Most of us think of cuddling as something you (want to) do with your boo at night, but there’s actually an entire profession built on the activity and those who perform the function are known as cuddlist; Amaku Ukpong is one of them.
Her name is important because it was omitted from a story on cuddling that Elite Daily ran earlier this year on Ukpong’s friend and fellow cuddler, Kan Seidel. “It was interesting because I was celebrating the success of the video and my friend getting so much attention… but Kan’s the one that brought it to my attention that they didn’t mention my name not once. And I was like, ‘Wow. Yeah, that’s right,’ she told BET.com. “When I texted the producer about why my name wasn’t included, his exact response was, ‘Well it wasn’t imperative that anyone knew your name’… It really hit me that this kind of thing, normal everyday things — shooting a video, applying for a job — there’s so much marginalization that goes on with people of color. And it’s in the tiniest ways, but the impact is always felt in a huge ways. It was hurtful.”
That’s why when BET reached out to the 31 year old to get her story she was eager to share her experience as a cuddlist, one whose clientele mostly consists of white men over 50, many of whom are married and seeking support.
“I have been contacted [by] many white males that have expressed so many times to me, they’ve never had close contact with a woman of color. And so for them it’s new, it’s interesting. I get a lot who say, ‘I’ve never touched a Black woman before,’ because maybe it was something that wasn’t encouraged, or allowed growing up. And they think somehow it’s supposed to be different,” shared Ukpong who is also an energy medicine practitioner, spiritual nutritionist and Higher Brain Living mastery facilitator. But for her, there’s a difference between cuddling white men who haven’t experienced a Black woman’s touch and fulfilling fetishes. She won’t engage in the latter.
“I had a guy who booked a session with me and I winded up not doing it because his motives didn’t sound clean,” she explained. “He mentioned to me something like, ‘I’ve never touched a Black woman before. I’m curious cause you know what they say about Black women.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I could only imagine, but since this isn’t a sexual service it doesn’t matter what they say.’ So I had to end that conversation real quick.”
Ukpong also shared insight into another interesting sect of her client base: Black women.
“I’ve had two Black women book my services. I actually just recently had a session with one of them and what I’m beginning to understand is that women of color definitely need support in a place that’s safe because traditionally women of color have not been safe in the arms of white men. You know there’s that history of rape and violence against all women of color and that energy is still there to a certain degree. It’s not even all historical traumas; just day to day cat calling is disrespectful. So I feel like women of color are going to start to use this service a lot. And we need more women of color to provide this service because we feel safe with each other.”
If the idea of cuddling strangers sounds off-putting to you, perhaps this will change your tune: Ukpong charges $80 an hour for her services. Would you lay up with a white man or one if your sistas for that?