I had a session this week with someone that normally would not have been a client.
Meeting the client in public as I always do, the first interaction was a bit awkward between saying hi and attempting chitchat. But that is expected. I used to get nervous meeting new clients, but now I realize that new clients are usually much more nervous than I'll ever be because this is all very new to them.
However, this session turned from therapeutic and platonic to sexual in intent. This is despite repeated communications before this session that this is a therapeutic service and not intended to be sexual at all. The client made comments about my body and what he would do if he met me on a dating app instead of through this service, which I had to promptly shut down those conversations. Several times I had to reinforce my physical and conversational boundaries, and at one point I threatened to leave the session early with no reimbursement for lost time.
(Before I continue, I want to point out that this is NOT a common experience for me. While many contact me for services that are not therapeutic in nature, I do not usually end up meeting them because I have my own filtering process which I teach. I've also been very good about developing my system to reinforce a session's intent and my own boundaries before, during, and after a session while being empathetic towards where the other person is coming from. In my two years that I've done this, I've had to leave a session early once and have had 3 clients I had to stop seeing due to feeling uncomfortable with their intent. Otherwise, the other 300 or so people I have seen in the past two years have been lovely and allowed me to be part of their healing process)
I remember a time when a client would try to make it a sexual experience in such an overt way, I would have shut down mentally and emotionally, simply safeguarding my erogenous zones with my hands and arms until the session was over and then stop seeing the client. In more recent years, however, I've learned to use the way I communicate to open up conversation and cut off the experience if I feel I need to. Even more importantly, I've stopped letting my clients manipulate me if they don't get the sexual experience they were looking for (this actually happened with a client that I continued to see for at least five sessions despite conversations saying I'm uncomfortable. I since decided to terminate the client-snuggler relationship).
I'm not telling you all of this so you feel bad for me (I'm okay, I'm not physically hurt, and I have good mental and emotional support). I tell you this to say that, despite the progress I've seen since starting Snuggle with Sam, there is still a lot of people that don't understand the intent of a session.
And it's not just in professional snuggling. Look at how long massage therapists have been around. They STILL experience issues with clients that will try to get a sexual experience out of it. This is a profession that's been in the U.S much, much longer than professional snuggling, and if they're still having issues, our profession is likely to still have issues for years too.
For many, this would be a reason to stop doing this. To me, this is a reason to continue educating people on this profession and why I do what I do. It's a reason why I believe everyone that goes into this profession needs proper education in how to do this properly so they can not only handle these worst-case scenarios, but proactively create sessions that encourage a better way of helping and healing the right clients. It's a reason for me to work towards a day where I can introduce myself as a professional snuggler and not be asked "Wait, so what is that?" more often than "That's wonderful!"
There's still a lot of work to be done, none of the least is educating the people going into this profession so they are equipped to handle what they may face.
Also, so you know...
I have a manual coming out soon! It's the first of many forms of training I'm in the middle of developing for snugglers so they can do this work well and get clients coming back. Interested in receiving it when it comes out and a small sample of what you'll get? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Show me the manual!"