There’s nothing intrinsically sexual about snuggling, but sometimes it’s hard to get that memo to penises. These notoriously touch-sensitive organs love to show up to the party uninvited — especially parties where there’s physical contact.
At the end of the day, an unwanted boner is really no big deal and definitely nothing to be ashamed of. But sometimes it’s nice to get all those fuzzy, oxytocin feels without having an overly eager penis dominating the moment.
So first, a toast to the one-of-a-kind joy of platonic intimacy. Next, read these tips for cuddling in a nonsexual way, aka keeping that boner at bay. Plus, how to stay calm and move forward if it does make an appearance.
This is key, bbs. Touching and grazing are often enough to coax an erection, so you’ll want to avoid any position where the penis is pushed up against the other person’s body.
There are tons of boner-safe cuddle options, but here are a few of our faves.
The reverse spoon
There’s really nothing like the full body contact that spooning provides. In the case that there’s only one penis owner in a duo, have that person be the small spoon.
The head in lap
Obviously, this only works if one person in the pair doesn’t have a penis, but we love this position because it’s easy to talk to one another and, if it feels appropriate, you can easily give the person laying down a head massage. Who doesn’t love a head massage?
The sweetheart cradle
A bedtime classic, this position is also a great option for some platonic love. Have the person with a penis lie on their back with the other person’s head resting on their chest. The person lying down can also wrap their arm around the shoulders of the other person for even more closeness.
One way to keep the mood friendly rather than sexy is to opt for more public space, like the living room. If you’re behind closed doors, the vibe might feel inherently more sensual.
Plus, if for whatever reason one person decides they want to end the cuddling sesh, they’re already in neutral territory.
Focusing on a conversation with your cuddle buddy might be a nice way to distract yourself from any arousing feelings. Or, if you have a TV show or movie you know will dominate your attention, suggest putting it on.
Deep breathing is known to slow a racing heart and bring down blood pressure. By focusing on your breath, you can distract yourself from any arousing thoughts. One simple technique is called boxed breathing. Here’s how you do it:
- Inhale deeply through your nose and into your belly for a count of four.
- Hold your breath at the top for four counts.
- Exhale all of your air out your mouth to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
Now, if you make your way through all of these suggestions and still end up with an erection, don’t panic! Boners are a totally normal bodily function and many erections aren’t sexually motivated at all.
We can’t stress enough not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Here are some tips for how to move forward.
1. Acknowledge it
It may feel the least awkward to simply tell your partner what’s going on. You could even try making a joke about it if jokes are your thing. Cuddling is about connection and intimacy, after all, so having a moment of vulnerability re: your boner might be completely within context.
Sayings to sample
If an erection does make an appearance, here are some ideas as to how to address it in a calm and caring way.
If you’re the one with the boner:
- “So, this is a little awkward. I’m getting hard. Let’s try switching positions to see if that helps.”
- “Welp, looks like my penis didn’t get the news that this is friendly cuddling. Let me go to the bathroom to see if I can calm things down.”
- “It’s so nice to have this moment with you. Looks like I’m getting hard though. Would you feel comfortable putting a pillow in between us? If not, let’s take a break for now.”
If you feel someone else getting a boner:
- “I notice you’re getting hard. Maybe we should try putting a pillow in between us so there’s less contact.”
- “I’m really enjoying cuddling with you but I’m noticing that the position we’re in is making you hard. Let’s try something else.”
- “It’s been really nice snuggling with you. Since I notice you’re getting a boner, maybe we should take a break for now.”
2. Don’t try to hide it
First off, you probably won’t be able to do this very effectively and even if you could, straining to conceal a boner will likely take away from the positive experience of cuddling.
3. Switch positions
Suggest switching positions or putting a pillow between your bodies. Of course, this isn’t about hiding it from the other person and should only be done if both parties consent.
4. Excuse yourself
If you want to continue cuddling, try getting some momentary privacy to ground yourself. You don’t even need to explain what’s going on to your partner if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Simply say you’re going to make a sandwich. Ask if they want one too!
If you’ve gotten here and still feel uneasy about the possibility of getting an unintended boner — or having your friend get one — don’t force it. Everyone’s comfort level with physical intimacy is different, there’s no need to place judgment on the experience.
Consider just talking with your roommates instead. Verbal communication can be an incredibly powerful form of intimacy.
The point, dears, is to nurture yourself and the people you’re close to, in whatever form feels right.
Andrea McGinty is a writer and artist based in Queens, New York. She writes about home, wellness, and relationships. Her work can be found at andreamcginty.xyz and her every thought can be found @lifecreep.