People looking for comfort have the ability to hire a “cuddler” for physical contact. Cuddling sessions are completely legal, and the industry is currently unregulated. When a woman attempted to take action after her $80 session with a professional cuddler – who is also a licensed massage therapist – allegedly turned sexual, the woman hit a roadblock.
According to a report by USA Today, an Arizona woman is claiming that her cuddling session in May crossed a line.
Over the course of two months, the woman had four cuddling sessions with Susanne Woodward at Restoration Healing Spa in Tempe.
“[Woodward] told me she would be able to help me with my sexual trauma and help me find my voice,” said the woman in her complaint. “She insisted that it would not be sexual and that clothing would be on at all times.”
The woman did admit that she had previously told Woodward that she was interested in being held by a nude woman. Woodward said that she could offer that, but “it would have to be between us.”
During the woman’s fourth cuddling session, the woman claims that Woodward said, “I can hold you, how you want.”
Both women then removed their tops and, according to the complaint, Woodward had the woman lie her head down on Woodward’s chest.
“She then told me to suck her nipple,” the woman alleges, adding that Woodward said, “I am channeling nurturing energy to you through my breast.”
The woman states that Woodward then told her that her time was up, but that she would “give you five extra minutes for free.”
In total, the woman claims that the alleged inappropriate contact lasted about five minutes.
When the woman contacted the police, she was told that nothing illegal had occurred.
The woman then reached out to a national group that certifies cuddling professionals. Woodward was decertified for breaking the group’s code of conduct.
Finally, the woman filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy. While massage therapists are not allowed to engage in sexual activity with their clients, the board was unable to take action.
Flynn Carey, Woodward’s attorney, spoke to the board, asserting that cuddling and, therefore, the incident, was beyond the board’s regulatory authority. The woman was not a massage client but a cuddle client.
Carey argued that, if the board took action, “you are actually going to be now the massage therapy board and the cuddle therapy board.”
The board determined that Woodward was not in violation of massage regulations, but did order her to separate her cuddle and massage businesses to ensure there wasn’t any confusion.