from places of desperation, so I don’t blame them. I totally get this desire for platonic same-sex intimacy in a world that shuns it.

But there has to be more to intimacy in a relationship than just this desire for physical touch. You have to emotionally click with someone, and then hopefully affection will spring forth naturally. If not, it might as well be a “platonic hookup.”

Finally, I can be hypocritical when I rant against the church and our culture’s idolizing of sex and romance, and yet I am guilty of idolizing cuddling and brotherly relationships. Yes, it’s true: I am sometimes guilty of putting cuddling above Jesus.

When you’ve been deprived of such touch your whole life, it’s hard not to feel like a man in the desert “idolizing” water. But I try to be wary of such idolization in my life, and I would advise the reader to be wary as well.

What else is there to say? I still love bro cuddling.

Have you experienced healthy cuddling with other men, or does this not feel like a safe action for you? When have you experienced any other form of platonic intimacy with another man?

About the Author

  • I have had a chance to cuddle with two guys on separate occasions when I was on holiday. The first time was in 2018 and I was spending the night at a hotel in Austin, Texas. My friend lived in the city and came out to my hotel for a cuddle session. He didn’t spend the night with me, but being our first cuddle I was glad he didn’t stay longer. Our cuddling together was SO AWKWARD. We kept shifting positions trying to get comfortable while also trying for some threshold of intimacy. We really could have used your advice Eugene on how to do it correctly. We just embraced each other in bed occasionally giving each other kisses (not on the lips). Nothing sexually motivated with the kisses as we viewed them as kisses between brothers like Esau and Jacob. In the end, we managed as best we could and enjoyed the physical intimacy. I look forward to do it again so I can fill this void that only brotherly love can resolve.

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