Episode 7: Ulrich and Anke: Cuddle Parties, Hug Days, Art Therapy, Love and Sex

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What would you do if a stranger walked up to you and offered to share a hug? How many hugs a day do you get? How many would you like? From Muenster, Germany meet Ulrich and Anke, workshop leaders, trainers for therapists, artists, and big proponents of the healing power of hugging. Each month in several cities throughout Germany men and women participate in their "Cuddle Parties" - non-sexual, consensual, adult, hug groups. Additionally, Ulrich and Anke periodically take to the streets of Muenster (a city of 275,000 in Northern Germany) offering free hugs to the pedestrians in the downtown area. Many of us wish the world was a friendlier more loving place. Join us for a talk with a couple that actually are making that dream come true.

Transcript

Cuddle Parties and Hug Days with Ulrich & Anke– What is a Cuddle Party? Cuddle Up Podcast

Announcer:  This program is intended for mature audiences only.

[Music]

Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy. I’m your host Chip August and today on the show we’re gonna be talking about cuddle parties, we’re gonna be talking about hug-days, we’re gonna be talking about art therapy, we’re gonna be talking about love and sex.

Anke: It’s safe here and if you say no it’s a “No”. If you don’t want to take place in this exercise just sit at the side of the room and you can look, for a while, you can take breath for a while and then may be you decide different again and you go back to the group and you go back to the cuddling area.

Ulrich: We call it party, but its more than a party. One important thing is we train the people, every guest, to say “No”; because its, sometimes it’s very difficult to say “No” when someone is approaching me, and… so everyone has to train before we start and that one very important thing what we feel and what’s really the people, women and men, especially men, are very grateful for this training; and yeah, it helps to stay in a good mood together.

Chip: So it’s just as simple as get some friends together, make a sign that says “Free Hugs” and stand in the middle of the city?

Anke: Uh huh! That’s all and we decided that we will not go to the people to offer a hug, we only stay there and we will waiting with a smile and a sign and an open heart and open arms. And the people left us with a smile.

Ulrich: I’m still traveling at the moment and right now I’m just outside of Munster, Germany and our guests today are Anke Flesner and Ulrich Schtuvecan. And Anke and Ulrich are a couple, and Ulrich is a art therapist and a body worker and Anke is a psychotherapist and a sex therapist. They also help put on the “High Workshops” that I lead. They host the high workshops that I lead. They are two very interesting people. I want to say that English is not their first language and they are a little self conscious that we’re going to be doing this interview in English. But I’ve talked to them for a long time and they are really good talker and what they have to say is really important. So welcome Ulrich and welcome Anke.

Anke: Hi Chip!

Ulrich: Thank you. Hi.

Chip: So let’s get right to it. You guys, you do a thing called “Cuddle Parties” and you do them, I think, here in Munster and maybe elsewhere, and I kinda like to know what is a “Cuddle Party”? And how does it work?

Ulrich: Men and women are coming to us once a month and we have an evening with contact, with body contact, cuddling, non-sexual way of meeting each other and giving and receiving nice feelings.

Chip: Non-sexual… ok, so what that mean exactly?

Anke: It does mean that the people coming together, they touch each other and its more in a child ways or in the mother-like or parents-like way and we tell them in the beginning that its not the sex and the first thing they will get there that its more for them to get some hugs, to get some touching, and that they can feel safe and we are looking for a gender balance; but its more important for the men because for men its difficult to touch other men. For women it’s not that difficult to touch other women. And… so that’s one thing but its to save room for everybody and also for people who feel unsecure in touching other people who feel like, “Oh! I’m not sure about that. I don’t know about my boundaries” and this and that, and we tell them its safe here and if you say “No” it’s a “No”. If you don’t want to take place in this exercise just sit at the side of the room and you can look, for a while, you can take breath for a while and then may be you decide different again and you go back to the group and you go back to the cuddling area.

Chip: You used the word “touch”. Do you mean just hug? Do people stroke each other in someway? What kind of touch is acceptable?

Ulrich: Its variety of different kind of touching. We have strict rules to it. One rule is you dressed all the time, there is no touching underneath the clothing. That’s needs to very important rules. Otherwise, everything what you do, you have to ask the one you’re in contact with before you do it. So that makes safe atmosphere for everyone.
“Touching” means stroking, means holding, means hugging, all kinds of human body contact which is possible. The whole evening is guided and we guide everyone through the exercises, from the beginning to the end. So we have an eye on what’s happening in the room and it doesn’t matter, its not something bad or evil when it gets sexual, but we stop it and because it’s safer for the most people when it doesn’t get sexual. So that’s the reason not because sexuality is a bad thing. We love sexuality, but in this evening it’s not the idea.

Chip: How does somebody get invited to this? Are they all previous clients of yours? Do they know each other before hand? How does somebody get invited to a cuddle party?

Anke: We advertise the cuddle parties in newspapers. And for the moment, or since, I think, half a year, it’s a big thing in Germany. Newspapers are writing about it. It’s in TV. It’s in the radio stations. So people know about that. And they know how to get on the websites and they are looking for, you know, cuddle party and they give in Munster or Bielefeld or Dortmund. And then they get something and they know, “Oh! We have some cuddle party nearby” And so they go on to our website and they see how to get in contact with us by e-mail or by phone call also.

Chip: Ok. So… somebody see an advertisement for cuddle party and… lets say it a man. You said you try to gender balance. How is this? Do they have to call you and like make a reservation?

Ulrich: Yeah. They have to make a reservation and with this reservation goes the full name and the full address because we don’t want to have any sneaking and everyone who wants to come gets the address where they takes place only if we get the addresses. So we keep out every people who, yeah, just wants, you know, to sneak around and whatever. So even that keeps the place safer for us and especially for the people coming for the guests and we feel that’s very important.

Chip: I love this. We’re gonna take a short break. I want give our sponsors an opportunity to get our support and to support us. This is Chip August. The show is Sex Love and Intimacy. We’re talking about cuddle parties and we’ll be back in just a moment or so.

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Chip: Welcome back. This is Chip August. This is Sex Love and Intimacy. I’m talking to Ulrich Schtuvecan and Anke Flesner. We’re in Munster, Germany, right now. There Ulrich and Anke are sex therapists and art therapists and they train therapists and we were just talking about cuddle parties and I’m fascinated by this whole idea. I’m a little wondering. I imagine some people hear about the cuddle parties and in their mind they think, “Oh! This is great! I’ll get to go, feel a lot of women and ha ha, you know, I’ll just use a fake name and they’ll never know” or “I think I’ll use my right name, you know, they are not really there for cuddling. They are there for other reasons.” How do you police this? How do you make sure that it really stays safe?

Ulrich: First of all, if somebody uses a fake name, he won’t get the address where it takes part, because we send the address and the invitation to the one by the address and the name, so he’ll fail in that. The other thing is when somebody comes; we are greeting everyone, when people arrive. And when new people are coming, we have a talk with them and we explain something about the body, before they come in and then we start with the exercises which begin very slowly and Anke and Me, we are well-trained therapists and we do group work and therapy work for more than 20 years. So we know a lot about people and you can easily see what’s going on in the group and we can react on that. So sometimes we stop an exercise and do another exercise or we give a little break and have a little warming up, just a warming up play or something to ensure everyone about their choice.
The choice of the people, whom they are together with or the choice they really want to do or not want to do. And that’s also very important thing in our evening. We call it party, but its more than a party. One important thing is we train the people, every guest, to say “NO”; because its, sometimes it’s very difficult to say “No” when someone is approaching me, and… so everyone has to train before we start and that one very important thing what we feel and what’s really the people, women and men, especially men, are very grateful for this training; and yeah, it helps to stay in a good mood together.

Akne: And we train also to ask for permission. “May I touch you there?” “May I touch you here?” and we tell them that touching is only allowed in body areas, non-sexual body areas and we show them how to do this. We show them how to hug, what a hug means this way, and we show them what a hug doesn’t mean or shouldn’t mean in this evening. Like this you know, you hug and then it starts to be sexual or erotically or so. And we tell them we have a look on you and if we see that you’re feeling uncomfortable in a situation, in a group or with your partner we’ll come and ask you, “Are you ok here? Is it good for you to be here or do you want to change your group? Do you want to change your partner?” 
So the people know it’s the team there and they have a look on me. So we see that most of the people there, they are really aware and with each other and they are carefully in a way and in the end sometimes we make closing circle at the end that each one can say a word or sentence how he or she feels after this cuddle party. And it’s very often that men are telling us “Wow!” know, “How healthy this feels” and “How great, just to be here, and I feel energized by that, and I feel warm with women and its great, it’s a new experience.” And it’s also a new experience for many men to touch other men and how good this feels, sometimes, strange but good, and also the same for the women.

Ulrich: My own experience in life as a man that it wasn’t until I began to do workshops in love and intimacy and sexuality and got hugs from men and got held from men that I realized that I didn’t get that from my father, and that there was a little boy in me that wanted to be held by a man and it felt comforting and so I’m…yeah… I imagine this is really powerful for some people.

Anke: And we remind the people during the whole evening, “Look how you feel now. Is it ok, where you are? If you feel unsafe or unsecure or something’s not good, if you feel uncomfortable, change it.” Most of the people don’t change it at that moment, but we are their reminder of the group.

Chip: So we want to take a short break to support our sponsors.  This is Chip August. I’m with Ulrich Schtuvecan and Anke Flesner and we are in Munster, Germany, and we’ll take a short break and we’ll be right back.

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Chip: We’re back. This is Chip August. This is Sex Love and Intimacy. I’m here in Munster, Germany. I’m talking to Ulrich and Anke who are sex therapist and art therapist. We’re just talking about cuddle parties, but I also understand that two of you created a “Hug Day” in Munster, Germany here and I’d like to know a little bit more about Hug Day, so what was the Hug Day?

Ulrich: There was a guy in Australia who did it first. He went downtown, big city, I think, Sydney, I’m not sure and taught it to stand around in the middle of the city with a sign saying “Free Hugs”. And that was the beginning of the campaign all round the world to give hugs and to receive hugs just for nothing. Just for not any kind of background, just for the fun of it. He got some trouble in Sydney there and came back and with other people and so its via internet its moves all around the world where cuddle parties all over in America, in Europe, in Germany, in Japan, in Korea, in Shanghai; there was a guy who did it in Shanghai and he was arrested for it so in Germany it was not so dangerous to do it, and its very easy.
But nevertheless we started it and we started the idea and told some friends of it. Friends were very much enthusiastic about it and so we met in the city, in our city Munster and it was rainy, stormy day in winter and we were 10 people, five men, five women and we all had signs saying free hugs or the German translation of it and we met downtown in the shopping area and we had wobbly knees, I tell you and we didn’t know what will happen and we went around on a piatza there and it only took three minutes before the first guy came to one of us and hugged us and then it was a long row of people coming by and hugging us, and we were amazed how much people were really in love with this hugs. I think, at least one third of the people passing by wanted to hug another third of the people. They didn’t hug us, they moved around, they spoke to us; they just passed us with a smile, or they hugged each other.  Several couples passing us saw the sign smiled at each other and hugged each other and so… it was a rainy day but we created some sun in the city there. I tell you, that was a very, very interesting and very, very touching experience we made and we are up to repeat it. So…

Chip: So it’s just as simple as get some friends together, make a sign that says “Free Hugs” and stand in the middle of the city?

Anke: Uh huh! That’s all and we decided that we will not go to the people to offer a hug, we only stay there and we will waiting with a smile and a sign and an open heart and open arms. And the people left us with a smile. And some were suspicious, of course. They think, “For Free!!! For Free!!! There is something behind this “you know. They thought we were coming from the university or church or scientology or whatever. I was, “What? No, its just for FREE!!!.”
“Oh! Really? (smile) I can’t believe that”
But it, you know, it brings a smile to the faces of the people and it brought a smile to us. we were really happy after that. I hugged people I would have never hugged in my normal life. There were, I think, two men from Morocco and the one of them hugged me. And I felt like, “Ooooh! There’s something here, Something happening.” And elder people, young people, 13 years old girls joined us we were, you know, “Wow! That’s Great! We want to have a sign.” And I hugged all those person and that touched my heart very deeply.

Ulrich: I was totally amazed how deep the hugs were. I never thought about that. We had this idea, we thought, “Well! People might hug us and we might stand a lot alone.” But the hugs we got and we gave was very deep and intimate. It wasn’t just a gesture, it was communication and that was touching.

Anke: A heart to heart contact.

Chip: You two are just so inspiring to me. I just love it, just this willingness to create all this love so easily. Cuddle parties and hug days and you really touched my heart. We’re going to take a short break. We’re going to give a little support to our sponsors. My name is Chip August. This is Sex Love and Intimacy and we’ll be right back.

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Chip: We’re back. This is Chip August. You are listening to Sex Love and Intimacy. When we took a break we were talking about Hug Day and we’ve been talking about cuddle parties, and hug days and hugging and all of it just sounds so warm and friendly. Given that you are both therapists, you’re both teachers, you’re both trainers, you train other therapists. I was wondering my listeners like to get exercises from my guests. Something they can do at home or something that they can do with their partner, that could help their relationship, could help their sexuality, could create more love in their life so I’m wondering if either or both of you have an exercise that you would like to teach my listeners.

Ulrich: Yeah. I have a very interesting exercise for you, especially for couples but also for people who were together or whatever they do together. There are a lot of situations in a relationship where you quarrel with each other sometimes about the open to who’s past, or other things and often these quarrel get really hurting and get really stuck, so there is the exercise when you recognize, when you’re aware that you are quarreling just give the pause to it. Stop it for a moment and both take out a sheet of paper, sit for yourself, not facing each other and just wire down what bothers you in this quarrel and what’s the reason? Write this reason down and find out what hurts you? What hurts you by the experience you make with your partner? And then take step back and have a look on your life or your past and find situations where you experienced this kind of hurt in your life? Maybe in your childhood. Most of these hurts are in your childhood. And may be you write it down and after that meet each other again and tell each other about this hurt from the past, without making the partner responsible, without blaming the partner for anything in the past or for anything in the present. Just tell about your past and your hurt in the past. The other one listens, the other one talks. And then your change and the other one has the opportunity to talk.

Chip: Well I imagine, that could be very healing, very healing. And Anke! you have an exercise, perhaps, for people to do?

Anke: Yes, it’s an easy one. Share five hugs a day and repeat this for about one month and look what comes from this, and the hug means heart to heart contact. Wait a few seconds, take two or three breaths together and then do whatever you want to do before that or after that, and then come back and do it five times a day for one month.

Chip: Er… imagine five hugs a day everyday for a month. Imagine that could be life changing. You two have been great guests; I’ve really appreciated talking to you. those of you who would like to get in touch with Ulrich and Anke or Ulrich or Anke, the word for cuddle in German is “kuschel” So they have a website kuschelparty-muenster.de, that’s “k” “u” “s” “c” “h” “e” “l” party “p-a-r-t-y” all one work  dash m-u-e-n-s-t-e-r, Munster dot d-e. kuschelparty-muenster.de. you can reach them, you can talk to them, send them e-mail. They’ll give you all kinds of details about what they do.
If you’d like text and transcripts for this show and any other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, please visit our website at personallifemedia.com, spell that all as one word. “personallifemedia.com”.
Also, if you just wanna give me some feedback, I always love to hear from my listerners. You can email me at chip@ personallifemedia.com and I have a sponsor frogz.com, that’s f-r-o-g-z-dot com. They make accessories for i-pod, they give all kinds of toys and fun things. They gave me a whole goody basket of things to give away. So if you have an idea for our show or for my blog and I use that idea, I’ll happily send you an accessory for your i-pods. So if you’ve got some ideas, I’d like to hear that and when I use one of your ideas, I’ll happily send you a little gift for the use of the idea. I really appreciate you all listening me. I’m having a good time in my trip here in Europe. We’re just about out of time and I just wanna have a little goodbye with my guests here so any last thoughts anything you wanna end with, Ulrich?

Ulrich: Well, I wish you good luck with all hugs you get and you give and I wish you a lot of love in your life.

Chip: And Anke?

Anke: Wish you the same and I love you too.

Chip: You guys are so great. That’s the end of our show for today. Please tune in again, we’ve got lots and lots of, lots and lots of great ideas about sex, about love about intimacy. This is Chip August. Thanks for listening.

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