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Last week I received an invitation to something called a Cuddle Up Party. The people who were behind it were friends of friends. I was told that this was something they were trying for the first time considering how oxytocin deprived we were as a race living in the twenty-first century. “You are free to bring a friend, or your girlfriend, but please bear in mind that this party has been designed by, and strictly, for heterosexuals.” Said the woman speaking to me in a genial voice.
“Isn’t that unfair,” I said, “everyone ought to be given the right to feel good, don’t they?”
The woman apologised for the rules being this stringent, but promised that they were organising such endeavours towards the end of the year for those who did not fall into the gamut of the heterosexual.
“That is good,” I said, “we must learn to respect everyone.”
“You are right, sir,” she said and asked me if I was confirmed. “I am in,” I said.  

When I shared with John, a friend, the theme of such an event, and made known that I was going, he lashed out with astonishment, “Dude, you must be fucking out of your mind because cuddling is such a gay thing man!”
I scanned John with scorn and advised him to stop being homophobic because in India people cuddled, held hands, and slept together in the most non-sexual way.
“I think he’s lost his mind,” reacted John.
I preferred not to say anything when Rohan who had accompanied me, kept his cup of coffee aside and asked, “When did this come to India?”
John curved his eyebrows, “When did what come to India?” he asked coldly.
“This entire gay bunkum,” adjoined Rohan.
“How am I supposed to know, man?” said John.
“Such markers started to do active and aggressive rounds in our society some fifteen years ago or so,” added Rohan, and then he shook his head to indicate how pathetic putting people in a sexual box was, “and after that everyone is gay and everything is gay.”
I noticed how John was not agreeable to what Rohan was saying, and quite honestly, Rohan or I cared less for what John, who was being a bigot in this instance, thought. For me, to even use the word ‘gay’ in order to categorise a human being was a clear violation of one’s dignity. It only meant to signify in strong neon signs that the person using it was a twat, a partisan one at that, because being heterosexual or non-heterosexual was a matter of personal choice, and being a straight man, if I had no problem around people who were not of my orientation, then it was nobody else’s business to oppose it too. Add to that I found this preoccupation of people with other peoples sexuality as more atrocious than lame. Were people actually that idle to speculate about who was dating whom? And what gender was developing romantic interests within their own gender?

Back to the topic, I was glad that something like this was being attempted for starters, even if it were rather limited for now, because intimacy was awfully important in any relationship, and caught up in the rush to do and outdo, to keep safe within societal rubrics that are bollocks anyway, we forget that in order to survive both within our relationships, and as individuals, we need that touch of love, be it from a parent, a friend, a lover, a colleague and just about anybody who gives us that reassuring touch.

Problem with men in particular is that they are taught from an early age that physical touch is nearly always attributed to the touch of sex and the touch for sex unless of course it is the proximity they share while at sport etcetera. They grow up observing that to grope and grab is natural even if it is one of the most pathetic ways of showing one’s want for physical pleasure, but since it is done with those of the opposite sex, it is acceptable, while to touch a man is a violation (just as my friend had reacted when I told him I was going to this Cuddle Up Party). Coming to think of it, it is not entirely the flaw of the generation, since a generation is indeed shaped very much by us. If we haven’t paid attention to the chasms, and we haven’t educated people on what is right and what is wrong, then we are intrinsically at fault more than anyone else and it would be incorrect then to entirely blame the time.

I feel men must be taught that physical touch is not sinful, that once you reach an age of maturity, physical touch is about heightening the mental and emotional wellbeing of one’s own self. That when it comes to the power of touch, then there is nothing more comforting than to have those who mean something to you touch you in a way that makes you feel nice. Keep in mind that it is not the nakedness of the human body that should be troubling you, everyone has the same anatomy, so to be around people of your gender, or the opposite sex, ought not to create this notion that nakedness is an invitation of sex or deviousness. View a body for a body. Similarly, let someone embrace you with their warmth by trusting them for what they are. Like eyes are the windows to one’s soul, touch is an indicator of what one is trying to convey, and not all who touch you want to have sex with you.

Also, this wall that men have erected around them has plenty to do with our behavioural evolution as well. Society nurtures men to be hunters, and women as homemakers. The only interaction that men have had with men at such times was when they were watching the backs of the men they set out to with while hunting in packs. For their vulnerable side, they returned home to their women. That said it does not mean that men have not shared what they wanted with their own gender, they have, only that is was a tad less in degree compared to what they would with a woman and then this ‘gay’ angle brought about an inhibition in them and ruined things even further. What is odd is that the gay talk was not even part of our culture, and was an import from the west. There is enough and more material on this to refer to if one wants to delve deeper. We cannot amend evolution, and we do not have to amend it too, but, yes, we can amend the way at which we look at the world around us. Men do not kiss women unless they have dropped the veil of inhibition that they have built around them since their infancy. Likewise, a man does not curl his arm around a man’s neck unless he is infinitely comfortable in that space of brotherhood in a friendship. More than anything we ought to let go of the silly notions that have been ingrained in us by society, or by our elders (who were rather stiff about the expression of their affection), and in so doing we will gather that we have much to do with each other than merely peeling off our clothes and leaping into the bed with anybody who touches us.

The Cuddle Up Party

I landed at the location on time. There was a pretty woman who greeted me warmly and invited me into a large hall that was done up cosily. There were faux leather headrests lining the walls. There were cushions of all sizes in lovely pastel shades strewn about on flat beds wrapped in shades of off-white and light-yellows. The walls were covered in sage green self-design oriental wallpaper. The large chandelier that hung down from the high ceiling was certainly Italian or Spanish. Its dangling crystals shone like stars. I couldn’t find a single friend, barring a young woman sitting with her head burrowed between her folded knees, her back to the wall. Being an ambivert, to see someone new, suddenly struck me with a feeling of wanting to take to my heels, but I instructed my mind to take control of its impulses. My entering the venue might have alerted her senses as she looked up and smiled at me rather cordially. I returned her smile in like fashion. Her body language provided me the necessary ease that it was all right to exchange pleasantries with her. I learnt that she lived close by. We were chitchatting, superficially of course, when couple of my friends put in an appearance. Seeing them felt like life had been injected into my partially tense nerves. One of them sat next to me.
“Doesn’t this seem like one of those days when we first went to school,” he said softly, leaning towards me.
“I agree,” I replied.
“I feel butterflies in my stomach,” said the young woman I had freshly been acquainted with.
My friend and I smiled quietly.
“Are you also nervous or anxious,” she asked.
“I don’t think I feel any of both,” I said, “I am quite looking to see where this goes.”
My friend too added a quick ‘ditto’ to it.  

In about half an hour we were thirty-two of us. Except for ten new faces, the rest of us were acquainted with each other. The pretty woman who had greeted me at the entrance entered and sat in the centre of the hall. She cleared her throat and welcomed us, going on to tell us that she would brief us about the rules of the evening. Before that we had to introduce ourselves, which we each did.

“I am going to ask you some questions,” said she, “and you will have to try and answer them honestly.”

Some of us looked at each other and smiled.

“Shall we begin?”

Everyone nodded.

“Has everyone brought along the loose tee shirts and slacks that had been specified in the invitation?”

Yes, said everybody.

“I would request you to change into that,” she said kindly, “one after the other, preferably, in the male and female change rooms that are on the right and left of the hall,” she instructed.

Mild giggles were heard to the ‘one after the other’ comment. Once we had changed into the loose tees and slacks, she asked us to relax and lean our backs towards the wall.

We did as told.

She raced us through a whole general list of dos and don’ts and asked us if anyone had spooned with members of their own sex?”

Four hands went up.

“That’s nice,” said the lady in the most artificial manner, “could you describe how you felt about it.”

“It was uplifting,” said a woman I didn’t know.

“It made me feel good,” said a male friend of mine, while the other two men who had raised their hands were quiet.

“Isn’t doing it with your own kind a bit odd?” asked a lady brusquely.

“It was closeness that was being shared after a game of maniacal football,” explained my friend who had announced that he had felt good about it, “every time we’d return to our dorm rooms we would be so very hammered that we’d fall asleep clutching onto each other without even realising it. I don’t think that something like that has anything to do with sex or sexuality.”

“Exactly,” said the chap who was quiet until then, “I agree that not everything has to be sexualised. It is only a way of being at ease around one another.”

“Argh,” said the lady who had asked the question, “I would not want to be cuddled with anyone of my own sex. It’s not only gross, it’s unethical, and I am not going to be a part of this shit.” Saying that she stood up and strode out of the door. With her followed another gentleman.

There was an awkward silence that engulfed the hall for a moment, and then the pretty woman shattered the silence, “So the first rule is no kissing,” she said.

Everyone absorbed what she had said without any resistance.

“The second rule is that you do not, and I repeat, you do not forcefully hug somebody. You ask for their permission before you touch them,” she breathed, and her voice raised a notch up, “if you think yes, say yes, if you think no, say no, and if you think maybe, say no. You are here because you wanted to be here, but for some reason you suddenly feel that you do not belong here then it is all right to change your mind and leave.

Everyone understood what was being said, and honestly, it was too early to know if I was agreeable or disagreeable to what was going to unfold in the next three hours. Like me, I reckon the rest of them too seemed to agree, and embraced the newness of what was to come.

“Clothes stay on the whole time.”

Everyone agreed.

“Most of you already know each other, and as for those who are new, do not fear rejection. People have forgotten the art of touching, or being touched, and there is nothing sexual about it. It would take you a few minutes to accept the feelings you shall be feeling when you approach somebody you don’t know, and ask to touch them or be touched by them. Be easy, be open to feel the new feelings.”

“What if I get a boner?” asked a friend.

There was a wave of laughter.

“Then you wait for it subside without creating a stir about it,” said the pretty woman calmly.

Everyone smiled.  

“Could you write down on the paper before you why you agreed to come here,” she said, “and those who are comfortable with it, can even read out what they have written to everybody.”

I wrote that the reason I was there was because I was awfully annoyed with the double standards that people harboured about touching. It had nothing to do with sex as we all knew, and yet it was perceived to be a build up to sex. Also, I was there because unlike the old-fashioned individuals in the world who saw anything close between people of the same gender as abnormal needed help, I had no qualms considering how infinitely secure I was about my sexuality. I finished penning my thoughts and read it out. Once I was done, another friend read out her reason to be there as well.  

At the end of the oration by my friend, my eyes dropped upon this beautiful young lady who was sitting in front of me. She had the most attractive, drowning and almost hypnotic eyes. For a moment I found myself under a spell of sorts. “Are you an illusionist?” I asked no matter how idiotic it sounded. Come on, a beautiful woman is known to do things like that to men – make a fool of themselves in the most ridiculously inane manner.
She giggled, “May I hug you?” she asked.
Albeit I was awaiting this most secretly, I found myself unexpectedly shy.
“It’s just a hug,” she said most gently, sensing my hesitation.
I smiled, and then we hugged. The sensation that overcame me was indescribable. I remembered somebody telling me that I was a bit too old for a crush. I don’t think anybody is too old for anything so long as one retains the purity of a sprightly spirit. A few seconds into the hugging, I became aware of what any man would have felt – an erection was on its way. She smiled as her eyes were fixed on my eyes, “I am known to arouse such a reaction,” she declared flirtatiously sensing it. I squinted thinking all sorts of things in order to divert my attention. A friend nearby spotted my boner and whispered a faint ‘horny toad’. The three of us chuckled. I extricated myself from her cheery clutches and tried to divert my mind as I looked out of the window at the trees blooming in their reds and purples and yellows. As I felt my pecker unstiffen, I also thought to myself that as mixed as I had felt when I had stepped in there, it was an incredible feeling to be oneself with people of like minds who made no fuss of things that needn’t be made a fuss about.

Furthermore, such an affair was an icebreaker in order to overcome the initial inhibitions we had brought onto ourselves. It was a means to learn to become physical with the people we knew. It was a fabulous way to gain access to our inner selves, the doors to which we had closed largely due to pressing pressures and lack of human touch and interaction. As time elapsed, people became freer and let out grunts of joy when somebody hugged them tightly. As for me, I felt an unusual feeling of freedom. I didn’t feel any strangeness amidst any of the strangers present there. I felt that at the basest level, we each crave such intimacy of touch. And touching people after this long, and in this uninhibited manner, only cemented my belief that intimacy was not something that we had to give a tint of weirdness or sexuality as I had stated earlier.
“Did you realise that two human beings could be physically intimate without having to have any amorous involvement?” asked the young woman who had given me the boner.
“Touch has everything to do with love, and yet this kind of love has nothing to do with sex and how incredible it is, really.” I said.

The remaining two hours were bliss. I saw some of them resting their heads on the back of their friends. Some heads were nestled affectionately in the folded laps. Some couples had spooned. Some were lying next to each other and bantering about the inconsequential. It was evident that nobody cared a fuck and that was how one had to live – liberated from public restraints.

Upon my return I could not find any data to support any study done on my soil for such behaviour amending patterns, but I did find this article in The Huffington Post by Emily Thomas, the associate editor, and I am sharing the same.

93 Per Cent Of Straight Men In This Study Said They Have Cuddled With Another Guy

Yes, straight men sleep together.

That’s according to a new study out of Britain on the changing social habits of heterosexual males. Published in the journal of Men and Masculinities in March, the study revealed that 98 per cent of the study’s participants - all white, college-age male athletes - have shared a bed with another guy. In addition, 93 per cent also reported having spooned or cuddled with another man.

Study co-author and sociologist Mark McCormack, of Durham University, says the study’s results exemplify changing conceptions of masculinity in contemporary culture. As homophobia decreases, McCormack says, straight men are acting “much softer” than those from older generations - something he and Eric Anderson, of the University of Winchester, set out to examine.

“We knew they [straight males] were hugging and cuddling, and we wanted to understand this phenomenon in more detail,” McCormack told The Huffington Post in an email. “How do men gain from rejecting the homophobia of previous generations?”

The two sociologists conducted in-depth interviews with 40 young male athletes - a sample they chose because of the group’s likelihood to be in closer physical contact with one another and because of the notion that athletes embody what it means to be traditionally masculine. McCormack told Huffington Post he was surprised by how uneventful and mundane participants viewed their behaviours.

“They don’t realise this is something that older men would find shocking,” he said. “It’s older generations that think men cuddling is taboo.”

Matt, one of the men interviewed for the study, explained his viewpoint on cuddling with his male friend Connor. The researchers noted the response in their study:

I feel comfortable with Connor and we spend a lot of time together. I happily rest my head on Connor’s shoulder when lying on the couch or hold him in bed. But he’s not the only one. The way I see it, is that we are all very good and close mates. We have a bromance where we are very comfortable around each other.

The history of homosocial relationships, or heterosexual male friendships, is deeply complex and steeped in social stigmas, myth, rejection and aggression, the authors explain in their research. But stigmas and traditional roles are going out the window as younger generations are becoming more open and accepting.

“The social taboo against cuddling has been because for two men to get close was traditionally seen as ‘gay’. Men wanted to avoid being the target of homophobic abuse, so they would be macho to distance themselves from any perception of homosexuality,” McCormack told Huffington Post. “But there is a generational effect here: Older men who grew up in the 1980s may still feel the need to present a very straight version of themselves, but more positive attitudes toward homosexuality in contemporary culture mean that younger men are simply less concerned about how other people view their behaviours.”

McCormack says Anderson, who expanded on the study, found similar behaviours across country lines, though American men were found to engage in those behaviours less frequently.

“British men are more advanced than American men in doing this, but these behaviours are still occurring, and we predict that increasing numbers of American men will engage in them as they realize the benefits of doing so,” McCormack said.

McCormack acknowledges that anti-gay sentiment is still around but that many guys don’t seem to mind expressing themselves however they want.

“Homophobia hasn’t disappeared, but straight men today are not expected to be homophobic like they were in the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “This enables them to be [engaged] in softer gendered behaviours - they can cuddle and hug, wear fashionable clothes, care about looking good, and openly declare love for their friends.”



If a man finds a man handsome, a man tells the man he is handsome. If a woman finds a woman beautiful, she tells the woman she is beautiful. I think we should not get caught in the stereotypical claptrap that does rounds of the rather savagely knuckleheaded social order. A thing of beauty is a thing of beauty. Appreciate it for what it is. A compliment would not only be cherished, it would do you a great deal of good to make someone else feel nice too. Do not look at anything from the point of view of sexuality and gender. That is the occupation of the lame and insecure.

I am a heterosexual, and I have never felt uncomfortable around my close (male) friends. I have never shied away from letting them give me that big tight hug or giving them one. I have had no qualms even when some of my core mates have leaned their heads on my shoulders while sitting by the bonfire and chatting about the usual that men talk when men get together. Coming to think of it, physical closeness has never been anything but a natural manner in which to show my love to my gender. Has it aroused in me any other feelings at any time? Perhaps being conditioned not to misread everything in terms of sexuality, I grasped early on to discern between a wanting touch and a touch of want. Yes, there have been times when I have taken note of what might be going on inside a friend’s head when someone articulates their admiration on say their physique, or a new haircut. And when these people have said things like – Why did he do that? You think he was hitting on me? I have been blatant in telling such people (who come up with this homophobic nonsense) that if they suspect someone’s genuine words of praise as something else, then they seriously have issues to sort within themselves.

I have written enough in my earlier reflections about how I was homophobic. How some elders in the family believed that no two men must be close physically or emotionally, and that such a union is nothing short of unhealthy and will lead to sexual entanglement. I figured, in time, that no amount of proximity could evoke feelings of a sexual nature if they aren’t there to begin with in the first place. So as time passed, I further figured that we are all human beings, and we all need love, and that an occasional hug, and to be physically close to people whom we love, even if they aren’t from our own family, but from our own gender makes us feel wanted and secure. It is these healthy bonds that garner a healthy relationship.

I sat my father down one day and asked him if he had been propositioned by anyone amidst his circle that he was so vehemently against people of the same gender being intimate. He shared with me that when he was young, he had lived in a joint family that consisted of forty people, and when you live with those many people, you see and hear more than what I could have possibly imagined coming from the nuclear family that I was raised in. That is when I realised that experiences are responsible for people to construct this wall around themselves, and this is, once again, a hindrance that the society forcefully daubs us men with: where a woman can get a grip on things by seeking assistance, but for a man to even reach out is branded to be non-masculine, and therefore, he tends to encapsulate himself with rigid notions that could hamper his own healthy development in various spheres of the heart and mind.

I have friends with whom we talk the shittiest shit in the world, shit that if someone else were to overhear, would think us strange, but we are in our own comfort zone, and we are all die-hard heterosexuals, and none of us make, or take, any other meaning of what we pull each other’s leg with. Then there are us, amidst those from the group, who have gone skinny-dipping, and have swung towels at our groins by calling each other homos for the sake of amusement, and that has not clouded our idea of heterosexuality, or even for that matter altered anything between our friendship.

Every now and then the world coughs up new labels to report the diversity in psychology and sexuality, and when people read such transitional statistics they are at times troubled whether they might fall into that category: do not take such things as the gospel truth. I cannot generalise things, but, yes, considering that I have never been tempted by anyone of my own sex does not stop me from being myself – free and easy before people who are attached to me from my gender. Like I clarified earlier, the very stiffness of men being men, and holding themselves from an overt expression of affection, has caused sufficient havoc over the decades in the western world, while, in our part of the globe, Asia, we are not overly bothered about physical nearness. Hugging a male friend, or coiling our arms around the necks of our male friends isn’t unusual or homosexual, as is generally perceived weird by the western world.

Homophobia exists in my country, predominantly in the urban. I lived in Richmond Town right from my infancy, but when I moved to Whitefield, an upscale suburb, I observed, on countless occasions, men, in pairs, and even large groups, holding onto their fingers and (hands enmeshed in hands in some instances too) promenading joyously on the pavements or strolling about shopping malls. While Whitefield is colonised by some of the influential and affluent, the very fact that we c0-exist with the original inhabitants: the farmers, lends us a glimpse into their simple life – they swim in the nearby lakes with nothing but a string and a virtually transparent piece of fabric to cover their groin, and in some cases, with nothing but their bare naked bodies. They shower sitting under a tap with people around them. In short, they are not pedantic like the educated and qualified people are, and they certainly don’t view everything through the lens of straight, gay, bisexual and what not. I even wonder if they are familiar with such terminologies, and drawing from their demeanour, it is rather evident that they are seamlessly ignorant to such ailments that plague the biosphere of the knowledgeable.

Matthew Daddario is spectacularly masculine, with just the correct extent of childlike charm. A heterosexual, Matt has portrayed same-sex characters on the screen, large and television. He is one of the ideal examples of how one can be assuredly bulletproof of their sexuality, and yet care little of the speculations of the world. He openly defies templates where, this and this, fits this, and if this and this do not fit, then something is amiss. This is where I think men get a bit too worked up with this entire – ‘Do not touch me, I am straight’ ideology. And this is not just foolish, but also vainglorious. Men see men’s members while watching porn, or in a fleeting glance at the gym lockers. Men indulge in threesomes and orgies and stand next to men with raging erections. They compare sizes at a drop of a hat, and chitchat about how they want their penises to be bigger than the biggest, and then they like to identify themselves as puritans. Closeness, be it emotional or physical, is a healthy way in which to nourish the mind and body, and I think we must grow up and not behave like imbeciles.

Sharing a pertinent article by Dwayne D Hayes, the founder and managing editor of Strand Magazine. It rings so bloody true to what’s going wrong with the male as a species in this century.

Men and Affection: Three Practices to Raise Boys Unafraid to Love

Your boys are watching and learning from your examples.

When I was twenty-one I spent two months living in London with a group of young people from around the world as part of a summer mission project. It was a great opportunity to meet people from various countries and to learn more about the world. I was part of a small team that included men and women from Germany, Finland, South Africa, Jordan, Brazil, and several others countries.

One afternoon Kamal, a young Jordanian, and I went to meet some others in Hyde Park. Along the way, he grabbed my hand as we walked side-by-side. I quickly removed my hand from his grasp and Kamal kindly explained that it was common for Arab men to hold hands as a sign of friendship and affection. But it was a sign of friendship and affection that I was not comfortable with, not mature enough for and, though he repeated this several times over the summer, I always let go of his hand as quickly as possible.

As a boy, I loved to hold my younger brother’s hand. He was my best friend and, though he was only eighteen months younger, feeling his soft little hand in mine made me feel good, and protective. That tenderness quickly moved into aggression and we would wrestle, punch, and kick each other. Yes, often in fun. But seldom have we, after our early years, expressed our affection for each other in a physical way (with the exception of a bro-hug).

Now, over twenty years after Kamal reached for my hand, my son is in kindergarten and I love to watch him interact with his male friends. They hug each other, can often be found with hands on each other’s face or in hair, rest their heads on each other when they talk and, yes, even hold hands.

Logan clearly loves his male buddies.

When and why do we stop expressing affection for our male friends? As adults, this extends beyond the physical. I can do “bro hugs” easily but find it difficult to speak if I try to tell a male friend how much I appreciate him.

For boys as they age there is the pressure to avoid being a “sissy”. Girls, we’re told (and shown) are emotional, weak, and cry. If you’re like a girl you must be gay. And sadly, of course, for many people that is still unacceptable. It is this pressure that quenches some of the natural physical affection that boys express for each other when they are young and we learn to express our affection violently, through punches, teasing, and other forms of verbal abuse.

It saddens me to think it will happen to my son.

So, what can we do to help our sons express affection for their male friends?

The following three practices can help our sons learn to be unafraid about showing affection.

1. Watch our words.
Don’t speak in demeaning terms about girls, crying, homosexuals, or the expression of emotion. Don’t react negatively when our sons share their affection in a physical way.

2.  Demonstrate appropriate physical touch with your male friends.
Hug your best buds, shake hands and stand with your arm around your friends. And tell them how important they are to you. Avoid confusing affection with violence or verbal attacks. There are various ways to express affection. Make a practice of demonstrating them in front of your son.

3. Express physical affection for your father and/or male siblings.
I kiss my father on the cheek when I see him. I do this not only to show my love for him but also because I want my son to always kiss me and not be afraid to show affection for me.

Did you see the film Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts? I don’t remember much about the film, but what I do remember is Felipe, the character played by Javier Bardem, a Brazilian divorcé, whose college-age son visits. Felipe kisses his adult son on the lips and openly weeps when his son departs the country.

Rarely do you see an American father express this type of affection for his son. I was a new father when I saw the movie and thought: that is exactly how I will be when my son is older.

Every night, before I go to bed, I silently enter my son’s room (he is approaching six now) and kiss him and whisper that I love him.

I know, soon enough, he will likely ask me to end this nightly show of affection.

But he’s a deep sleeper. Don’t tell him and I just might get away with it until he goes away to college.

Previously published on the magazine STAND by founder and managing editor, Dwayne D Hayes.