Pando

Cuddlr has a testosterone problem

By Nathaniel Mott , written on September 30, 2014

From The News Desk

Men in the United States are often taught from an early age that physical intimacy belongs to women. It's okay for girls to hug each other during a greeting, or to hold hands while walking somewhere; the latter is never okay for guys, and the former is only acceptable if it includes a few hearty smacks on the back to bring a little mock violence to an otherwise tender moment.

That explains why so many of the men using Cuddlr, the social application of the week that allows people to cuddle with perfect strangers, are using it as a hook-up service. American culture has done its damnedest to instill men with the belief that basically any kind of physical intimacy must lead to procreation -- or at least the motions of procreation -- to be accepted.

Now, that doesn't mean that heterosexual males are the only people using Cuddlr with the intent of adding a bit of forking to their platonic spooning, as Gigaom (and former Pando) reporter Carmel DeAmicis discovered when she tested the application in San Francisco. But it does seem to be a trend, based on the experience DeAmicis and other Cuddlr testers have had.

Consider this tidbit from the Daily Dot's EJ Dickson, who decided to test Cuddlr with the restriction of seeking only female users to appease her boyfriend's request to avoid the men:

Maybe the onslaught of requests from male Cuddlrs was because my profile photo made me look exceptionally soft and snuggly, but I doubt it. I suspect I kept getting so many Cuddlr requests from men—and none at all from women—because the men on Cuddlr wanted to take any opportunity to play big spoon and press themselves against a welcoming lady. That’s not to say that all the men on Cuddlr shared this motivation—I’m sure many were using the app in exactly the spirit it was intended—but I can say that I got enough requests that I decided to delete the app entirely.

In theory, Cuddlr is trying to do something completely different from most other dating apps: It’s using a digital platform to get people to think of physical intimacy in an entirely new way. To a certain extent, I think this is an interesting and valuable concept. But in practice, Cuddlr is no different from other dating apps—in fact, given its lack of filters and its location-based settings, it might even be more dangerous. Then there's the fact that all three "I tried Cuddlr" trend stories I know about -- those from DeAmicis, Dickson, and the Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey -- were written by women. Tech journalism is a sausage fest, so this sudden reversal in hands-on experience with an application supports the argument that Cuddlr is almost definitely going to suffer from a dude problem.

Because many men -- notice the "many" there, hashtag activists -- don't understand the idea of cuddling with someone just because it's nice to have platonic physical contact with another person, Cuddlr is always going to be a little creepy. Male users are going to assault female users with cuddle requests. They're going to make things weird if anyone really believes they just want to spoon for a while. And there's a good chance that Cuddlr's lax security will be highlighted by a man at some point in the future.

Cuddlr is an interesting idea, even if it's strange that finding someone to snuggle with now requires a mobile application, and not all experiences with the service are bad ones. But it's suffering from a problem endemic to American culture, and technology won't be able to erase feelings that many (there's that word again) men are taught to feel from incredibly young ages.

[photo by ArtBrom]