About Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT)
When I first started researching sex surrogate partners, there wasn’t a lot of information out there. The little bit of information I found was mostly about men going to female surrogate partners. Articles about surrogacy often cited sex therapists who had never worked with a sex surrogate. And the comments to any article about sex surrogacy were were so negative — condemning sex surrogacy as nothing more than prostitution, or saying clients were in essence simply paying for a fake relationship which made the practice unethical. All in all, the information was not helpful, nor seemed credible at all.
Luckily, I found one article that interviewed a man who was a male sex surrogate (a link to his information is posted below), and addressed many of the issues that I was having. At last I found something credible that addressed some of my questions!
However, one key ingredient was missing in my research — there was no information from any woman who had actually experienced working with a sex surrogate. Why did they chose to work with a sex surrogate? Why not just work with a sex therapist? What about it was helpful? What did they learn? I had so many questions.
With that in mind, I am sharing my experience with you — to help dispel myths, answer questions, and explain how the process worked, and what I gained from it that I find so invaluable.
Jump to text:
- Why I Decided to Work With a Sex Surrogate
- How My Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) Program Worked
- Things I Learned From Working With a Sex Surrogate Partner
From one who’s been there: My Experience Working with a Sex Surrogate
When I decided to move on from my religious background and venture out into the world of dating outside of my religion I realized I was very out of my depth. While I was dating within my faith, my focus had always been on keeping sex off the table. Now, it was a bit of a free-for-all. I had no idea how to navigate situations where sex was now not only a possibility, but an inevitability. I started dating, but didn’t know how to establish boundaries. What did I want? I knew I wanted to finally have sex, but other than that sweeping generalization, what did I really want? I had no clue. And more importantly, what didn’t I want? If I didn’t know what I wanted, how could I know what I didn’t want?
I first thought about going to a sex surrogate when I was newly out of my religion and still a virgin. I was embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and knew that I wanted to have sex, but that I would be dating people who had years of sexual experience. It wasn’t like I was 20 and a virgin — I was 39 for crying out loud! I was completely inexperienced. I just wanted a safe person who wouldn’t judge me, and who would in essence, “show me the ropes”. Unfortunately, the expense of the therapy deterred me at first.
The few guys I went out with were, of course, all for having sex, so that’s what happened. After losing my virginity in an awkward way I realized I needed more than just to have sex to learn about sex. I needed help in learning about how sex works in relationships, even short-term ones. I needed a place to feel comfortable while I figured out my questions, which meant I needed to experience sex in a real-world setting, but in a controlled environment where I didn’t have to worry about my partner and any emotional issues or needs he had — where I could learn about how sex worked for me.
This is why I decided to work with a sex surrogate partner. I knew I needed someone who was trained to help someone in my situation (someone who was really, reaaaallly late to the ball game). I knew I would be also working with a sex therapist, which was really important to me as well, because I wanted to work through all the emotions of guilt and shame I had carried around from my religious days. One doesn’t get to 39 while remaining a virgin without some hefty baggage. These issues combined led me to pursue a Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) program.
You can read a more detailed account of my journey here.
Before I even met my surrogate partner we exchanged emails, had phone consultations, and even a Skype session. This went on for about 6-8 months. Part of the reason it took so long for me to actually meet and work with my surrogate was I was emotionally and mentally working through transitioning out of my faith and into a new paradigm of thinking. The other part was because he wasn’t in the area where I lived. Because there are not a lot of surrogates, many provide intensive programs that are tailored to the client’s situation and what they can do.
I planned on visiting him for one week, as that was the amount of vacation days I had available. It ended up being several months before I could coordinate everything to go. Luckily, I had family in the area that I could stay with. At first I was really nervous about the financial costs, but I realized that it was very important for me do this, and my surrogate and therapist we able to work with me on that aspect. Definitely check with your insurance to see if any therapy is covered. But don’t let the financial aspect get in the way of what is important for your sexual healing. If you have any concerns, talk with your prospective surrogate and therapist and they will help you to make your healing a possibility.
Once I was able to have time planned to go I scheduled time with my surrogate for the sessions. I would be down in the area for a week, so we planned for me to spend about 3-4 hours a day with him, and another hour each day with my therapist. Since I actually contacted my surrogate directly, I didn’t have a sex therapist that I was already working with. He had several that he worked with and recommended one to me. The therapist and I had a phone consultation before I went down to make sure we had a good connection. There were paperwork and consent forms to fill out, because my surrogate and therapist would work in conjunction, and each needed to be able to share things that the other had worked on with me to help me in my progress.
Before I went down my surrogate also had me fill out a list of things I’d like to work on during my sessions. He provided a list of suggestions and items included things like hugging, kissing, touching with and without clothes on, getting familiar with my own and male genitalia, and having sexual intercourse. This was very helpful for me to see what we would actually be doing, because I was a bit nervous. I knew the things I wanted to work on were things like becoming comfortable with male genitalia, becoming more educated about sex overall. Practicing having intercourse was definitely high on the list.
The first day I met my surrogate we just sat on the couch in his office and drank some homemade tea. We just got to get to know each other a bit. Luckily, not only had I been communicating with him for several months, I had also seen him via Skype. That first day we just worked on exercises like closing our eyes while while we each held the other’s hand. I thought at first it was a silly exercise, but actually it was a perfect beginning. Each day after that the touching progressed. First it extended to touching the arm, then the legs, then full body with clothes on.
When it came to the day to take some clothes off, I requested that we just start with tops, and leave bottoms and underwear on. My surrogate chuckled — of course we would start that way, he said. Everything was gradual. As things progressed physically we did another exercise called “May I/Will You” in which we practiced asking the other for ways in which they wanted to either touch, or be touched. As part of that, we practiced saying both yes and no. I learned that if I wasn’t sure, or felt a “maybe,” then my answer was a no, at least for now. It could turn into yes later, but I needed to be sure of my yesses.
For the first several turns of this I was at a loss. I wasn’t sure what to ask for. How did I want to be touched? Or even worse, how did I want to touch someone else? My surrogate told me that when I touch someone else it should be to give me pleasure as much as the other person — that if it’s solely to try to please the other person and is not pleasurable for myself as well the touch doesn’t feel as good. The things I thought of to ask seemed so silly at first. Will you rub my back? Will you kiss my breasts? Will you just hold me so I can feel skin to skin? This was probably one of the most important lessons I learned — not only how to ask for and give affection, but having the confidence and self love to not be afraid of asking and giving. I believe this is a vital foundation to the principle and practice of consent.
As the week progressed, sessions with my surrogate moved on to more sexual activities, mixed with sex ed. Learning about the stages of orgasm. Seeing my partner get aroused. It was a bit funny to me that one minute things could be completely clinical, and the next be more arousing, but it was actually a perfect mix. One session included my surrogate performing oral sex on me, followed by us taking a mirror and him showing me my anatomy, followed by him rubbing my clit and G-spot resulting in an orgasm. Who knew education could be so fun?
When it finally came to having penetration the rule was that it didn’t happen until I asked for it. Even when it came time that I was as ready as I was ever going to be, I was nervous because sex had been uncomfortable the few times I’d had it before. But my surrogate was patient and gave me the space to adjust to another person being inside of me. Since I didn’t have the pressure to do anything, or the worry about not giving pleasure to my partner, I could just take the time to feel what was happening in my body, and adjust accordingly. We then tried sex in different positions, but because I asked for it. As I understood my body more, and how my body worked with my surrogate’s, I gained confidence to try new things. And although I wanted to orgasm, it wasn’t the end goal of sex. It was experiencing all the sensations and bonding that happens during sex.
Eventually I learned more about how my body orgasms. I felt more comfortable giving oral sex, and learned that I like to give it because I feel connected to my partner, not just because I felt obligated to reciprocate after receiving oral sex myself. But that’s me. And that’s okay. How I like to do it is perfect for me. The more I learned about my body, the more I learned to trust it. The exercises of “May I/Will You” became less formal, though we continued with our communication about what I needed and wanted.
After each of these daily sessions I also met with my sex therapist. She and I worked through all the emotions and thoughts I had as I worked on new things each day. These sessions were just as helpful as my “practical” sessions with my surrogate. Working with my therapist helped me to become more comfortable with myself and to embrace my feelings of desire instead of hiding from them or being embarrassed by them. It’s also amazing the emotions that sex brings up. We didn’t always talk about sex either. We spoke a lot about my feelings on leaving my religion, my feelings of worthiness, and a slew of other things. I discovered that this entire process was more about me healing my whole self — sex, love, and everything in between.
Although my time with my surrogate and therapist took place within a specific time, the therapy and coaching continued for a period after my intensive program, via Skype and phone sessions. I still contact my surrogate or therapist from time to time whenever I feel I need support or have questions, and I can have more in-person surrogacy sessions if I need.
Oh man, where do I begin? There were so many valuable things I took from SPT, and so many things that I probably wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.
Just some of the valuable things I learned (in no particular order):
- Practical things – like all about birth control, putting on a condom, STIs, stages of arousal, etc.
- Understanding what MY body desires – how it is aroused, and to not have judgement about it, but instead discover and explore without fear
- How to not be so self-conscious when trying something new, or not being as experienced in a particular technique, and how to ask for the space and patience to learn it
- How to communicate my needs
- How to give and receive consent – how to say no, have boundaries, and be heard
- How to be okay with uncertainty – and still maintain boundaries
- How to have penetrative sex without pain. I learned why it can hurt, (often vaginal muscles stretching, positions to fit a penis better inside, lubrication), and what to do overcome those things
- How to pace myself – faster or slower
- How important non-sexual physical touch and affection is to me
- Gaining a positive body-image – and feeling sexy and desirable
The main thought that kept running through my mind – even from the very first day – was, “Why the hell wasn’t this in my life when I was 16?! Or sooner?” This was because I learned more than the mechanics of sex. I learned things like communication, boundaries, affection, how to value myself, just to name a few.
Can you imagine how much safer and more emotionally healthy we would all be if we learned how to communicate about relationships, our physical boundaries, and everything surrounding sex? Not just the basic mechanics, but they emotions, desires, and and how to communicate about it – without any social or religious agenda? There is such a program in the Netherlands where sex education starts in kindergarten. That might sound shocking to some, but it’s actually a wonderful program! It’s not really “sex education” that’s being taught that early – it’s relationship education. Communication education. Sex education taught without shame or fear, which is then free to address more details about relationships, explain things that curious children wonder, and give both practical and emotional tools needed to navigate sex. (And FYI – their teen sexuality rates for things like unwanted sexual experiences, teen pregnancy, and STI’s are very low.)
Sex and intimacy are about so much more than the brief physical act of having sex. What is our relationship with ourselves? Do we respect what we need and want – or what we don’t want? Do we succumb to societal pressures? Are we only aiming to please our partner without understanding our own needs, or visa versa? Are our sexual experiences based in fear or shame? And do we know how to communicate those things?
Going to a sex surrogate helped me to answer those questions. To strip out the fear and shame I had surrounding sex and approach it with curiosity and wonder. No question was too outlandish or stupid. But I soon discovered that most of the answers to much of my relationship with sex was based in my relationship to myself. Once I was able to understand my own relationship to my body and my sexual desires and to not be ashamed of those things, I had more confidence to establish boundaries and communicate my wants and needs clearer – essential skills for having a strong foundation for relationships.
Being comfortable in my own skin was supremely valuable. Being in a safe environment where I could be embarrassed, nervous, awkward, questioning helped me to let go of my fear and move on from shame to curiosity, and further to a place of discovering myself. The more I learned about myself and that I wasn’t judged for being myself, the more I was able to grow in confidence. The first relationship we need to have is with ourselves. If we don’t have that, no relationship in the world can “fix” things.
I learned about connecting to another person. Connection through sexual touch, but also connection through non-sexual touch. Connection through communication. Connection through non-judgement. Sex and relationships are a team sport, so learning how to connect, touch, and talk were vital to unfolding my own relationship with my sexuality.
The more I was able to value myself, understand my wants, needs and desires, and understand how to have physical contact that was both sexual and non-sexual gave me confidence to know how to give and receive consent for sex, and everything surrounding sex. Consent doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Did I give consent? Does he know I like this, or don’t like this and want to stop? I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I don’t want to do this. With the skills I learned I didn’t have to be in a situation where I was unsure what I or the other person wanted sexually. I could ask. And it didn’t have to be awkward. Honesty could be simple and without drama: “I love holding hands. Will you hold my hand?” Or, “I don’t want to do that. Let’s do this instead.” Or even, “I’m not sure if I want to do that, so we’re not going to do that right now. Let’s see if that’s something I want to explore later.”
After my surrogacy I started dating and quickly met a guy that I had a LOT of chemistry with. However, I wanted to take things slower than he did. I was able to communicate my boundaries and uphold them. I discovered an interesting thing though. This guy normally had a much faster pace for having sex when dating – usually within the first couple of dates. He respected my boundaries though, and intimacy was much slower paced. Lots of making out and some fun touching. However, after only a month of dating he broke it off. He thought I wasn’t ready for a serious sexual relationship. Actually, I was serious, which is why I was taking my time. But the real reason things weren’t working was because we were not a match sexually. He was trying to match his pace to mine, but took my slow pace for not being serious. And I was taking his fast pace the same way.
After the breakup my first thought was that I should be heartbroken, upset, or feeling guilty that I wasn’t able to meet his needs. But I didn’t feel that way. I realized that it was okay that we didn’t match. He wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t wrong. If he couldn’t move slower and I couldn’t move faster that was okay for both of us. I went at the pace that was right for me, and was able to communicate my needs. I set boundaries that were right for me and stuck by those boundaries. So really, it was a win for both of us.
That short dating experience embodied everything I learned in my SPT experience. The confidence to honor my needs and not take on another’s needs that I wasn’t comfortable with. The ability to communicate those things in a relationship, even for a short while and then, realizing that we weren’t matching up sexually and with no one being in the wrong when it ended, was invaluable. Since I had built a strong relationship with myself I didn’t need to force just any relationship and try to make it work. I could get to know someone and see where it honestly went. And be free to not compromise on things that were important to me.
As I said before, these are just some of the things I learned. I could go on and on about the lessons that still impact my relationships and my relationship with my sexuality. Overall, the education and self-awareness I was able to gain from my SPT program will be with me for the rest of my life.
Frequently Asked Questions
The two do often get confused. Sex therapists are actually MFT’s (Marriage and Family Therapists) that specifically focus on sex-related issues. You would go to a sex therapist just like any other therapist. They are there for you to talk to in working through emotions and issues.
Sex surrogates on the other hands do the physical stuff with you — the touching, the kissing, and yes, having sex. They are the ones that you work with one-on-one to put into practice the things you might discuss with your sex therapist. You can only talk about sex so long before needing to actually practice techniques. The surrogate is the one whom you practice with. They are there for those who do not have a partner with whom they can practice.
Yes, and no. Yes, part of the Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) program can include having sex. However, that is not a necessary part of the therapy. It is up to the client as to what they want to happen during the sessions. Many other physical things can take place beside sex in the therapy — there is non-sexual touch; touching with and without clothes; learning about male and female genital anatomy; learning how sex works; the stages of orgasm; and much more in terms of sex education and intimacy. The question is: What do you want to work on in the entire range of sexual experiences?
Really the only thing they have in common is that they get paid for their services, which in the case of a sex surrogate can sometimes involve intercourse. But really, that is where the similarities vanish. To put it simply, with a prostitute you pay for sex. With a Surrogate partner you pay for practical sex education. From learning about your body, your partner’s body, to how to feel comfortable with having someone touch your body, and touching another body. And one can talk about sex till they’re blue in the face, but talk can never substitute actual experience.
A prostitute’s aim is to give you pleasure, or orgasm. A surrogate’s aim it to teach you everything from start to finish around sex and sexuality. A prostitute is not going to spend 3 hours teaching you about the stages of orgasm, or just spending time stroking your arm while you get used to the sensation, or take turns practicing how to ask for ways you’d like to touch or be touched. A prostitute isn’t trained to help you work through emotions of sexual trauma and anxiety. Are you getting the picture? Comparing surrogate partners to prostitutes based solely on the fact that they are also paid for their services is a completely false comparison. The two really could not be more far apart. Also, a sex surrogate’s aim is not for your repeat business, but to help you be able to have loving relationships (that include sex) outside of the therapy.
You also always work with a sex surrogate in conjunction with a sex therapist. You never are just there for the sex. You are there, working with a sex surrogate to work through issues surrounding sexuality. One of the reasons sex surrogacy is legal is because it is always done while also working with a licensed therapist.
Yes, and no. Every session does not necessarily include sexual intercourse. Sessions include work with all aspects of physicality in a relationship — from non-sexual hand holding to full sexual penetration, and everything in between. The pace is determined by the client. As I said before, you are paying for sex education — a partner to practice and gain experience with all things sexual in a safe, controlled, healthy environment, with your best interest at heart. You are not just paying for pleasure, but to be able to be comfortable with your self, your body, and sex.
Often people associate surrogate partners as only helping those with extreme physical disabilities (such as what happens in the movie The Sessions). But sex surrogate partner therapy can help so many people! Did you know that many ancient cultures used to use surrogates to introduce young men and women into sexuality? It was a means of practical sex education.
Nowadays, sex surrogate partners are mostly used by anyone who needs a partner to work through issues surrounding sexuality. Perhaps you had some past trauma surrounding sex and need a safe environment. For women, perhaps you are suffering from painful sex, or have never learned how to have an orgasm. Perhaps, like me, you need a safe environment in which to learn all aspects of sex education. There is really no restriction on who can work with a sex surrogate partner. If you feel you need help in the sexual arena and need more than just talk, a sex surrogate partner is a perfect option to help put theory into practice in an environment that is emotionally and physically safe and supportive.
For an excellent article describing more about why women may wish to use sex surrogates more click here.
As I mentioned above, sessions can include sex, but they also include a lot of other things. Getting used to physical touch is often non-sexual in nature. Sessions include touching and being touched in non-sexual and sexual ways. They include a lot of sex education, and education about our own bodies. Sometimes it is just to get used to being comfortable being naked, and being naked with another naked person, while not doing anything. Sessions can also include sexual touching, oral sex, and penetration. However, there is a lot of ground to cover with physicality and intimacy before more advanced sexual practices are done. That is the beauty of SPT I think — I didn’t have that time to develop those things when I was sexual with dating partners. The process always felt so rushed — the aim in dating seemed focused only on having intercourse. All of those wonderful things to learn and develop in the entire spectrum of physical intimacy were missed along the way.
Not until you’re ready. As I mentioned above, there is a lot of work that comes before full-on penetration. Physical intimacy is not only about getting comfortable with your partner, but with yourself. That process happened gradually as I physically became more intimate with my partner. When holding hands and hugging felt comfortable, we moved on to things like kissing, until that became more comfortable, and so on. The more comfortable I was with my body and my emotions, and the more safe and connected I felt with my partner, the more ready I was to progress to more sexual exercises.
Depending on how you work on your program a session can be just a couple hours of week, or if you are doing an intense program, sessions can be 3-4 hours a day. And you will always have a session, usually one hour, with a licensed therapist for each session you have with a sex surrogate partner.
Since there are not many certified surrogates, and unless you live in the area of the surrogate, many surrogates provide intensive programs that can last over a long weekend or up a couple of weeks as necessary and based on the availability of the client. If you do live near the surrogate, you can have sessions that are weekly, and those can last up to 6 months or a year. The options are up to you, and surrogates work with you to make a program fit your situation, schedule, and location.
This was something I was definitely worried about. Sure, having sex with strangers was nothing new (I’d had a few one-night stands), but having sex with a stranger I would see the next day was something else altogether. However, I found that as we worked gradually through physical intimacy, and we got to know each other emotionally as well, that I became very sexually attracted to my surrogate partner. And as you will see in the next question, that was an issue that also needed to be worked through.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to a surrogate was because I knew that the therapy would be focused on me, and that I didn’t have to deal with another person’s issues or worry about them getting attached to me. I didn’t want a relationship, I wanted help for myself. But, much to my chagrin, I did get attached. In fact, I became more than attached — I fell in love with my surrogate. I learned however, that a natural part of the process is becoming attached and opening myself up to love. In fact, if I didn’t then my inability to become attached would have been an issue that would have needed to be dealt with.
My surrogate was providing me so many things I needed — not just physically, but emotionally and even spiritually as well. Support, compassion, complete non-judgement, physical love. We built a level of trust where I felt comfortable to let my guard down and feel freel to be myself. How could I not fall in love? I worked with both my surrogate partner and my therapist on my fear surrounding the fact that I was becoming attached. My surrogate told me that, although what my he and I did was in a controlled environment, the feelings of connection — for both of us — were real. We were real people after all.
Becoming attached is not something to become afraid of. I’ve learned that there are people in my life that I love and care for, and that love and care for me, but that sometimes they are meant to be in my life for a season only. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
In society, we measure success of relationships by longevity — saying something’s only successful if it lasts a long time. Why is that? Something that lasts a only short time can still be a success. Why must we limit our love? I felt my heart expanding in this process — and I discovered I didn’t have to limit or put restrictions on whom my heart chose to love, nor in loving someone did I need to put controls and expectations on that relationship.
The process of learning to love my surrogate helped me to further let go of fear controlling my heart. And really, what happened was that I learned to love myself — and because of that my heart was open to loving others.
Somewhat. A surrogate is trained to talk with you about how you feel in your progression as you open yourself up physically more and more to another person. But there are so many emotions that can come up — this is why you always work with a licensed therapist as well. The two consult with each other and work hand-in-hand to help you. I found it so helpful to talk to a separate person after the sessions with my surrogate. My therapist was excellent — compassionate and professional. I often found there were things I needed her help on than what the sex surrogacy sessions provided. Both my sex surrogate and sex therapist supported all sides of the equation for me, so that my progression and learning was very all-encompassing and whole.
It was also helpful for me that my therapist was a woman. That does not have to be the case, but her perspective on what was going on in my body, and how I could embody my womanly sexual desires was extremely helpful.
Yes. Sex surrogates cannot legally work with you without a licensed therapist also working with you. More than legality though, a sex therapist is there to help you work through all of your emotions as you work on actually physically connecting with another person. The client, surrogate, and therapist form a three-person team to work on the issues surrounding physical and emotional intimacy. Having two people to support both the physical and emotional aspects is for your ultimate growth and healing.
Having my therapist to talk to was vital to my progression and healing. My sessions with each seem to help in a positive cycle, and helped propel me along. I couldn’t have done this process without both surrogate and therapist being there to support me.
I think a lot of people just don’t understand what sex surrogate partners really do. I believe that it is also because there is so much fear surrounding sex. Sex is a very charged subject — people have very strong opinions about it, and much of it is steeped in deeply held religious beliefs, and FEAR. When people are afraid of something they often lash out against it. For sex in general, most people have very specific ideas about was is right and wrong. Society also has some very black and white thinking when it comes to sex and sex work.
I feel that as a society we are merely creating our own problems by trying to avoid speaking about sex. We need to be educated about sex, and to be truly educated it needs to be talked about openly, without shame or guilt. As part of talking about sex and educating ourselves about it, there is more to it than just talking. Being more open and accepting of our bodies, and actually physically connecting with others is one of the major ways we learn about sex. When these things are forbidden because of religion or other cultural norms, we lose. But these are natural and normal functions of the body, mind, and soul.
As for therapists — again, I believe that they aren’t educated about what sex surrogacy truly is and how it can truly help someone who doesn’t have a partner to do the work of actually having sex. One can only talk about sex so much. Without actually physically connecting and practicing, it all still remains theory. You can take a driver’s ed class, but until you actually get in a car and start to practice what you learned you will never understand what driving is all about — that is how you really learn to drive. The same with sex. You can have sex ed classes or talk about how to solve sexual problems until you’re blue in the face, but it’s no substitute for actually being with another person in a sexual way. Talking, reading, or any other method of learning, while important, can never replace the value of practical experience.
There are sex therapists that do work with sex surrogates. If you’d like to become more informed, the IPSA website has a great page about sex therapist and surrogate partners, and dispelling the myths some therapists have regarding sex surrogate partners.
SPT programs base their pay usually on a sliding scale. Surrogates are paid by the hour, much the same way that therapists are. They are paid the same type of rate that a therapist does, usually between $120-$200 and hour. A complete program can be around 30-40 hours of surrogate sessions, with about the same amount of sex therapist sessions. But don’t let the money deter you. Many surrogates and therapists are willing to work with you and arrange payments. You can also check with your insurance to see if they cover any therapy-related costs.
There is an association for sex surrogates, the International Professional Surrogates Association. They are one of the governing bodies for sex surrogacy, providing training, certification, and referrals for clients to sex surrogates. Many times you can receive a referral to a surrogate through a licensed therapist. However, if you don’t have one (I didn’t), then you can contact the IPSA directly to find a referral for both a therapist and a surrogate partner.
You can visit the IPSA (International Professional Surrogates Association). This website is full of very helpful resources. You can also contact Shai Rotem, a certified surrogate partner.
Myth-Busting the movie “The Sessions”
Don’t get me wrong. I love this movie. It was because of this movie that I even knew sex surrogates existed. However, I’m glad I didn’t watch it until after my sex surrogate experience, because there was a lot there that was completely different from my SPT therapy. The movie actually followed the essay that was written by Mark O’Brien (the main character in the movie) fairly closely. After reading the article I realized a lot has changed about sex surrogacy since the 80’s when Mark’s therapy happened. Yet his feelings around his struggles with self-image that are so often at the core of our sexuality, were quite moving and very familiar to me.
In the movie, the main character Mark, is very sexually frustrated because he is extremely disabled — he is pretty much completely paralyzed and spends most of his time in an iron lung. His therapist suggests he see a sex surrogate to help him experience sex.
This often leads to the misconception that sex surrogate partners are only used by those who are disabled. I’m sure sex surrogates help many disabled people, however, that population is not the only one who goes to a sex surrogate. I am not disabled physically, but needed the help of a sex surrogate for other issues. Anyone who feels the need to work with a sex surrogate may work with one, as I addressed in the questions above.
The first thing I noticed when the surrogacy started was that they got naked during the very first session. That DOES NOT happen! There is much more that happens to establish trust before that happens. There is a lot more talking and getting to know each other. Touching begins with clothes on and is non-sexual to begin with. Touching and the removal of clothes is gradual. Sessions with a sex therapist also happen during the process, so that the client is prepared and ready for that step.
Also, the surrogate, Cheryl, says that the only difference between her and a prostitute is that a prostitute wants your return business and she doesn’t. As I explained above, there is much more to it than that. She also tells Mark that they will only have six sessions. While the number of sessions is limited, they are not limited to that small of a number. SPT usually is around 30-40 hours of therapy.
In the movie, Mark was very nervous about penetration. Partly that was because he felt extreme pressure to achieve his goal of having sex within only six sessions. SPT works very differently. There is no timetable, no rush to do anything. Things progress naturally and in a way that is comfortable for the client.
Lastly, the purpose of the sex surrogate therapy for Mark, was simply to be able to lose his virginity — to have sex. Although having sex is part of the therapy, I wouldn’t say it is the ultimate goal — just to have sex, or just to lose your virginity. There are many reasons to work with a sex surrogate partner, just as there are many aspects of sexuality and physical intimacy.
Working with a sex surrogate is to really to help you gain a healthy attitude about sexuality within yourself and in others, and working to become empowered about sex. Despite these minor issues in the movie, the story of the need we all have not just for sex, but for intimacy and love, was poignant and beautifully portrayed. I still find this movie valuable in the narrative of developing positive attitudes about sexuality.
- Inside the Life of a Male Sex Surrogate (Note: I was interviewed for this article along with several other women who have used a male sex surrogate)
- The Use of Surrogate Sex Partners Rising Among Women
- What Are Sexual Surrogate Partners?
- I Was a Sex Surrogate (Note: This is a great article talking about the need for sex surrogates for men as well)
- “The Surrogate” by Australian Director Sheds Light on Sex Therapy (Note: The movie’s title is more commonly know as “The Sessions”, starring Helen Hunt)