KOTA -- The cuddle party is popular in California and now it's in the Black Hills. While some might see it as controversial, with sexual undertones, organizers say it's not. They say this group is all about connection and communication.
Joan Jackson is currently not in a relationship, but she's found a way to connect with others through a cuddle party.
"I love the idea of having a way of connecting with people in a physical way," said Jackson.
Cuddle parties have been around for ten years and in January one popped up in Custer. So what exactly is it?
"It is an opportunity for people to get together to receive and give human connection, human touch, in a positive mode because a lot of people have experienced it in a negative context," said Les Nuckles, cuddle party facilitator.
Before the cuddle partystarts there is a pot luck and then there is a welcome circle to go over the rules and for people to get to know each other. Nuckles said one of the rules is you must ask before cuddling with someone.
"We stress and the rules in the cuddle party are that you never have to cuddle anybody you don't want to and in fact you don't have to cuddle anybody at all," said Nuckles.
"I asked a massage therapist for a neck rub because my neck was hurting and I was okay if he had said no which is something we learn in the cuddle party. And I've used that in real life because I realize that the person that says no is taking care of themselves," said Jane Bachman, cuddle party assistant.
Bachman said it's a wonderful experience.
"It's a safe place and it gives me an opportunity to grow," said Bachman.
Another part of cuddle parties is it's about choice.
"That's really another aspect about cuddle parties is it's not just about the physical, the touch or connection, it's also about the communication," said Nuckles.
Nuckles also said some people don't fully understand what a cuddle party is all about.
"The title cuddle party, a lot of people associate it with well perhaps it has a sexual connotation underlying or something. So I would say that's the biggest job in educating people that it is not," he said.
For Jackson, she said this is exactly what she needs.
"It's sort of the longer embraces and things that we don't typically have if we don't have a partner," she said.
It's a group encouraging connection and communication.
"I think it enriches our health to have those kinds of connections. And I loved last time and I'm not going to miss the next time either," Jackson said.