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We asked men why they liked to be the Little Spoon

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There is the role of man as Protector. He is there to shelter his partner from harm. When they sleep - in a four-poster bed, with candles all around, midnight coming softly through the window – it is He who holds Her. Probably.

Dynamics have shifted.

Quite honestly, I like to be a Little Spoon. I am a 6’1” man who, from time to time, likes to be held by my considerably shorter girlfriend. It makes me feel all safe and warm. Science backs me up, too: studies have continually shown that cuddling can curb anxiety, depression, and stress as well as improve the immune system. Thankfully we’re starting to move past gender norm antiquity and into a brighter day - soon there will come a day when Man can be Little Spoon with impunity, wrapping the arm of their partner around them like a soothing meat scarf.

But 2016’s discomfort with masculinity and struggles with its myriad shackles are no secret, and something as simple as a little cuddle late at night can be fraught with politics.

We spoke to eight Little Spoon Men (and two Big Spoon Women) to get to the bottom of it.

DAVID P

Why do you like it, Dave?

I don't know why but I love it so, probably because I'm so tall, and it's comforting. As I'm usually a big spoon to the wife all day, get in bed and love a bit of a cwtch.

When did you realise you liked to be held?

Not sure - after a few long-term girlfriends. But I do remember subconsciously expecting it from non-long-term girls. Like "You know last night, you made me cuddle you in your sleep?" "Ah yeah, sorry, Girl I've Met Three Times". Then I’ll just turn into the fetal position.

SARAH

Do you like to be the the Big Spoon?

Yeah, I’m a jet-packer. Primarily because if I get too hot I can roll away easily because apparently throwing your boyfriend's arm off and hissing "Get the fuck off me, you're so fucking warm" is a bit aggressive.

Fair.

DAVID M

How did you become little guy in the cuddling situation?

A totally happy accident. I'm in my first relationship still so before then, I'd never really though of it beyond wanting someone to cuddle up to sometimes. Then when I met my partner and things started to get a bit more serious, he naturally gravitated towards big spoon and I did little spoon. We have swapped and do swap over and I'm not steadfast against it - but I'm much more comfortable being held than holding.

What do you like best about being hugged like that?

I think it's the sense of security that comes with it. I think it's just very comforting to have someone cuddle round you and it certainly feels more intimate for me than being the the big spoon. It's more comfortable.

Do you ever think there's an element of embarrassment to being like "I want to be held"?

I think perhaps more so for straight couples, because being held may be deemed a feminine trait. While there's nothing wrong with that, I suspect society as a whole is still very entrenched in gender roles and it'd be a “man's role” to hold the woman and not the other way round.

For me, as a gay man, I think maybe it could be a bit different - but only because I'm being held by a man. I mean, it's so very rare that I've heard "So who's the man in your relationship?" these days. So perhaps it's something to do with that. I feel like it's certainly being less stigmatised to be on the submissive side. Although, I'm not sure if I was straight it would feel less stigmatised, mind you! So maybe there is still a problem with men being perceived as feminine...

ANON LITTLE SPOON

Can I be anonymous?

Sure.

I have pretended my partner is a backpack and fake-walked with my backpack on while lying sideways in bed then tried to get out of bed and get on with my day.

Blimey. Do you switch between who gets to be the backpack?

I'm not sure. The thing is, I can't actually sleep when we're holding one another, but she drops off really easily, so generally I wait for that to happen then untangle myself.

So is there any rhyme or reason to who goes where?

There's no definite rhyme or reason — no "I'm doing this begrudgingly but it's your birthday so I will be the emasculated Little Spoon" — just, sometimes like this, sometimes like that.

Do you feel like if you were dating someone more casually you would still be spooned?

Oh, for sure. I'd go for it with anyone, I think. I don't think how you sleep in a bed should be symbolic of anything other than what you prefer.

JON P

When did you realise you were a Little Spoon Man?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure. But it just feels like, nice, and warm, and it’s like you’re also doing a service to the Big Spoon by warming them too. It’s a win-win – no matter if you’re Big or Little Spoon. But also, it’s nice when you’re feeling a bit down and sad, and you kinda want to think to yourself and stare at something, and then there’s this comforting presence helping you out behind you and making you feel all glowy and stuff.

Are you ever embarrassed about it? Or are you like "No, fuck that - this is mad comfy"?

Exactly that. I feel men can be quite naturally lazy too, so it just makes sense.

How does your girlfriend feel about it? Is she into it?

I think she enjoys being both ways, and so do I. It’s like, sometimes you just want to be the Big Spoon, to comfort your partner, but also, sometimes, you just wanna hold something.

How lovely modern masculinity is.

I’m sure all those burly, manly lads who have just hit the gym or spent ninety minutes on the footie pitch would love a hot bath and then a nice little spoon session with their partner

Do you feel like if you were dating someone more casually you would still be spooned?

I think the dynamic would be different. I feel spooning’s really personal, and I don’t think I’d like being spooned too much by someone I don’t really know.

CAROLINE

Why do you like to be Big Spoon?

I like to because sometimes when people are spooning me I get a bit uncomfortable, not because I don't like to be touched or held, but I get kind of fidgety if someone’s jabbing into me in the wrong way or whatever (and I do not mean with their boner).

If I’m big spoon, I have more control. Also, I’m a very physically affectionate when I'm with someone so I like to hold people, and when you’re Big Spoon, you can kiss them easier. Also - wow, this sounds so weird - I like squishing my face into people's neck and shoulders and being Big Spoon facilitates that.

Has a guy ever been like “Uh… What are you doing?”

Well, I’m quite big and tall so it's not like I'm 5'1” and 7 stone being Big Spoon for a really big guy. No guy has ever been bothered, I think partly because I don't insist on Big Spoon all the time but also, I think they like it.. So there you go: a deep dive into the life big spoon.

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Illustration by Dan Evans

CARL

When did you realise you liked to be held?

Like, second year of uni.

What was the turning point?

I came back battered from rugby training once and rolled on my side and an ex just hugged me. I dunno - I just felt… safe. I'm 6’2” so it's not often someone hugs you like that.

Were you immediately like "Oh fuck, this is nice" or were you like, "Is this weird? Am I weird"?

I was like "This is nice... This doesn't happen often". I worked it out in February that my Dad went ten years without hugging me. So like, it just wasn’t that often that I get hugged. And when I do, because of my size, I'm mostly patting someone's head as it happens. Typically nobody hugs me when I want to feel safe. It's always me to make them feel safe.

Remember when Jez wanted to punch the monk that was sleeping with Big Suze in Peep Show? And then the monk hugs him? That's what it's like being the little spoon.

NICK

Do you like to be Little Spoon, Nick?

I think, like, it's something that I haven't even admitted to myself yet. My girlfriend will do it and I'll think 'Ah, this is nice' but then, for some reason that I don't have the time to figure out, it starts to feel a bit weird, and I feel the need to reaffirm my role as Big Spoon as soon as possible. Maybe it's a bit fucked up, really.

Do you feel like, emasculated perhaps? Or do you think "Ah man, I should be hugging her"?

I haven't really thought it through like that. It's just a weird urgency I feel.

What's the urgency like? What goes through your mind?

I guess, yeah, it's to do with protecting someone, spooning. So being spooned is a bit like being protected, which digs into a man's ego. I guess that's why I find I prefer to be Big Spoon most of the time: I'd rather feel protective and masculine than have a nice warm back.

What does your girlfriend think about being Big Spoon? Has she ever mentioned it or are these just worries of your own?

She much prefers to be Little Spoon. And so do I, but it works out. She's never had any anxieties about being Big Spoon. In any case, she's more like a teaspoon behind a tablespoon - if she was taller I reckon that would be a lot weirder.

Is there ever a Little Spoon stand-off between the two of you?

Nah, never. It's always, 99% of the time me Big Spoon-ing.

But that 1%... Oh man, what a rush!

Yeah, it’s just for birthdays.

KIRK

Kirk! Why do you like to be Little Spoon?

To answer with a meme… FEELS GOOD, MAN. But to go into some depth: it's very comforting. I think it's an animal instinct to enjoy being held - dogs, cows, even rabbits like it. Or maybe I just wasn't hugged enough as a child.

Do you really think there's like a "not enough/too many hugs as a kid" element?

Yeah, maybe. I haven't done any research about that, but it I think it can affect you - though probably just in that you're uncomfortable touching others or being touched. Physical contact is important to one's well-being. That's why there are professional cuddlers and the like. I haven't been able to spoon with someone for a while, so maybe I'm biased, but I definitely get more out of being spooned - it's receiving comfort, as opposed to giving it.

RICHARD

When did you realise that you needed to be held?

Wait. Is this counselling?

I’m a Little Spoon. This is group therapy.

Well, there are two elements to this for me. One is that, when you come home after work, go straight to your room, get under the covers, and lie in the foetal position, your significant' other would have to be a monster not to let you be Little Spoon for a while, right?

But also, the idea of men being the Big Spoon isn't just because men are often the taller member of a heterosexual relationship, it's because the whole idea of a man being the Big Spoon plays into outdated ideas of gender - that men are protectors. And sometimes men feel vulnerable as well, and knowing that someone has quite literally got your back is probably one of the warmest things there is in a relationship.

Illustrations: Dan Evans

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