Hug & Cuddle Group for Single, Gay Men arrives in Chicago

by Dwight Okita

Today was the launch of my Chicago Meetup Group "The Hug & Cuddle Group for Single, Gay Men" at the Center of Halsted, Chicago's LGBT community center. Our first man hug session was an intoxicating, nurturing mix of beautiful diverse music, a safe cozy space, and 12 men who were strangers in search of tenderness and intimacy in a non-sexual setting. It was about an hour and a half of embracing, talking, caressing, and engaging. If you look at the picture above, it looks like we're slow dancing. The effect was a deep feeling of affection and connectedness. I'd never quite felt this feeling before.

Our group currently has over 70 interested members.  I developed this event with Assistant Organizer Charles Gamble.  Initially at the event, people seemed a bit nervous which is natural.  Chairs were arranged in a circle and people were asked to tell their name and a little about themselves.  I spoke a while giving an overview of the Cuddle Movement, and Charles raised the discussion question:  "What are your unmet needs for intimacy, and how do you go about trying to fulfill them?"  Then we moved on to doing five different hug positions, each last lasting five minutes.  

A volunteer kept track of time and rang a resonant Buddhist bell to signal it was time to move on to the next hug, the next hug partner. Music played from my powerful Bose bluetooth speaker which was connected to my iPod Nano which allowed me to create different playlists.  The evocative music ranged from an orchestral piece called "Intro" by Camera Obscura to Elton John's classic song of yearning "Rocket Man" to the ethereal music of Bon Iver. It helped add to the dream state evoked by all the touching and warmth and oxytocin (the hormone which is released in the body twenty seconds into a hug).

At the end of this part, the spirit of the group seemed transformed. From a group of strangers they evolved into a group of men comfortable in their own skins. They were beaming.  I wish I'd taken a photograph of that moment.  We will do so next time.  A before and after shot would be nice. For the last part of the event, members were allowed to do free-form hugging for a period of time, and encouraged to seek out those they hadn't yet embraced, and to practice the new hug positions.

Maybe the need for such a group is due to our increasing dependence on social media and online personals, and the great number of unpartnered humans who still enjoy and deserve affectionate touch. Some in the group just love the joy of human touch. While others have been dealing with various chronic illnesses, stress at work,  mental wellness issues like anxiety and depression, or the loss of a life partner.  Some had just been single for years, decades, unable to find their better half.

At the end of our Hug Session, I felt like I had been sleeping with someone, cuddling them -- though my feet never left the ground. It made me think of how horses sleep and dream standing up. Chair cuddling was an option though we all chose to remain vertical. Many in the group shared that this unique experience was deeply satisfying and moving. Others you could just see it in their faces.  We're just one part of a Cuddle Movement that started in 2004 and is gradually spreading across the globe. Could world peace be just a few more hugs away? Our next event Dec. 12 will incorporate Cuddling along with the Hugging, and will be held at a dance studio. We're already half way booked with reservations. Nothing like hugging and cuddling in the holiday season.

Thanks to Matt Koziel for the photography.


  1. As a unapologetic hug junkie, I applaud this movement - in every meaning of the word! I love that the hugs lasted well beyond the "required" 20 seconds...oh, those clinicians! Nothing can take the place of physical contact and warmth, whether with other human beings or animals. We all need it. Bravo, Dwight. And sending you a huge (over 20-second) hug, my friend! xoxo Mary

  2. Thank you for responding, Mary. It can get lonely out here in the blogosphere. Much goes out but little comes back. Yes, everyone should try a 5 minute hug. It's better than any store-bought drug. The brain is an amazing mechanism. We HAVE to start using more of it, and hugging is one way to do it. Hugs back at you, Mary.


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