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Sex + Relationships

Let’s Snuggle! A Look at the Prevalence of Cuddling on Campus

The scene goes something like this with snuggling. He could be your friend, he could call it cuddling (minus five points in my book), he could be that guy you’re considering hooking up with, or he could be that guy that you’d never in a million years hook up with, but he is a great snuggler (bonus points for hair playing and back rubbing).
Take my friend, Alana* for example…
She was friends with this guy, let’s call him Will*. One night they were texting, both sort of looking for something to do to extend the night. Then Will suggested: “sleepover??” Unlike her usual freakouts about male activity, Alana was confident Will was just her friend (um, plus he had a girlfriend) so she said “yup, come over.” Will explained he was getting ready for bed and promptly came over in pajamas and with his glasses on. Adorable, right? They got into her twin extra-long bed — perfect for initial snuggling, not so much sleeping over — and spooned while they talked. The two fell lazily off to bed without a thing happening. No awkwardness in the morning, just the benefit of another heart beating next to yours. Now eventually after a few of these sleepovers Will’s love for Alana came out and the two had a drunken sleepover that led to more than sleep. But the point is, it all started with a seemingly innocent snuggle.

Another friend of mine, Morgan* is obsessed with this type of snuggling. She’ll come home after a night out: “I just want so-and-so to come over, snuggle with me, and play with my hair.”
Um, isn’t that what we all want?
Morgan has actually succeeded at getting a guy, who I’m pretty sure wanted to hook up with her all along, to come over and snuggle/cuddle/spoon her to sleep. Nice life. Poor kid though, she laughed when we asked her if they’d ever hook up.
Finally there is my friend, Kamryn* who pretty much does nothing but snuggle with the guy she’s hooking up with. The amount of times I have found them literally interlinked on our couch after dozing off in front of the TV is absurd. Slightly mushy, but nonetheless adorable. She could snuggle all day long.
More than once my friends, and most likely your friends, have wondered what all this snuggling meant. Like everything else, snuggling requires analysis.
Cynthia Hazan, Professor of Human Bonding at Cornell University explained the physiological processes at work in cuddling.
“It has tremendous implications for how hookups unfold. People who are hooking up as a way to avoid an intimate relationship with somebody or more of a commitment, you never see those people cuddling, nuzzling and all that — those foster attachment bonds,” Hazan explained. 
“It fosters the kind of behaviors that can lead to emotional attachments whether you want one or not, […] because cuddling or nuzzling produces increases in things like oxytocin which is one of those things that help you get attached to another person. Your brain remembers who raised your oxytocin levels recently and then that person takes on special significance,” Hazan said — which can help to explain why you are more attracted to someone post-hookup…
Hazan explained that behaviors like those seen in Alana and Will — snuggling without mutual attraction, can actually foster attraction. And that behavior like Morgan’s can be used as a way of dealing with stress.
“The oxytocin has an important effect on memory and your body’s response to the stress system. If you cuddle enough with someone, your brain begins to associate that person with a feeling of calm and contentment and that is an important foundation of attachment,” Hazan said.

But just because hookups + snuggling are on the rise, it doesn’t correlate with relationships on the rise.
“The consequence could just be feelings. If you hook up with someone and engage in that kind of behavior, at least for one person involved, you are going to want something more and feel disappointed that there isn’t something more.”
Guys Weigh In
So if you’ve ever snuggled/cuddled, you probably found a guy to do it with you. Whether he let you lay on his chest, spooned you, or some other creative snuggle position, he was ready and willing. But why?
Some guys explained that it was just a hook up thing.
“I mean if I’m holding on to a girl and her body is next to me, even if I didn’t originally want to hook up with her I will probably want to then if she smells good and is warm and cute.”
But, adorably enough, some guys just liked to have another body next to them.
“I hate sleeping alone. I like having a girl in bed to hold on to. It’s like the grown up teddy bear.”
One other guy echoed this sentiment.
“Is there anyone that genuinely likes sleeping alone over sleeping with another person they like? Especially after a night out it’s the best thing ever to hold some girl while you fall asleep — and then move apart once you fall asleep,” he laughed.
Guy friends have mostly had this consensus when asked about the legitimacy of snuggling that they like it as much as we do … when it’s done right …
Done right?  What does that mean?
Some guys said that they liked holding hands when they snuggled, “so she better not have sweaty hands!”
Some obsessed over body temperature.
“You definitely don’t want her body temperature to be too hot or too cold. She has to know when its time to stop cuddling and start sleeping.”
This distinction between snuggle and sleep was a big issue.
“I like when they let you wrap them in your arms when you want, but also let you roll over on your stomach when you’re ready to sleep. Those subtle touches like arm brushes or handholding can be a nice balance.”

Guys (for the most part) definitely like being the bigger one in the relationship.
“When they’re smaller you can wrap around them more and more of their body is in reach. Also, if they can get their hair out of the way so it doesn’t tickle your face—that’s the worst!”
And cuddling, like sex, can be all about being open and comfortable.
“What makes a girl a good cuddler are the same things that make a girl good at sex, like being open to different positions- positional versatility,” explains one Harvard Physics major.

Friends whose names have been changed
Cynthia Hazan, Associate Professor in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology where she teaches Human Bonding 

Cara Sprunk has been the Managing Editor of Her Campus since fall 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where she majored in American Studies with a concentration in cultural studies. At Cornell Cara served as the Assistant Editor of Red Letter Daze, the weekend supplement to the Cornell Daily Sun where she also wrote for the news and arts section and blogged about pop culture. In her free time Cara enjoys reading, shopping, going to the movies, exploring and writing.  
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