LOS ANGELES - In a Marina Del Rey, Calif., penthouse, Jean Franzblau puts on some comfy clothes and opens the door to strangers arriving for -- what looks like -- a pajama party.
Only the guests don't show up for popcorn and a movie. The group of adults has come to snuggle.
Events commonly referred to as "snuggle parties," are gaining popularity across the globe at a rapid rate. And Franzblau believes it is a result of a culture that has left people starved for touch.
"As a single person in a big city, I found myself feeling desperate for touch," says Franzblau, a cuddle facilitator who works in the Los Angeles area.
"Unfortunately in our culture, much touch is only happening in one-on-one relationships with a person's romantic partner, and if one is single, you're kind of left out of that."
Cuddle Party is one organization that facilitates snuggle parties, and has been doing so for 10 years. The organization has certified leaders in five continents. However, those in South America will not find Cuddle Party's events, since the country doesn't need any assistance in cuddling, the organization says.
"Touch is a need like you need water or sleep," says Len Daley, executive director of Cuddle Party. "If you don't get sufficient touch, symptoms occur."
At snuggle parties, groups of cuddlers form online and often meet in a residence. When it comes to snuggling, pajamas and sweats are not negligee-sexy, but they are practical.
In addition to cuddling, participants give each other massages, foot rubs and even something known as "gourmet hugs."
"It doesn't happen in this culture very easily," Franzblau says. "It takes a very careful and respectful facilitation to create boundaries and to make sure that folks who come into these events know how to respect boundaries."
As a facilitator, Franzblau's first instruction is for participants to practice saying "no" to a touch that makes them uncomfortable, since most have never met each other before they arrive to cuddle.
"Once people are holding each other or spooning with each other -- it could be a total stranger, but it feels so nice," she says.
At snuggle parties, which are often coed, Franzblau says gender balance is key.
"I think that if everyone had the opportunity to receive safe and consensual touch when they needed it, this world would be a safer place to be, a happier place to be, a more healed place to be," she says.
Cuddle Party's Daley sees a future for humanity's desire to embrace. He believes "bonding clinics" will eventually hold a place in society, much like sleep clinics do now.
For now, those who do not want to snuggle in a group, can still get a hug from for-hire snugglers. The Daily Breeze reports these on-demand snugglers charge upwards of $60 for a set amount of time.
WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck attends Franzblau's snuggle party
© 2013 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.