Madison, Wisconsin’s, Snuggle House has closed and is no longer offering its soft and cozy cuddles, most likely due to pressure from city leaders. Although the capital city of Wisconsin is well-known for its liberal college atmosphere, it appears as though the Snuggle House pushed the envelope a little too far for city officials to handle, which is surprising considering that the atheist advocacy group, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, has its base there. The University of Wisconsin – Madison also holds an end-of-the-school-year party which involves people ranging from fully clothed to nearly nude pedaling in a bicycle parade.
Before opening the Snuggle House, Matthew Hurtado, the owner, had been unavailable despite multiple interview requests, but his attorney, Tim Casper, insisted that the business was legitimate. Recognizing that the possibility of sexual assault was inherent in the business’s offering, Casper reassured city officials that Hurtado had taken every precaution and had put a system together to prevent such occurrences.
For $60 per hour, clients of the Snuggle House could nest themselves in the arms of a professional cuddler to hug, spoon, or simply snuggle. According to supporters, the Snuggle House was a place where people could relax in a non-sexual embrace. City officials were concerned that the Snuggle House was a brothel where so-called snuggling could lead to sexual assaults. At the time of its closing, Madison police were in the planning stages of sting operations while city attorneys were drafting new rules meant to keep the Snuggle House in firm compliance with laws.
Assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy stood firmly against the Snuggle House’s mission, saying “There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen. No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.” Although ill-prepared and lacking in business essentials such as insurance at first, Zilavy did concede that Hurtado had made changes to his business plan that allowed The Snuggle House to open. Panic buttons and security cameras were installed in the bedrooms, rules were put in place to prohibit nudity, sex, paying for sex, drugs and alcohol during snuggling sessions.
On Friday night, Hurtado learned that in addition to the scrutiny of city officials and police, the Associated Press was investigating his past, which is said to be controversial. Deciding that the hassle of running a soft and cozy Snuggle House in Madison was no longer worth the service it provided, he announced via Facebook that he was shutting the operation down on Friday night, after only 22 days in business. The Snuggle House had spent approximately $15,000 in attorney’s fees in order to go ahead with the opening of the business just three weeks ago.
Other cities in the United States have welcomed the same sort of establishments in their communities. Cuddling has become a growing industry in cities such as Rochester, New York, where The Snuggery offers overnight cuddle sessions, and in Boulder, Colorado’s Be The Love You Are snuggling house. Cuddle Party, a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Alabama trains people around the globe to run group cuddle sessions. People participating in Cuddle Parties must remain fully clothed and attend a pre-session class on how to decline sexual advances.
Despite its reputation, it’s clear that not everything goes in this liberal college town these days. Despite having no location in Madison in which to share a soft and cozy cuddle with a stranger, the owner of the Snuggle House, after announcing the closing of his business, advised his Facebook followers to “Snuggle On,” which they likely can do…in Montgomery or Rochester.
By Jennifer Pfalz