Disclaimer: this may very well be an unpopular opinion for many people within the Side-B community. There are several people who I know well, love, and respect, who hold a very different view than I do in this area. This is in no way an attack on them or their views – it’s simply my take on an issue and my application of Biblical principals.
One day. That’s the amount of time it took for me to first hear about the idea of cuddling and snuggling being a normal practice within the Side-B community.
Cuddling and snuggling were not inherently foreign to me. After all, I’ve been married for 13 years and I have three children. Some of my most precious memories and moments are when my children snuggle up in my lap and just want to be held by their daddy. There’s such a tenderness to those moments – such an innocent and pure intimacy between me and my children. I absolutely love that.
But cuddling with another man? That was a very new idea to me. The thought of being able to experience one of my love-languages, physical touch, from another man was more than simply interesting – it was intoxicating.
I’ve heard others use the phrase “touch deprived” to describe their experience of physical intimacy with other men – and I would say that was, and still very much is the case with me. I have never experienced anything more than the occasional hug from another man on the rare occasion. Maybe a few times a year, if that.
I have longed for physical affirmation and intimacy from other men my whole life. I have craved it. I have been desperate for it. So the idea of “touch deprivation” hits very close to home for me. And not just me, for many, many other men who feel that same sense of deprivation. I think that’s one of the reasons so many men have willingly subjected themselves to ex-gay “therapy” – the idea that by just getting married to a woman that the need for physical touch and intimacy with men would be completely met by a woman. My heart breaks for those men, those women and those marriages built on completely false foundations.
As I was soaking up all the new language and new community that Side B had to offer, I was also presented with personal stories, articles, blog posts and podcasts extolling the benefits of cuddling to meet the needs that we have a same-sex-attracted men and women. Everything made logical sense. I have needs for physical touch and intimacy as a human. Because of my history and my orientation, I have a specific need for physical affirmation and intimacy from other men. Side B is a community of men and woman who follow Jesus, and follow the traditional, Biblical sexual ethic. Cuddling seems to be a means by which the common need for touch can be met within the community. Therefore – cuddling seemed to be a God-send.
And yet. Something felt off. I knew that if I spent time investigating that uneasiness that I’d probably come to a conclusion that would make me unwilling to participate in any cuddling – so I ignored the warning signs completely.
Within two months of being introduced to the Side B community, because of my own choices, including ignoring my own convictions about cuddling, I made choices that resulted in me violating my marriage vows of faithfulness.
Thankfully – God is so merciful, so good, and so generous that He blessed me with a wife who has been nothing less than a living example of unconditional love and forgiveness. We are very thankful for where we are now on this side of events as we can both confidently say that God used these experiences to draw us closer together and closer to God. (I’ll dive more into this in a later post.)
Now on this side of those events I can very clearly see and articulate the things about Side B cuddle culture that I should have heeded and guarded against:
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
“I can do anything I want to if Christ has not said no, but some of these things aren’t good for me. Even if I am allowed to do them, I’ll refuse to if I think they might get such a grip on me that I can’t easily stop when I want to.”1 Corinthians 6:12 [TLB]
This is just wisdom right here. While God has clearly told us to flee from sexual temptation, to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, there’s no specific mandate about cuddling – especially when the thought behind the cuddling is supposed to be safe, platonic, and healthy.
And yet, I have yet to meet anyone who has participated in cuddling or snuggling in the Side B community that has been able to say that all of their experiences have been completely safe, completely healthy, completely free from sexual temptation. I’m not saying that person doesn’t exist – I’m just saying that the collective experiences seems to be that the end justifies the means. In other words, the end of having our legitimate need for healthy physical affirmation and touch gets justified regardless of how many times we walk directly into situations where we know we are going to be faced with sexual temptation.
I can’t help but feel like this is trying to get around the idea of costly obedience. It is costly, so costly for those who have same-sex attraction to willfully choose to deny the pursuit of sexual relationships with others (in marriage or in singleness) for the sake of obedience to Jesus.
If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.Matthew 10:37-39 [NLT]
Following Jesus is costly – for everyone. For me, and for those who are gay or same-sex attracted, that cost is felt in a very different, very visceral way, because it involves denying a part of our identity (not the primary part, which is found in Jesus) that everyone who isn’t gay or same-sex attracted takes very much for granted. And instead of finding encouragement and comfort in the church, in the local body of Christ, we are often met with rejection and disgust or disdain.
I don’t think cuddling, in and of itself is sinful. I think it is morally neutral, and has very legitimate uses and places. However, I think it is exceedingly dangerous to promote cuddling as a viable, healthy, safe answer for the Side B community when experience and history and wisdom say otherwise.
Participating in cuddling is more than a benign physical act like shaking hands or giving someone a high five. It is inherently intimate. It is inherently tender. But when you take people who are physically attracted to each other, or who barely know each other, and get into intimate, tender situations with each other, it’s incredibly easy to make gradual compromises – mentally, emotionally, physically, until you are just another casualty in the Side B cuddle culture.