LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A woman in Lawrence is getting paid to cuddle with people.
Robin Marie is a "professional cuddler." She provides a safe place for clients to receive platonic touch while also setting boundaries.
“I really believe in the power of touch and how it can heal people,” Marie said. “It can be as simple as me sitting on the couch just sitting next to someone. It can be holding hands with someone all the way to we’re laying horizontal on the bed and we are spooning.”
Marie got involved with therapeutic touch a few years ago after realizing she was touch-deprived.
“I wasn’t dating for a few years, and I saw a massage therapist in Kansas City and told her I realized the only time I was getting touched was when I got a massage,” she explained.
It took her three to four months to receive her certification as a "professional cuddler" from an online site called Cuddlist.
“There is a training process that you go through and practicum as well, and then you get certified by going through an evaluation with a specially-trained cuddlist,” she said.
Marie now has about 30 clients, ranging in age from 20-75 years old, and she charges $80 an hour.
"It’s really an opportunity for people to be able to explore how they would like to experience platonic touch for themselves,” Marie said. “It’s comforting, nurturing, soothing and, again, platonic."
The sessions take place at a neutral home, and her clients must agree to the code of conduct, provide a copy of the driver’s license and participate in a video chat pre-screening before meeting in person.
“The baseline agreement that I have with every client is if either of us are ever uncomfortable, we agree to speak up and say something,” Marie said.
She said professional cuddling can help people feel more comfortable in their skin and, most importantly, connect with another person.
“That is something touch those for us through oxytocin release and neurotransmitter release. It really helps you feel connected and in touch with another human being when nothing else does.”
On Tuesday, Amy Thompson experienced her first professional cuddling session with Marie. The 27-year-old believes this kind of contact can help with understanding consent, especially in the #MeToo era.
“There’s this huge consent crisis where people don’t know how to explicitly communicate with each other and being a safe space like with what Robin does could be extraordinarily beneficial to myself and others,” Thompson said.
Marie admits therapeutic touch may not be for for everyone, but she thinks – with time – it won’t be as unconventional as it's presently considered.
“It’s not going to be that long, maybe another 10 years or so, where it will be, ‘Oh yeah, that person’s a cuddler,' like you say ‘That person’s a massage therapist,’ and I really look forward to that."