What do a former Playboy model, a certified massage therapist, a psychologist and a college professor all have in common?
All of them have been sex surrogates — only most people would never know it.
Stigmatized and politicized, this misunderstood profession has been on the down low for decades. Despite the fact that it’s teaching by doing, many see sex surrogacy as paying for sex. And while sex surrogates would beg to differ, most aren’t about to publicize their professions.
So what does sex surrogacy entail? And when are such sessions considered absolutely necessary for those in therapy?
Ask a sex surrogate to explain her job and you’ll likely hear her describe it more along the lines of the sacred instead of work.
These professioanls are nothing like call girls or strippers. In most cases they're females — and attractive ones at that — who regard themselves as sexual priestesses of sorts. Far from dirty, seedy and perverted, their work involves honoring the body in a safe space marked by mutual respect.
Sex surrogates are compassionate, caring, warm and loving individuals who work with clients seeking to overcome sexual disorders and/or improve their relationships. Surrogate partner therapy is a form of sexual socialization that involves much more than getting naked.
The therapy process may involve intercourse, but not always. Some surrogates have had sex with dozens of clients over a period of years, but others have only gone that far with a few individuals.
While many mistake surrogacy for an easy score, no touchdown is needed to come out on top. The goal is to learn how to give and receive touch on any part of the body to progress in becoming a confident, skilled, self-aware sexual being.
This intense work involves practicing relaxation exercises, effective communication and social skills and sensual, sexual touch. This can be as basic as holding hands, getting to know the body, or caressing each other.
Nurturing, healing efforts are meant to boost one’s self esteem, garner psychological growth, and create spiritual awareness in the sexual realm. Areas addressed may include, but are not limited to:
— Sexual anxiety, including virginity concerns;
— Premature or delayed ejaculation;
— Erectile functioning;
— Inhibited desire;
— Lack of orgasm;
— Problems with penetration;
— Poor body image;
— Past traumatic experiences;
— Confusion over sexual orientation.
By resolving an individual’s physical or emotional difficulties with intimacy, structured and unstructured efforts are tailored around the client’s knowledge, skills and comfort.
With so many people feeling quite adept in the sex department, it can be hard to fathom what brings somebody to the point that they need a sex surrogate. For many, it’s the stereotypical “40-year-old virgin” that comes to mind. And sure, he’s among the surrogate’s clients, but there are others.
Most individuals who end up with a surrogate actually wind up there via client referral, as a last resort. Surrogates are only brought onboard therapy efforts when the individual needs more assistance than what sex education and sex therapy in a traditional setting can provide.
This client wants, needs or desires skills for engaging with another in a sexually intimate way. This may be because the individual is unable to learn these skills on his own. Or it could be the person is dealing with an old or new disability and wants to develop his or her sexual potential to the fullest.
Then there are also people without partners, and some homework exercises can’t be done alone. A playmate is required, and one who isn’t playing you, but rather looking out for your best interests.
For those of you thinking sex surrogacy is just what you need, know that finding a sex surrogate isn’t easy. Sex surrogates often keep this line of work private from their own family and friends, let alone list this on their resume. While they numbered into the hundreds back in the 1970s, only a handful of sex surrogates are thought to practice today. (And many do not advertise.)
It can also be hard to find a therapist who is trained to work with a surrogate or vice versa. Most only work with referrals, and that’s only if you’re in a state where you don’t have to worry about legal and ethical concerns. It can be arduous to find one if you don’t live in California, New York, Florida, or Pennsylvania.
To find a surrogate, visit the International Professional Surrogate Association’s Web site at www.surrogatetherapy.org for referrals.
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."