The Secret Lives of Big and Little Spoons: A Cuddling Investigation

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I’d clock myself as a 50/50 spooner: half little, half big, both in practice and in preference. In discussing said split with my partner, he said he’d never before participated in such egalitarian cuddling. He’d always been the big spoon in previous relationships, perhaps because he’s 6’2, and he was suddenly convinced men of all sizes were missing out. Were they? Was our arrangement unusual? Did couples of all kinds have spooning policies with emotional underpinnings? These questions struck us as important immediately, and so I busied myself with collecting data, unaware this would become my pièce de résistance.

First, I asked two of my male roommates if they liked to spoon or be spooned. Joe admitted he’d never been the little spoon before, but was pretty sure he wouldn’t like it. “I’m a protective type,” he said. Unconvinced, because being spooned is heaven, I asked him if he thought his masculinity had anything to do with it. “I hope not,” he said, “but I guess it’s possible.”

“I’ll be the little spoon. I don’t give a shit,” Mark said confidently, not surprising me.

I needed more data.

Over the next two days, I launched an Instagram-wide investigation into normative cuddling behavior. To my surprise, I got hundreds of responses almost instantly. Suddenly my DM inbox was jam-packed with the adorable details of people’s private cuddling habits. It was like I’d stumbled upon the secret lives of spooners. I can’t say with categorical certainty that this topic is inherently pure, but conducting this research was a shot of joy to the heart. Below I’ve documented my learnings with supporting evidence from anonymous bed-sharers. Trust that for every quote, there were five more like it. People weren’t kidding around.

Please input your personal spooning policy below. It’s time for spooning to enter our public discourse, if not for the propagation of shame-free cuddling at large, at least to warm the hearts and minds of humanity.

Learning #1: Many heterosexual women prefer to be the big spoon.

1. “My reasons for big spooning are simple: My fiancé runs very hot and so he basically functions as a full body-heating pad. It feels great on my tummy.”

2. “Big spoon almost 97% of the time, to an extent where I can’t totally fall asleep unless I’m big-spooning him while he does a lil booty pop for ultimate cuddle compression.”

3. “I enjoy both, but part of me prefers to be the big spoon, to be honest…he’s such a little cutie when I’m the big spoon!”

4. “I always get forced into the little spoon position, which is comforting, but I prefer being the big.”

6. “Always the big spoon! If it’s a new relationship and they spoon me, it’s always a sign that things are going well if I turn and ask if I can spoon them. Yes, I ask, because men are weirded out by it!”

Learning #2: Many heterosexual men prefer to be the little spoon. 

1. “I’m a woman and have a boyfriend who LOVES to be the little spoon. I actually started off as the little spoon and then one day we just switched and he is literally obsessed with it.”

2. “He definitely prefers being the little spoon and has no problem letting me know that. However, I can’t see him bragging to the guys about this.”

3. “I’ve been dating a big Nordic man who is 6’4″ for four years and he FUCKING LIVES TO BE THE LITTLE SPOON.”

4. “I’m a woman. My boy and I usually trade off on spoon sizes, even though he probably wishes I would take charge and big-spoon him every time.”

5. “I like to be both, but apparently for my boyfriend this is a new thing. He always felt like he had to be the ‘strong’ one in a relationship. He keeps on talking about how amazing it is to be the small spoon.”

Learning #3: Some couples fight over the little spoon position.

1. “My husband LIVES to be the little spoon. I loathe it. I want to be the little spoon. I feel like my dominant personality got me into this situation, but now I feel unfulfilled in the cuddle department because we don’t even bother.”

2. “My husband and I alternate because he fucking loves being little spoon. Sometimes I feel like, as an oppressed female, I deserve more little spooning. He tells me that I can’t pull that card when it comes to cuddles.”

3. “Both my ex and I wanted to be the little spoon. Pretty sure there’s a metaphor in there for why we ultimately didn’t work out.”

4. “ It’s like a punchline with my friends that my boyfriend likes to be the little spoon. I don’t care and neither does he, but we both admit we’re giant babies who need plenty of affection, hence the battle to be the little spoon.”

5. “I’m in a relationship with a man and I definitely prefer to be the little spoon because I’m a selfish human being. However, he likes to be little spoon so we take turns.”

Learning #4: Some spooners are held back (or have been) by gender norms.

1. “We do both. My boyfriend is always asking me to spoon him before falling asleep. In my past relationships I was rarely the big spoon even though I really enjoyed it!”

2. “An ex of mine (a big guy) always wanted to be the little spoon but was afraid to ask. I prefer to be the big spoon and asked if he wanted to swap. He was super excited and that arrangement became our go-to!”

3. “Heterosexual male here. Always big spoon. I’d like to be small, but it’s almost never happened. It feels weird to ask.”

4. “I have definitely been with guys in the past who felt that being spooned was belittling or demeaning, and were made uncomfortable at the prospect (and my attempts).”

5. “I am always little spoon, even though he’s 5’8″ and I’m 6’0”. AND EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IN HIS HEART HE WANTS MY FOOD BABY ON HIS BACK. Men are complex creatures. He loathes being little spoon. He ‘doesn’t like the feeling of vulnerability.’”

6. “I’m tall (6’0”). I’ve dated one guy shorter than me and I refused to big-spoon him for purely egotistical reasons. I did not want to be reminded that I was ‘bigger’ than my partner.”

Learning #5: Many associate the little spoon with neediness, and the big spoon with protectiveness.

1. “I think being the little spoon makes you feel safe, like having one of those heavy thunder blankets that are for dogs or humans with anxiety.”

2. “I like being little spoon because it makes me feel safe. I spend all day making big decisions and sometimes I want a place of comfort and a place where I know someone has my back. Literally, I guess. Sometimes I’m big spoon but only if he needs some reassurance or comfort.”

3. “My current boyfriend says little spoon actually helps to curb his occasional anxiety and big spoon allows him to show love and a measure of protectiveness.”

4. “We have been going together for eight years and switch up the spoon roles. I like to feel like I’m a nurturing big spoon and he also likes his back rubbed. But when I’m having a horrible day and need to be held, he steps up as the best big spoon.”

5. “I love being the big spoon because I’m certainly more emotionally needy than my partner and it’s one thing I can do to care for him physically. His love language is physical touch and mine is words of affirmations so it works well. I cuddle him and he talks to me!”

Learning #6: The physical size of spooners is of varying consequence.

1. “75% of the time I’m the big spoon, which is funny because my husband is almost a foot taller than me. But I just like it better. More control over giving him an anaconda squeeze.”

2. “I’m a girl and usually the little spoon, which I feel just makes more sense size-wise, since my boyfriend is eight inches taller than me.”

3. “My man partner and I take turns. I’m a lady and I like to spoon him because my face fits perfectly between his shoulder blades.”

4. “I’m 5’3″ and my husband is 6’3″ and, more often than not, I am the big spoon and I love it and so does he. He will straight up ask me to hold him.”

5. “Big spoon. I’m a woman with a significantly bigger male partner. It’s nice being the big spoon because you get more personal space and aren’t so squished.”

Learning #7: Some people feel limited by the “spoon” metaphor.

1. “I love being big spoon but he’s so big I feel like a sloth just hanging onto a branch.”

2. “I’m always the big spoon! Because of the height difference, it makes me feel like I’m a rocket pack!”

3. “I feel like a koala when big spooning my boyfriend because he’s way taller.”

4. “I say if you think you’re going to sleep facing away from me you best be prepared for a koala on your back through the night.”

5. “My boyfriend is almost always the big spoon, although sometimes in the middle of the night I roll over to him and am his ‘jetpack.’ I love being the little spoon but it makes me anxious because sometimes I fart on him when I fall asleep.”

Bonus: “I prefer to lie face down and have my partner lie flat directly on top of me. The weight is so calming and eases my anxiety. Not spooning per se…maybe spatula-ing?”

Learning #8: People, overall, are full of spooning wisdom.

1. “To quote Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, ‘Everyone likes to be the little spoon! It makes you feel safe!’”

2. “We all need to be the little spoon sometimes. It’s a comfort thing.”

3. “I think that people in general like to hold and be held by the one they love, full stop. ”

4. “I once overheard a woman on the street tell her boyfriend, ‘The modern man is not afraid to be the little spoon,’ so maybe we’re growing as a society.”

5. “No one can always be the big spoon.”

Please weigh in on my important research.

Collages by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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